Lead Core Line and Downriggers
For those of you who are unfamiliar, lead core line is essentially a tiny, braided tube of line with lead thread inside. Think of weaving a a line around a pencil like a Chinese finger cuff and make it about 30 lb. test in width. That's not very wide and I can imagine how they put the two together with some sort of special weaving machine that would not be found at the local hardware store.
Lead core line is used usually with a round, bait caster reel and a rods made for trolling. Lead line is only for trolling. Usually, a mono leader is tied to the end of the lead line and because it sinks like a rock (lead) it allows a lure to be dropped down to specific depths. It works well, but requires different gear including rod holders and other techniques.
A downrigger is a lead ball on the end of a cable with a clip on the lead ball. You clip your fishing line from your rod to the lead ball, and lower it to the depth you want to troll the attached lure. When a fish strikes, the line releases from the clip (like a spring-type clothes pin) and you reel the fish in. This works well for lake trout in deep water where the fish are suspended. Some use these for walleyes in really specific environments, but it's a lot of extra junk and usually not needed for BWCA area fishing. It's really pain when the bottom is variable like it is in the northeastern Minnesota walleye lakes. Crank the ball up, lower the ball and repeat. You'll develop forearms like Popeye.
Lure Diving Depth
One of the biggest questions in the store here are about lure dive depth. Everybody, and I mean everybody has a really specific depth they are seeking in a particular lure. When I ask them why, they answer that their required depth is where the walleyes are and that is where they want to be. At that point, I ask if they are aware as to how lure dive depth is determined. 99.9878% of them have no clue. Everybody assumes that if the lure says 30 feet of dive depth, that it just magically goes to 30 feet and attracts fish. Some folks even buy stiffer flex rods to accommodate that tremendous drag that a big, wide lip TDD 11 Rapala Tail Dancer puts on the rod and reel. It's like dragging a #2 shovel behind the boat. but that still doesn't put the line down to where it needs to go you only have 50 feet out. Also, how do you actually know where that lure is going really? i doubt you are going to dive down there and measure.
Lure Dive Depth - How it is determined
The way lure dive depth is measured is by using 10 pound test mono with the lure in question towed 100 feet behind the boat at 2 MPH. Now, how often does anybody fishing with plain mono and no line counter know that they have 100 feet behind the boat? Also, I tend to troll at 1 to 1.5 mph. For me, 2 mph is snortin' right along and pretty rare. Counting on dive depth that is written on the box is kinda worthless in my case.
A Better, Simpler Way
|Rubber Core Sinkers|
All you have to do is take a step back in time to the old-fashioned days of fishing before braided Spectra even existed.
Enter Rubber Core Sinkers
For the average-to-serious fisherman, this is the poor man's downrigger. They are inexpensive and easy to use. To set up for trolling in 16 - 20 feet of water, a popular depth range for many walleyes in middle of summer, simply lay your line in the slot of the sinker and twist the black rubber ends in opposite directions. Give it about four twists and you'll see the line wrapped around the black rubber core inside of the sinker. The good thing about this sinker is that unlike splitshots or other crimp-on sinkers that will not grip braided line, rubber cores, on the other hand, grip quite well due to the twisting of the core and the sticky nature of rubber. There are many different types of sinkers out there that will do the same thing, but they not as compact and easy to attach. But, the one defining feature is the rubber end of the sinker. The cool thing is that this end, because it is rubber, deflects off of rocks. When I used to spend a lot of time guiding on Basswood lake, I discovered the anti-snag properties of rubber cores in jaggedy rocks. Splitshots jam in and hang on. Rubber cores, more often than not, deflect and continue. Plus, when they do snag, because they are longer body sinker, when you back up to pop it out of the snag by jerking the opposite direction of travel, the body length gives you leverage. A splitshot hqas no leverage. I locks in like a chock under the wheel of a propane truck. A longer body sinker gives you that little bit of leverage to pop it out in the fairly rare occurrence of it getting stuck.
Position the sinker about 14-18 inches from your snap swivel. I like to use snaps that are round on the end like a duo-lock snap AKA a crank-bait snap. This type of snap increases the action of any lure because it is round where the lure attaches instead of and increase the area for the lure to wobble. I like either one of the two pictured, but tend to go with the more minimalist version on the left because it doesn't pick up as many of those fine weeds as the one on the right with the two little ends sticking out. Now, if I'm not in weed areas where those little slimy weeds a sticking up, then the one o the right works just fine. In either case, the round end of the swivel promotes a better wobble than a snap swivel that looks like the brass one on the right. Notice how it comes to a point? That isolates the lure and wide-wobble lures like Ugly Ducklings are almost neutralized in their wobble by that confining point. The bras snap is fine for using with a walleye spinner rig or like a Mepps spinner or spinner baits in general. No wobble there.
Watch Your Lip
|Rapala Scatter Rap Jointed 9|
|Rapala Scatter Rap 5|
I like to use 1/2 ounce to 3/4 out sinkers depending the size of the lure and the depth of the bottom. I also always use a floater diver. You do not want to use a lure that sinks so when you stop, your sinker rests on the bottom and your lure floats up. The same will occur with a snag. Sinker is stuck, with the lure floating off the bottom 14-18 inches. On less thing to snag up down there. Salmo Hornets work great in this situation along with Rapala Scatter Raps and various other shallow to medium running floater/diver lures.
So there you have it. The Poor Man's Downrigger for Walleyes. Now, get out there and get on the bottom!