Open the Door, for Mr. Lead Core!
First off, lead core fishing line is a antediluvian
(very old) invention pre-dating the downrigger. Lead core helps solves the age old
problem of getting your lure into the vision, or strike zone of the fish, once the
upper strata's are no longer attractive to your quarry. Meaning, the temperature of the upper water columns have become to warm to
hold the species of Trout and Salmon you're trying to take prisoner.
It's a no brainer to incorporate the use "cores" into your munitions store
of Great Lakes weaponry. Take it from me, it's not brain surgery,
or rocket science to rig and be successful using this technique.
It's just another method of putting the fish in the box. This
technique will provide
action on slow times, or when the fish are both scarce and skittish.
You'll come to appreciate the advantages of your lead core
rods. Although, it can deadly, it should only be used
under the right set of circumstances.
What is Lead Core?
Lead core is a line constructed a inner
core of real lead, sheathed by an outer layer of braided Dacron
line. Hence, the name lead core comes about. The lead innards
cause the line to sink on it's own, without the use of additional
weight, divers or downriggers.
An interesting thing concerning lead core is; that no matter what pound
test you buy the inner diameter varies a little and it all reaches about
the same depth,
or at least that's been my experience with it. The line tests that
I'm familiar with are 18lb, 27lb and 36lb. This line was
manufactured well before the advent of modern day line counter reels and
in order to keep track of how much line was let out, it changes colors
every 10 yards, or 30 feet.
Tackling the Reel Problem
27 pound test lead core is the accepted
standard for the Great Lakes fishery and it has the thickness of about
1/32nd of an inch, or 60 pound test monofilament. Now, that's a large
diameter line and it needs a large reel to accommodate storage of what's
referred to as, a single core. A "single core" is a 300 feet, or a 100
yards and requires a large capacity reels like Penn 330 GTI. The 330
is the bear minimum needed and you'll still be skimpy on the amount of
backing you'll be able to run underneath it.
Larger reels like the Penn 340 GTI and 345 GTI, with the latter being my
ultimate choice, especially is you're foolish enough to fish double cores
a 1/8 of a mile behind the boat.
The 340 and 345's are costly and get ready to shell out somewheres around
a 150 bucks per reel, but they're the largest capacity levelwind reel that
can be purchased. Half cores (50 yards or 150 feet) will fit on Diawa
47's and 320 GTI's just fine. Some other reels could include
Shimano's TLD 20 and
Okuma's T180L and T190L, but I don't have personal knowledge of the
Okuma and Shimano brands.
The rod choice that works for me is a
regular 7 foot, one piece fiberglass downrigger stick. It will
handle up to a core and a half without any problems. Incidentally,
I've found that for the most part, graphite composite downrigger rods
don't stand up to the rigors of everyday use aboard my boat. I've
broke several over the years and they've fell out of my favor.
All Knotted Up?
In order to rig lead core properly, first
you'll have to remove about 4 feet of the soft lead center to tie on as
much backing as possible and that will depend on your reel. This
will afford extra line when it needs to be retied. Now, what you've
done is; it turns into a regular piece of braided string, so it can accept a
leader and a backing. Knots recommended are: the Blood Knot (my
favorite) , Albright and Surgeons knot.
After spooling on the desired amount of core, you'll
have to remove the above same stated piece of soft lead center again and
tie on a 50 to 100 foot leader. Make sure your spool if filled close
to the top of the reel and the closer the better. Full spools wind
with less turns of the handle due to their spools larger
diameter. This is of paramount importance when it come to
reeling in your lead core rigs.
Here's a note worth tip: First try winding the lead
core on a empty reel capable of handling the amount you're getting ready
to install. That way if the reel you're working on is to full, or
could use more backing, it's a easy job to wind it back on the empty reel
with no backing and adjust the amount on the reel with
here for a step by step diagram of how to tie the above featured knots
Much can be said about attainable depths
with lead core fishing lines, but this I know for a reel fact, it all
depends on your trolling speed. Why? Because is has to too! Now, I know that's to simple statement, so let's comprehend
the multipart factors that come into vogue. The density of cold vs.
warm water, the water resistance of the Dacron braid causing drag, line
pound test and type of the lure (or lure combo) you're pulling, all effect
This I do know, under normal trolling speeds of 1.8-2.2 (dodger speed) to
2.5-3.0 (spoon speed) you can expect some where between 1 foot of sink
rate for every 6 feet of line let out. In other words that's about 5
feet of depth per color (30 feet or 10 yards), so 10 colors would produce
a "supposed" about the 40 foot depth range. I'm not a mathematician,
so I'll let you figure out the in-between distances downward.
