When trolling for salmon, walleye and other fish in large reservoirs, it is important to get your bait down to the depth at which the fish are holding. Over the years, anglers have developed a number of solutions to this challenge, but lead core fishing line is among the most elegant. Lead core fishing line is used similarly to most other lines, save for a few key differences.
Color Coded Depth
Comprised of a lead wire encased in a thin plastic sheath, lead core lines are usually color-coded. These colors usually change every 10 yards, which allows you to monitor the amount of line you are dragging behind the boat. By considering the amount of line in the water and the speed of the boat, you can determine the maximum depth at which your lure is running. For example, if your boat is traveling at 2½ miles per hour, and you have 30 yards of line out, your lure may be reaching a depth of about 20 feet; let 10 more yards of line slip into the water and your lure will dive about 5 to 10 feet deeper.
Rods and Rigs
You need a stout rod to handle such lengthy lines and absorb the shock of strikes and fighting fish, as lead core line does not stretch. While you can certainly have success with shorter rods, many lead core aficionados prefer rods of 10 feet or more. Because lead core line is rather conspicuous in the water, attach a long monofilament leader to the main line with a Uni-knot or Willis knot.
Bait and Lure Selection
Standard trolling lures – including lipped minnow baits, swim jigs and spoons – work well with lead core line. However, other anglers use live- or cut-bait rigs to tempt fish lurking in deep water. Determining the best lure for your target species and current conditions is often difficult, so it can help to troll with several lines at the same time, each rigged with a different kind of lure, to see which one is most effective. Kurt Hedquist, part of the Doctor Sonar pro staff, recommends using deeper and larger lures than normal when using lead core line.
You must balance the amount of line in the water with the drawbacks of fishing with long lines. For example, long lines are unwieldy in popular spots and it is more physically taxing to reel in 100 yards of lead core line than it is a similar length of monofilament. Another important consideration is achieving a good hook set. Driving a hook into the mouth of a game fish that is 50 yards or more from the boat is difficult – rather than setting the hook normally, just try to apply steady pressure and keep the line as taught as possible. Additionally, because of the fish’s long and exhausting trip to the boat, it is not ideal for catch-and-release fishing.
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