In this, the final installment of a 3 part series on trolliing lead
core line, Keith Kavajecz and Gary Parsons cover the tactic of trolling Segmented Lead Core.
The set-up for segmented lead core is a bit different than when using straight lead core. For instance, when trolling segmented lead core in clear open water, long leaders are the rule. A leader of 50 feet is not uncommon. The main reason for this is to get the lure away from the lead core line, which due to its thickness and colors, can spook wary open water walleyes. In Part 2 of this series, we talked about using no-stretch lines like FireLine as leader material when trolling lead core on structure, but in this scenario we recommend using fluorocarbon line like Berkley Vanish in 10 or 12 pound test. Fluorocarbon is a great choice because it’s virtually invisible in the water. It also has slightly more stretch to it than FireLine, giving your set-up some “shock-absorption” for fighting in big fish, and since you’re using boards in the trolling pattern, it’s not a big deal that the entire system be “no-stretch” because you won’t be monitoring the lure’s action the way you would when trolling structure.
Another key to the segmented lead core system is the backing. Backing is the line that is tied from the reel spool to the lead core. For this, 10/4 FireLine (10 pound test, 4 pound diameter) is a good choice for a couple of reasons. First of all, because of the FireLine’s small diameter, more backing can be put on the spool than would be possible with conventional lines (the importance of this will become clear a bit later). The small diameter of FireLine also cuts through the water better than thicker lines, allowing you to get more depth out of the lead core and trailing lure. FireLine is also very abrasion resistant, which is a plus for any line being used in conjunction with boards. A little tip here … because of FireLine’s inherent “slipperiness”, it is necessary to either loop the line once through the OR-12’s release clip (see diagram), or upgrade the OR-12 with Off Shore Tackle’s OR-18 Snapper Adjustable Release. This release is nice because the tension can be easily adjusted to fit the line being used, and “snaps” open with the flick of a lever for removing the board.
If you need to learn more about crankbait running depths, Snap Weights and Lead core line, as well as many other aspects of trolling, you should get your hands on a copy of Precision Trolling. This book is full of helpful information and depth charts to help you put your baits right where they need to be to catch more walleyes.
That wraps up Part 3 in our series of trolling with lead core line. It’s a great presentation to have up your sleeve next time you hit the water. Whether you’re targeting walleyes on structure or in the open water basin, lead core can be just the ticket for putting you on more fish.
Of course the whole key to segmented lead core trolling is choosing the right amount of lead core to splice in between the backing and the leader. Basically, the deeper the fish you are targeting, the more lead core you want to splice in. As stated in earlier parts of this series, lead core is very “speed sensitive” … speed up and the lead core will rise in the water column … slow down and the lead core will sink deeper. However, at typical trolling speeds (1.5 to 2 mph) we use these general guidelines: When fishing high in the water column, say 5 to 10 feet down, use 1 color of lead core (remember, lead core is color coded every 30 feet); When targeting the 15 to 25 foot zone, use 2 colors; If you’re trying to hit around the 30 foot zone, go with 3 colors, and so on. We have run as many as 6 colors of lead core to reach 60+ foot depths with this system.
Fine tuning a segmented lead core set-up can incorporate several variables. We’ve already mentioned speed … speeding up or slowing down can cause changes in the bait’s running depth. Letting out more backing is another way to get the set-up to go deeper. This is another advantage of using FireLine for the backing. The small diameter allows you to spool more backing on the reel thus giving you more flexibility in your presentations.
You need to understand that there is a difference in how spinners run behind lead core and the way cranks run behind it. Spinners tend to ride at or slightly above the level at which the lead core bottoms out, where as a crankbait will dive below the lowest point that the lead core runs. The length of leader run from the lead core to the crankbait can have an affect on its running depth too … so be prepared to do a bit of experimenting when you first begin tackling this presentation.
Running segmented lead core is not without its disadvantages, the biggest one being that unless you own a bunch of reels capable of handling lead core chores, once the reels are spooled, it’s a pain to change the set-up in mid-stream as it were. If you start off with all your reels rigged with 3 colors of lead core, and find out once you’re on the water that you may be better off with say 2 colors, or maybe 5 colors, it becomes quite time consuming to re-rig. If possible, its nice to have a few reels with different set-ups available, like one set of reels with 2 colors, another set with 3 colors, and maybe even another set rigged with 5 colors. The set-ups you’d use would depend on the area you plan to fish.
There are alternatives to using lead core as your weighting system for open water trolling … Snap Weights like those offered by Off Shore Tackle, are extremely versatile and easy to use. There’s no need to “pre-rig” any reels ahead of time, except to make sure that the reels are filled with good quality line. Simply attach your lure, let out a leader of line (like 50 feet), attach the Snap Weight, and let out the “dropper line” until the lure is running in the desired depth. The size of the Snap Weight used, the running depth of the crankbait, and the speed trolled will determine the overall running depth of this kind of set-up.
We’re finally to the final installment of our website series on trolling with lead core line. We’ve discussed the basics of lead core, and we’ve delved into the details of trolling structure with lead core. Now let’s cover what just might be one of the most miss-understood and under utilized trolling tactics around … trolling open water for suspended walleyes with segmented lead core.
The first question most anglers ask regarding segmented lead core is “Couldn’t I troll open water with straight lead core?” and the answer would be “Yes”. However, you would be very limited in the scale of your trolling passes. Open water walleye trolling typically utilizes in-line planer boards like Off Shore Tackle’s OR-12 Side Planers to spread the presentation out away from the boat covering a wide swath of water and cutting down on any “spooking” factor that may occur. The problem lies in the fact that straight lead core is too heavy to be successfully trolled using in-line boards. The OR-12’s are the best trolling boards around, but they work best with lead core when connected to “backing” and not directly to lead.