Please remember, the faster speeds, the shallower depths will be.
That's no big deal, because the clearing of the Great Lakes by the Zebra
Mussels and fish can see a lure presentation from at least 25 below
it. So, if Mr. Fish is interested, he will attack from a good
distance away and dropping your lead core offering right on his noodle
isn't all that important. The way that I see this is, it's a
lone wolf, single presentation at safe distance from your normal spread.
Cores are for fish that are spooked by pressure, or boat noise.
I know of many who will add drop weights to their cores for additional
depth, but myself I don't. If the fish are much deeper than 60
foot, I'll store the core.
Time Delayed Fuse
The idea I'm trying to stress here is, that
once your boat has passed thru the water and the riggers, drop weights or
divers didn't go off, there's a tail gunning, sniper hanging out far behind
called Mr. Lead Core. One thing's for sure, if a fish can't see a
bait common sense says he can't strike it. While I haven't timed the
exact time it takes my vessel to go a 100 yards, I'm sure it allows a safety
margin for additional fish filter through the path of your trolling
course. So, the way that I see it, the delayed fuse action of towing
cores will increase the odds of having a successful trip.
Lead core comes into it's own when the pressure has driven the fish off
the bite. Another realistic "reel case" scenario is, that the fish
is just plain "stuffed to the gills" and done with the dinner
table. Using "SBD" (silent, but deadly) approach can wing
the stragglers and help add to your fish box tally at the end of the
day. The core fishes alone, without being encumbered by lead balls.
or a large chunk of plastic aka, the dipsey-slide diver
What makes a fish smack a some kind of lure swimming
along we put in the drink? Who knows? This I say with
confidence, presentation is the key ingredient when it comes to winning
your struggle with the fish!
While this doesn't have much to do with
anything, but angling generalities, fish don't have much of a brain, so
don't try to figure out something who's thought process is beyond our comprehension.
It's a plain waste of time!
If you live and die and run full
cores (100 yards of line out) all the time, it will hurt you in the long run during
the peak of the Salmon run in the more hectic Salmon ports like
Ludington, or Manistee. Why?.........because that much line out behind your boat,
protecting the long lines starts dictating
the course you drive trying to keep other fishermen from chopping off your
cores. Maneuverability is easily lost and you'll soon find yourself where
the fish ain't!
For the early first light bite I don't recommend setting your lead core
rods. The outer sheath of Dacron will slice mono like a hot knife
through butter. Wait until the easy pickings of morning action has slowed then
go for the lead stuff.
Let's keep it in simple terms, lead cores can be a disaster just waiting
to cause you serious grief. Kings seldom run directly straight away
from your vessel and when they start the business of right angles to your
course be prepared to move and clear rods as necessary.
(1.) A bird-core is 3 colors leadcore line (90
feet), used in place of a lead weight and installs your lure about 10 to
15 feet below the surface, if you're not trolling at warp speed.
(2.) Leader should test at least 20 pounds for the months of May thru early
July, then it's wise to switch to 25 or 30 pound test for the hog Kings
of July thru early September.
(3.) Lead can be deadly, because it's been said it won't sink (because of thicker
line diameter), or penetrate much further than the thermocline and it lays right there.
(4.) If you leave the core at the
sharp bend of a regular rod tip a fraying action can occur as the lead crystallizes
and saws through the Dacron.
(5.) Leaving your cores for extended periods of time in your
rocket launcher, or rod holders will weaken the line form UV damage.
(6.) Put them on regular, or dual planer boards if you want to run
a multiple core set up. Inlines from my experience cause more
grief than they're worth.
(7.) Experience tells me that a 50
foot, or longer leaders mean more fish in my box.
(8.) Spend extra time when blood
knotting to monofilament, and hank-test before using.
(9.) Important Tip: Don't pump the lead when doing
battle with a fish, I leave the rod in the holder and wind in until the
last of the lead is on the reel.
(10.) Load up your older reels with
half cores and just change reels when conditions warrant, meaning the lake
has rolled and the temp break is around 20 feet.