The How, What, Why, and Where of Trolling With Lead Core for Summer Walleye
Trolling with lead core line is a pretty old school tactic that few anglers seem to really know much about. The name itself, "Lead Core" is fairly self explanatory. It is just that, braided line with a lead wire core which results in the line sinking and taking with it whatever lure you put on the end of it. That said lead core is specifically used to get lures that do not dive very deep to run much deeper without adding in line or clip on weights. Makes sense, right?
As far as rigging and equipment goes it really isn't much different than a conventional trolling rod/reel combination. A medium to medium heavy 8'6" to 9' rod with a line counter reel is all you need. That said having a line counter is not absolutely essential as lead core is usually based off of the number of "colors" you let out, which we will get to in a second. Most lead core lines are broken into 10 yard sections of different colors. The reason for this is to let you know how much line you are letting out as in most scenarios the line counter may not be entirely accurate as the lead core is much thicker than most monofilaments typically used for trolling.
My typical lead core setup has about 50 yards of either 20lb braid or monofilament backing, albright knotted to the lead core. Most of my lead core reels have 4 colors of 18lb test lead core line (or 40 yards) which is plenty to get baits down to upwards of 40 feet (depending on the lure). To the end of the lead I tie on a small swivel, just small enough to easily pass through the guides on the rod and the level wind on the reel. To the swivel I tie on a 10 to 15 foot section of 15lb flourocarbon to serve as the leader.
Lets talk about the why and where factors of lead core and especially why this technique is particularly effective here in Madison. As mentioned above the premise of lead core is to get shallow running lures to run deeper. For example, one of my all time favorite lead core lures is the size 4 Salmo Hornet which on its own will only dive about 6 feet. With lead core I can make that lure dive to nearly 30 feet with ease, allowing me to run these little pieces of Walleye candy right in front of their faces when they are hanging out on deep structure.
Next to bottom bouncers, lead core is a high accuracy technique for fishing around structure, particularly relatively small pieces of structure like many of the bars we have on the Madison lakes. I generally run my lead core rods as flat lines right off the side or back of the boat. Doing this does a few things. Fewer lines, particularly lines without planer boards, helps to clear lines more quickly in the inevitable event that there is interference with floating weeds. Also, running lines directly behind the boat means that what you are marking on your locator is what those lures will be passing directly over. If nothing else that can instill confidence in your presentation, depth, and location while aiding in how to dial in the rest of the package (color, speed, colors, ect).
A commonly asked question I get is how many colors to let out to get a particular lure down to a certain depth. The answer based on calculations people have made over the years is incredibly complicated, so here is my simple answer. I like to run two of the same lures at the same time (both on lead rods). I like to start at 1.8 to 2mph using 2 colors of line in 20 feet of water on each rod and then watch the rod tips. If you don't see your lures making bottom contact, let out another half color of line, then another until you hit bottom. Once your lures are hitting bottom bring up just enough line to stop contact and you are there. Start marking fish higher off the bottom? Speed up the boat a few tenths of a mile per hour to get the baits to run higher up.
It takes a little bit of playing around, but once you have a good idea of how many colors to let back it becomes super easy! This is one of my absolute all-time favorite summer and fall Walleye techniques for pin point trolling. This technique is also fantastic for days with heavy boat traffic. The lines are deep, close to the boat, and out of the way. Want to step up your trolling game to the next level, give lead core a try! If you want to get out and try it give us a shout! Head over to our guide service page and book a date to get out and pull some lead for Madison eyes!
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