Written by Capt. Paul Kik - Salmonhead Charters
Wednesday, 28 February 2007 18:32
For some reason when people get into fishing the big lake, leadcore line isn’t one of the popular choices to start out with. Apparently down riggers and divers must seem easier to master, because that is what most people start fishing with. Leadcore often becomes the third weapon in the assault on Great Lakes fish. With a few pointers, maybe leadcore can become one of your main weapons next trip out.
You might be wondering what the heck leadcore is or why you would want to mess with it since you catch fish on riggers and divers already. Leadcore can add another dimension to your fishing and it’s not an expensive presentation. All that is required is enough rod holders forward of your divers, a couple inline planer boards and however many rods you want rigged with leadcore.
In order to know how you want to set up your rods, you need to know a few basics about leadcore. Leadcore is a Dacron line that is filled with a lead core to make it heavy. So there is an outer sheath that gives the line its strength and an inner wire made of lead to give it it’s weight. Leadcore comes in a variety of pound tests including 18, 27, 36 and 45 with 27# being the most popular for salmon trollers. For ease of deployment, leadcore comes with alternating colors every 10 yards (30 feet) on the Dacron sheath. You may have heard of a full core or half core or some reference to a specific number of “colors”. A “full core” is a length of leadcore that is 100 yards (300 feet) long and therefore consists of 10 colors of leadcore line. Since the full core of 10 colors is the base line, a half core is 5 colors and a core and a half is 15 and a double core is 20 colors. Lots of anglers, myself included, tie up our own lengths of core and use any length and don’t necessarily stick to 5, 10, 15 and 20 colors.
One benefit to running leadcore line is in its inherent inability to maintain a specific depth. Leadcore is thick, since it’s a sheath over a lead core, and yet it’s heavy. The thickness of the line resists the water making it rise higher in the water column the faster the boat speed, but at the same time, its weight causes it to sink. The slower the boat is moving, the deeper the line will sink. On average a full core will run 40-50 feet deep, a half core is 20-25 deep, 15 color is 60-75 deep and a double core is about 80-100’ deep. It is important to keep in mind the exaggerated rise and fall that leadcore exhibits when being pulled through the water. If you are a fast troller, the depths you get with leadcore will be at the upper end of the normal range or even higher. If you troll slowly, depths achieved will be on the deep end or deeper. That is the beauty of leadcore, you really don’t know exactly where it is. Another big advantage to leadcore is the simple fact that your baits are a long way from the boat. This fact in itself can make the difference some days.
Now that you have decided you want to run leadcore, you need to get some reels rigged up. Keeping in mind that leadcore has a greater diameter than any other line you are likely using, you might need to get a larger reel than you are used to. Most of the makers of common Great Lakes reels make a reel to fit your needs. The standards for a full core are the Penn 330, Shimano Tekota 700, Okuma 45 series and the Daiwa 57. Each of those models will hold a full core. Stepping up to the 15 and 20 color capacity reels, you will find the Shimano Tekota 800, Penn 340 and 345 and Okuma 55 series. Stepping down from the full core to shorter cores, you will find more reels to fit the bill; Daiwa 47’s, Okuma 30 series, Shimano Tekota 600’s and Penn 320’s will all hold about a half core. Your choice in reels boils down to budget and what you already have.
As for the rods to run leadcore on, that is pretty much wide open. Any rod you already have will work, although some are a better suited than others. Shimano Talora leadcore rods are great, but also pricey. Any diver rod works well and so will rigger rods. I prefer a rod with some backbone especially on longer leadcore rigs. All that weight out there will push a less stout rod closer to its limits.
After the rods and reels have been selected, you need to get things rigged up. The easiest way to start out, and a great idea for the first time user, is to get a pre-rigged combo from your favorite sport shop. Often you can have a local shop rig each reel with any desired length instead of the standard rigs that the larger places will carry. If you choose to get a pre-rigged combo, it will save you time and money, but you might not get the specific length of leadcore you want, or the rigs to choose from might not be the exact rod or reel you want. If you choose to do your own rigging, you can select any rod/ reel combo you want and any length of leadcore you want also, but keep in mind that it might be a bit more expensive than the pre-rigged setup.
