Whether it's Oreo cookies, a strong marriage or fishing for walleyes, the most important part is what's at the core.
You can't build an Oreo without the creamy filling, and you can't build a lasting relationship without commitment.
You can't build an effective walleye fishing arsenal without lead-core line, either. While there are many ways to catch 'eyes, few presentations can duplicate what the lead-core approach adds to the mix.It's a tool no walleye angler should be without, especially on river systems, lakes and reservoirs where rolling sand, steep breaklines and rocky structure often hold springtime fish and precision is paramount.Lead-core line is a Dacron line with a core of lead down the center.
It's most commonly available in 18-, 27- and 45-pound test, but don't be fooled into thinking that 45-pound test is heavier than 18-pound test. It's not. The difference in weight sizes deals only with the Dacron portion of the line and its relative strength.
The outside of the Dacron features a different color every 10 yards, which helps the angler determine how much line it takes to get a certain lure into the strike zone. That's helpful to know when resetting rods or when trying to duplicate a presentation with other rods.
Lead-core line does not stretch, which means it's not as forgiving as monofilament when fighting fish. You can compensate for that characteristic through your choice of fishing rods.
Choose a sensitive rod with a fairly soft tip, like a medium-action Berkley Series One. The graphite blank transmits important messages to the angler, letting you know if your lures are running true by the vibration in the tip.
You'll also want a high-capacity reel with a smooth drag system that you can adjust a bit lighter to compensate for the lack of stretch in the line. Abu Garcia's 6500 and 7000 baitcasting models will hold several colors of leaded line and feature outstanding and reliable drag systems. Proper equipment is only half of the equation for success.
Fishing with lead-core line is like making sure you say the right things to your wife on your anniversary. Do it right and you will usually be rewarded. Do it wrong and you will likely face negative consequences. The primary advantage of using lead-core line is depth control. It will take lures well beyond their designed range, and it will help those lures follow slight changes in bottom contour.
Seldom has the importance of that characteristic been illustrated more clearly than it was during a recent tournament I fished on the Missouri River at Chamberlain, S.D.
We were working a main-channel breakline in 20 feet of water using Berkley FS9M Frenzy Firesticks. It was critical to keep those cranks running just a few inches off the bottom. If the bait got more than six inches from the bottom, we didn't get bit. If we got too close to the bottom, our lures were constantly fouled with debris. We made constant adjustments to stay in the effective zone.
At times, the Corps of Engineers also changed the water flow coming from the dam. When more water came through and the current increased, it changed the running depth of our lures and forced additional adjustments. In the end, that attention to detail and precision paid off with a Top 10 finish in the tournament.
Another advantage of lead-core line is that it allows an angler to thoroughly cover a breakline and fish in traffic.
Where multiple rods are legal, use rods of two distinctly different sizes on each side of the boat. I have 5-foot, 5-foot-6, 8-foot-6 and 12-foot rods for lead-core fishing. By using the longer rods in the front of the boat and the shorter rods in back, I can cover a good section of the slope and keep several feet between my lures to avoid tangling when I have to turn to stay on the contour.
If the fish are holding tight to the break, move three or even four rods of varying lengths to the same side of the boat.
Tuning lures is always important, but it's absolutely critical when fishing multiple lines in close proximity to one another. Make sure your crankbaits run perfectly straight by dropping them in the water over the side of the boat and pulling them aggressively forward. If they kick out to one side or the other, they will do the same any time you turn the boat or change speed and probably tangle with other lines.
Debris will also cause crankbaits to veer from their appointed track. Keep a close eye on your rod tips. If one of them stops vibrating, sweep it aggressively forward. Many times, this will clear the debris before that lure can cause problems with other lines.
Because of the depths lead-core line allows you to fish, getting those lines out away from the noise of the boat isn't always important. In most river situations, we're dealing with slightly stained water, as well, which seems to make walleyes less wary of boats and motors. That's a plus when there are a lot of anglers packed into a fairly small area working the same fish.
On the other hand, lead-core can be an effective presentation in clear-water lake and reservoir situations, too, where it is important to spread lines and take a more stealthy approach.
Whether you are fishing the edges of extended points, shoreline breaks, open-water structure, deep mud flats or even suspended fish, segmented lead-core used in conjunction with Off-Shore planer boards provides a means of getting your lures into the target zone and away from the boat.
First, determine the depth of the active fish and the crankbaits they are willing to eat. Once you've established the strike zone, figure out how much leaded line it takes to get your lure to that depth, and attach that segment of lead-core to monofilament backing. Then you can drop your lures back and attach the boards to the mono, thereby avoiding the extra drag that occurs by trying to fish straight leaded line on boards.
The final piece of the lead-core puzzle is speed.
Because of the line's diameter, the slightest change in speed or current affects the running depth of the lure. While it is possible to troll lead-core at speeds of 3 and 4 mph with perfectly tuned lures, I typically adjust my Mercury four-stroke kicker for speeds of 1.5 to 1.8 mph.
Speed control also helps me to raise and lower my baits while I troll.
If I see a bump or a log on my Humminbird 987 or I wander off a channel edge into shallow water, I can raise my crankbait by increasing the speed. If I pass over a depression, I can drop that lure by slowing down.
Be gentle, take it slow and pay attention to detail. Whether you are eating an Oreo, building a relationship or fishing for walleyes, it's the core of the matter that counts.
Editor's note: Bill Leonard is a professional walleye angler from Estherville, Iowa, with 16 years of experience on the Professional Walleye Trail, RCL, FLW and Masters Walleye Circuit. His career includes 14 championship appearances and 27 Top 10 finishes. Leonard is sponsored by Ranger Boats, Mercury Motors, MotorGuide, Berkley, Lindy Legendary Tackle, Off-Shore Planer Boards, Aqua Innovations, EnTycer Spinners and Soo Sports. His articles are printed in a number of outdoor publications and at many web sites.