Leadcore Walleye Fishing

July 5, 2011 by  

With Jason Mitchell

Over the past ten years, trolling with lead core line has gained in popularity amongst the walleye crowd. Lead core enables anglers to put any crank bait in the tackle box in front of fish regardless of how deep. This in itself is a huge advantage but you can also accomplish the same task with snap weights, Dipsey Divers and downriggers. There are many ways an angler can put a number 5 Salmo Hornet into 25 feet of water. Anglers like lead core line however because the whole process is easy, inexpensive yet incredibly effective. For sticking crank baits on contours or break lines in deeper water, nothing beats lead core because lead core has a tendency to follow the same route the boat takes. This article will discuss the basics of trolling with lead core and will also offer a few tips for refining the trolling process even further.

Because of the weight of lead core line, anglers might not be able to use inline planer boards with lead core line. If you desire to use planer boards, used a segment of about three colors as for most planer boards, three colors is about the maximum weight before the board begins to sink or bog down. Most of the time, anglers are running lead core right out the back of the boat. Traditionally, tangled rods were an issue when attempting to run several rods out the back of the boat. Specifically for lead core, we designed a trolling rod system that does a remarkable job of spreading lines apart which just make the angler much more effective. The Jason Mitchell Elite Series Trolling Rod system features a fourteen and ten and a half foot outside rod for spreading rods to the side of the boat. The long rods are complimented with five foot and eight and a half foot inside trolling rods that run out the back. To keep the rod tips away from the boat, these trolling rods feature a complex two phase rod action where the tip can load and cushion big fish but the back bone of the rod is stiff enough to keep the tip from caving in towards the boat. The graphite gives you extreme sensitivity for watching lure action or detecting debris on the lures. If you are serious about trolling, these trolling rods will help you master your craft.

Before spooling the lead core line onto the reel, most anglers will spool on some kind of backing. I usually spool on some heavy mono for my backing. The heavy mono backing is important and serves many purposes. First, the mono gives you a stretchy backing that you will appreciate as soon as you get snagged up. Remember that the line counter doesn’t actually count the feet of line but rather how many times the spool turns. There is a big difference in diameter between a full spool and an empty spool. Keep your spools full and identical to each other. Use the same kind and amount of backing on each reel. Calibrate the reels in pairs and match up rod and reel combos that are very close. If the reels don’t match each other, you will have a harder time duplicating what is working. The best test for calibration starts on land, clip two rod and reel combos to the same fence post and zero out the line counters, now walk up and see how close they are to each other. Calibrate your reels in sets. For example, the inside short rods should be calibrated with each other, the outside rods need to be calibrated and so on. If you can get all of the reels calibrated, you will be a much more effective troller because you can duplicate exactly what is working with no second guessing.

How many colors of lead core line you spool up with depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Most of my fishing is less than thirty feet of water so I only need four colors (each color is 10 yards). If you spool with more than three colors, planer boards will sink. If you plan on incorporating boards into your trolling set up, you will want to spool up with three colors. For deeper reservoir fishing, faster speeds or strong current, you might be better off spooling with five or more colors. There is an old saying that one color will put you down ten feet but at most crank bait trolling speeds, one color runs closer to about seven feet depending on speed and line diameter.

Some anglers tie off the lead core to the backing by using a very small swivel. Other anglers use a lead core knot. There are a few options as far as diameter. I like using heavier line myself as it becomes easier to tie when rocking in the boat. Attached to the end of the lead core line is your leader. On some water, anglers are forced to use really long leaders of either mono or even fluorocarbon. Some anglers really like the stretch of mono and encourage anglers to use a mono leader which is more forgiving. I like a braided leader for a few reasons. I can tell what the bait is doing as far as being fowled or running right and the braid is tougher around snags. For the most part, walleye aren’t real particular about being line shy on the water I fish so really long leaders aren’t necessary either. The most important part of leaders is making sure they are all the same. I cannot stress this enough. Don’t put a ten-foot leader on one rod and a twenty-foot leader on another. I usually go two rod lengths and keep it simple. The lures will actually usually go deeper on shorter leaders if you zero out your line counter right at the lure. Keep everything identical between rods so that when you find something that is working to catch fish, you can match what is working with the other rods.

Once on the water, the number one mistake anglers make is letting out too much line. If the lead core line is slapping along the bottom, you have too much line out. There is a time and place for letting the crank bait bump the bottom but you don’t need to plow a ditch and usually, you will end up spending your fishing time snagged if you let out too much line. Slowing down will make your lure run deeper while speeding up will cause your lures to rise. Most of the time, an average trolling speed might be right around 2 miles per hour.

The real advantages to lead core line stem from the fact that you can put some extremely effective lures much deeper than they ever would by flat line trolling. Another advantage come from the fact that lead core will follow a contour much more effectively than most other presentations. Lead core line seems to snake through the water, mimicking the path that the boat takes. Following inside turns, points and other curves is much more efficient with lead core line. Some of our favorite small profile or shallow running lures like #4 and #5 Salmo Hornets, #5 Shad Raps, Wally Divers, Jointed Shad Raps, Salmo Stings, Husky Jerks, etc will work well for catching fish in 20 or even 40 feet of water. Deeper diving lures like Salmo Bullheads, Reef Runners, Bomber Long A’s etc can also be put into even deeper water with lead core or the lures can be staggered where you can run some lures closer to the boat by using lead core. Lead core line is a tool to get some of our favorite lures down to the fish. The whole process is simple yet extremely productive.

Lead core trolling flat out works and is one of the most deadly presentations available come mid summer when many fish push deep along break lines and over basins. This isn’t a overly complicated fishing system either and if you don’t know how much line to let out for example, do what we did before line counter reels… let out line until you bump bottom and than reel a few cranks up until the bottom contact stops and you can feel the lure vibrating clean. Trolling can be a really simple technique that is easy to grasp once out on the water.

Editors Note: The author Jason Mitchell hosts the popular outdoor program, Jason Mitchell Outdoors which airs on Fox Sports North on Sunday mornings, 9:00 am. Before television, Mitchell earned a renowned reputation on North Dakota ’s Devils Lake as a fishing guide.


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