When spooling the reels with line, there are three components to consider…the backing, the leadcore, and the leader. The backing lays on the arbor of the reel, the leadcore attaches to the backing and the leader attaches the leadcore and the snap to the lure. The trick is to get the proper amount of backing on the reel to make the reel full, but also leave enough space on the reel for all the desired leadcore. To make room for more leadcore on a smaller reel, you can use a braid backer, since braid has a smaller diameter than mono. If you use braid, make sure to put a couple wraps of mono on the arbor first to keep the braid from slipping on the arbor and again, splice in a piece of mono before attaching the leadcore to prevent the braid from slicing through the sheath of the leadcore. The easiest way to spool is with mono backing and mono leader. The larger diameter of the mono requires a larger reel, but mono works well when attaching planer boards and has some stretch in it to help absorb the shock of violent strikes from angry fish. Having a local sporting goods shop spool you up is easy and they will know how much backing to put on each brand reel to keep the reel full, without over filling it. If you decide to do it yourself, get on the message boards and post your specific reel and line that you are using and someone can tell you the amount of backing required for each reel. If you have two of the same reels, you can do the reverse spooling technique. Start by tying your leader on to one reel and winding on the desired length; then add the leadcore to the leader and wind on the desired number of colors; then add the backing and top off the spool. Now you have a reel spooled backwards. Now tie the end of the backing onto the reel you want rigged and reel all the line off the first reel onto the second reel and you are set to go. Make a note of the line counter or number of cranks on the handle when spooling onto the final reel as a reference for other reels of the same make. If you are loading both reels exactly the same, just duplicate your lengths, and you are good to go. If you want more or less leadcore on the second reel, increase or decrease the backing. I prefer to use all mono backing and leaders. I use a tough 20# for both and keep my leaders trimmed to 3-15 feet. I also re-spool all my leadcore rigs annually and do mid-season repairs as necessary. For the knots I use when attaching backing and leaders to the leadcore check out the photo gallery with instructions at http://www.educatedangler.com/cmgallery/thumbnails.php?album=49 and if you need to repair the line and need to do a quick line to line connection, check out http://www.educatedangler.com/cmgallery/thumbnails.php?album=50 .
Now that you have a few rods rigged with leadcore, its time to go fishing. A very popular method for running leadcore is off an inline planer board. Using planer boards gets the rig away from the boat. Getting the leadcore away from the boat has a few advantages. First, it keepsthe bait away from the motor noise and away from other racket produced by rigger cables and divers that are closer to the boat. Second, if you catch a fish on one of your other rods, its nice not to have to worry about the leadcore getting tangled with the fish. If the core is off to the side of the boat, the fish can be fought out the back of the boat without worry of a mess and not having to crank it in every time. One of the often overlooked benefits to running core off a board is the exaggerated rise and fall created by the increase and decrease in running speed due to cornering. That is to say, when the boat turns or wiggles, the outside boards speed up and cause their cores to rise in the water column and at the same time, the inside cores slow down and sink in the water column. This rise and fall action will often trigger strikes.
If you run more than one core per side on boards, keep the shorter core (the lighter and higher in the water column core) to the outside of the heavier deeper cores. The lighter cores to the outside will allow you to retrieve and set them over top the inside cores without getting snarls. That brings us to another point, setting rods. Assuming you will be running 4 leadcores, 2 per side, try to pair them off. Let’s assume you will be running a 3, 5, 7 and 10 color. I would run the 3 and 7 on one side and the 5 and 10 on the other. The separation on the colors will help to keep things from getting snarled. Start by letting out the 3 and 5 on their own sides of the boat, then add the 7 and 10. Let the core out the back of the boat until all the core is in the water, then attach the board and let it out the desired distance and get the rod in a holder. The board will catch water when you close the bail, and shoot out to the side of the boat. Repeat the process until all the lines are in the water.
