Going to Great Lengths to Achieve Great Depths

By Shane Thombs
Leadcore is new to a lot of Great Lake's salmon and trout and walleye hunters. Either you're going to like using it or your going to hate it. None-the-less, leadcore has become a mainstay for many successful Great Lakes trollers, that have learned to live with the good and the bad of leadcore.

Why do you use it?

The intrusiveness factor in today's trolling spreads are gaining more attention as bites become tougher to come by on typical rigger and dipsy spreads. The degree of intrusiveness that spooks fish is an everyday puzzle to be figured out.

Some days, especially those with blue sky and calm water, boat disturbance or hardware turbulence from downrigger cables, cannonballs, and dipsies may be spooking fish in today's gin clear water. Leadcore line provides an alternative to catch these ultra spooky fish.

A 50 foot leader of flourocarbon attached to the end of the leadcore puts baits in front of the fish without the intrusiveness of hardware. Long leads away from the boat makes leadcore the ultimate stealth trolling tactic.

What is it??

It's simply a line with two parts. An exterior dacron like sheathing that is woven around a lead wire core. It comes in various pound tests that are calibrated using the outside sheathing breaking strength only. Larger pound tests are generally larger in diameter and contain more lead in it's sheathing. The most common pound tests used in the Great Lakes are the 27 and 36 lbs tests.

A spool of leadcore or more commonly referred to as a "Full Core" contains 100 yards. Every 10 yards is defined by a change in colour on the sheathing. The more line you let out, the deeper it will reach. Consider it a weight that runs the entire length of your line.

How do you use it?

Leadcore has an interesting property, yes it sinks, but the depth that it sinks to, depends primarily on trolling speed. Faster trolling means the leadcore will run shallower and it sinks and runs deeper at slower speeds. Varying your speed causes an interesting undulating action. This type of action can not be duplicated more efficiently by any other trolling method. Walleye trollers take advantage of this quality to trigger strikes from suspended walleyes.

Heavier pound test leadcore may achieve greater depths, but only to a point. Once you reach faster trolling speeds, the thickness of the heavier pound test produces more drag then lighter pound tests, and therefore will become counter-productive. Staying with the 27 or 36 pound test is a happy medium in a gamma of 12-60 pound test available in leadcore lines.

Flat lining leadcore straight off the back of the boat ("Down the Shoot") is most common for salmoniacs, and pulling leadcore behind larger sized online planer boards are top picks for open water walleye seekers. Outriggers and conventional ski type planer boards are options to set leadcore out to the sides.

Tip for the flatliners: try to keep that rod tip as close to the water as you can, if you run it off the side of the boat. If you run it "down the shoot", angle the rod holder slightly so the rod tip isn't reaching for the sky. That will maximize your depth with less line out.

Some run 1 1/2 cores and even two full cores, but that's a country mile behind the boat. You have to have arms like Popeye to reel in 600 plus feet of lead core!

Run shallow diving minnow-baits for Erie walleye, or NK 28's for anything silver in Lake Ontario. Some even like to run dodger/fly combos with "meatball" lead weight to get them to the depths for lake trout, and deep staging Kings in August.

Leadcore works great for salmon when you run cutbait off the rigger down about 55'. The scent trail runs out behind the boat and often puts the fish on the feed, far back from the boat. With a full core with the knot attaching the leadcore to the backing running at the surface, will get your leadcore rigs are running right in that scent trail. The trollers one-two punch. 

Equipment Required

Leadcore demands lots of room on a reel. Conventional sized Downrigger reels will not cut it. Reels that read an excess capacity of 330 yards of 20lbs monofilament will hold one core of Leadcore with only a little room for backing. It's the amount of backing that's important. If you got a full core set out and you have 30 pounds of Chinook going the other way you got to have enough backing. The most common reel used is the Penn 330 or 340, but remembering the colour you let out is sometimes worth looking into a large line counter reel. Okuma has the Convector CN30D or the CN45D that has amply line storage and built tough.

Match that reel with a common Dipsy Diver Rod in the 9 1/2'-11 foot range. The length allows you to pick-up slack line on those long leads and helps lift your rod over the other rigger rods across the back of the boat. The stiffness is also important for turning fish and getting them in fast before the hook wears a hole too big and spit the hook.

Unlike wire line, leadcore is rod guide friendly. For backing go with no stretch braided 30 pound test like Power Pro (has a line diameter equivalent to 8 pound test monofilament). That will give you lots of backing and if you let out more then the full core it will have less resistance in the water then heavy monofilament. That allows deeper depths with the full core.

On the business end of the rig, add 20 pound test flourocarbon leader about 50 feet long. Attach it to the leadcore using an Albright knot, and be sure you have a quality ball-bearing snap swivel tied to the end of the leader to prevent line twist.

Pitfalls of running Leadcore...

1.) There's allot of line out there!.. Not something to run in a pack of boats, or change the lure frequently.

2.) Lose allot of fish!.. Lots of time for the hooks to come free, and it's hard on a fish (not catch and release friendly).

3.) It might get in the way of other lines when fighting fish.

4.) And, did I mention there's allot of line out there?

When you hook-up on a fish, the rod will simply start to bend over and then start bucking. The sag in the line shows little initial bits. Setting the hook will have little effect on the lure running 350 feet back. Just keep steady pressure (think of the hook being barbless) slack line will shake hooks free every time. 

Leadcore is becoming extremely popular on the Great Lakes and for good reason-'It catches fish". Learn to work around it's adversities if you plan on improving your catch numbers.

The amount of line to let out depends on your target depth. Below are examples of running depths at 2.5 mph;

Amount of leadcore by Colour

Depth Achieved

Full Core, 10 colours or 100 yards (knot at the water) GREY 50'-55'
9 colours AQUA 45'-49'
8 colours ORANGE 40'-44'
7 colours PURPLE 35'-39'
6 colours OLIVE 30'-34'
5 colours or 50 yards BLACK 25'-29'
4 colours YELLOW 20'-24'
3 colours BLUE 15'-19'
2 colours BROWN 10'-14'
1 colour RED 5'-9'