Now with all those rods in the water, you are bound to catch fish. When a fish grabs one of your rigs, you will either have your boards rigged to release and slide down the line or to stay attached. I prefer to keep the board attached to the line so it doesn’t slide down. If you rig to have them slide down, make sure you use a speed bead a couple feet above the lure to stop the board from banging the fish in the head. If you rig with the fixed board, keep your rod tip close to the waterline with the rod at an angle to the fish while reeling. This will help keep the board in the water until its back to the boat and time to take it off the line. If you point your rod in the air while the board is a long way from the boat, and the fish pulls the board will invariably go air born and subsequently plummet back to the water in the form of a diver and dive below the waterline. Not good. If a board does dive on you, keep even tension on the line and wait for it to surface before reeling again. By keeping the rod tip low, it helps keep the board at the surface. Once the board is at the back of the boat, lift the rod tip high to get the board clear of the water, keep reeling, and thenremove the board off when it gets to the rod tip. Once the board is off, you can fight the fish as you normally would. After the celebration is over when the fish hits the deck, you need to get that bait back in the water ASAP. If it’s an inside board, that is really easy, just the same as initial let out. An outside board is a little different. Let the bait out the back of the boat, attach the board and continue letting it out until the board is way behind the inside board. Now, engage the reel and get the rod into its appropriate holder. The board will pull the core and bait out and above the inside board. It will be behind it in the water. After the board is tracking in its proper position, you can adjust the distance by reeling in or letting out more line.
I don’t want to oversimplify fishing with leadcore, but it really is a pretty simple presentation to add to your arsenal. Rods and reels can be very inexpensive and the line costs less than braid. Leadcore covers a wide range of water depths and just plain ‘ol puts fish in the boat. Give it a try, I think you will like the results!
Written by Capt. Gregory Houtteman
Wednesday, 28 February 2007 18:25
Early “fishing line” that could be even referred to as line was often made from silk or horse hair, with leaders made typically from sheep or goat intestines. As the second industrial revolution began in the early 1850s, mass manufactured fishing line was born. This early line was fashioned from linen and silk predominantly, sometimes combined with a waterproofing additive. Less frequently cotton or flax would be used. Luckily the development of fishing lines did not stop here.
In 1938 DuPont announced that they had invented nylon and with this invention the real beginning of what many consider modern fishing line had begun. Braided Dacron, a polyester fiber, had preceded the invention of nylon and would remain more popular for a couple decades. This would all change with the introduction by DuPont of Gray Stren in 1958 and fishing line would never be the same.
For the purpose of this discussion we are going to talk about 4 major types of polymer-based lines and leave wire, leadcore, and copper for another time.
Basically this family of lines is based on the original 1958 technology of creating a polymer thread that was the basis for the Stren monofilament (literally meaning single fiber). All of these lines are based on this technological foundation:
Copolymer – a monofilament strand sheathed inside or chemically bonded to another.
Fluorocarbon – a chemically different monofilament but still technically a monofilament.
Braid – Multiple micro threads made from Spectra, Kevlar, or Dyneema fiber and woven together.
Every manufacturer has a different approach or in many cases a bunch of approaches to satisfy certain applications. Whether a line is designed for better abrasion resistance, smaller diameter, improved strength, increased flexibility or any combination of these attributes, it is a complex decision to choose one from the other. In reality there is no single choice that can satisfy all of the needs a salmon, trout, or walleye angler has while trolling the big lake. If you went from boat to boat you would find a unique mix of line combinations and as an angler you need to find the mix that works best for you.
Attending a seminar many years ago, the evaluation of fishing line was one of the hour long sessions during the day. The session evaluated fishing line by ranking the four line types, scoring was in a number of categories with the winners being listed:
- Cost - Monofilament
- Abrasion - Fluorocarbon
- Diameter - Braid
- Flexibility - Braid
- Stretch - Braid
- Aging - Braid and Fluorocarbon
- Water Absorption - Braid and Fluorocarbon
Monofilament offers the best cost to performance ratio of any of the lines because it is the least expensive to manufacture. When choosing a monofilament stay away from the “cheap” monofilaments; spend a little extra money on a premium line to get a great performer. Premium monofilaments have better quality control. Consistency in diameter and breaking strength are important aspects of this quality. With many premium lines a variety of additives are introduced to produce better strength, thinner diameters, better knot strength, enhanced UV protection, and improved abrasion resistance.
Braided lines became popular in the 1990s as the manufacturing process was refined to produce a great class of lines that was somewhat affordable although still comparatively expensive. Braids, often referred to as superline or microfilament, are truly space aged and are made of micro-threads that are literally braided together to make a very thin but extremely strong line. Braid offers little to no stretch, offering amazing sensitivity and positive hook sets,. With their small diameter, braids are often used as backings by many big lake anglers because increased amounts of line can be spooled on to smaller reels.
Fluorocarbon line is unique because of its visibility in the water. Scientifically, fluorocarbon fishing lines have the same refractive qualities as water so they are virtually invisible. Fluorocarbon also gets high marks for durability as it is unaffected by foreign substances such as DEET, is highly abrasion resistant, and does not absorb water. The use of fluorocarbon was pioneered by Japanese bass anglers who needed a stealthy approach to catch their target species in very clear waters.
Copolymers are a class of fishing lines that encompass a wide range of specific line types. Copolymers might be a combination on nylon monofilament inside a fluorocarbon sheath, or it may include a combination of different nylons chemically bonded to produce thinner and stronger lines. These lines were developed to strike a balance, or bridge gaps between the single polymer lines such as monofilament, braid, and fluorocarbon. For example, a monofilament fluorocarbon hybrid may produce a highly abrasion resistant stealthy line that has a bit more stretch and knot strength then straight fluorocarbon.
What line? When? Why?
This is the hardest part of the evaluation process because it is completely subjective as to why someone uses a certain line for a certain application. Valid arguments can be made to support almost any position when it comes to fishing lines. In the end it is a series of trade-offs and compromises to decide for each situation.
Let’s look at a simple case. Which line should be used as the main line for downrigger rods? Strong arguments can be made for both monofilament and braid and you will begin to see the complexity of even a seemingly simple decision.
Angler A: Monofilament is the only choice for downrigger rods because it offers a more forgiving alternative. I have beginning anglers on board quite often and the stretch of mono can make up for a novice mistake or two. Being less expensive and a larger diameter I can more easily fill the reel to the maximum diameter for better line retrieval rate. The diameter also helps when using it with downrigger releases and generates less false releases.
Angler B: Braid is the only choice for downrigger rods because it is less affected by blowback due to its smaller diameter and gives a great positive hook set. Because of the smaller diameter I can also get more line on a reel, which gives me a larger safety margin for a running fish. Because it is more durable I don’t have to put new line on my reels as often offsetting some of the cost associated with braid.
This is simply an example of two positions taken from different angles advocating competing line technologies and both appear to make sense. When determining what lines to use for your personal style and budget do your research by checking out product descriptions, after that do some Google research on those products that seem interesting, and finally talk to your friends.
Ok. Since you’ve asked.
For downrigger rods I like a high quality clear 20# monofilament for most of the year and may bulk up to 25# clear for fall fishing. I have run everything from 12# to 30# monofilament and have settled on 20#, but I know many anglers who swear by 12# to 15# and believe it increase their catches.
For Dipsey Divers I like a 50# braid, wire too but that’s for another time, because it gives the best blend of strength and diameter to get my diver down with minimal water resistance. I use a high visibility color for these rods…not for being able to track where it enters the water, but for visibility when fighting a fish. Since I’m running a diver and leader anyway, the main line color has little to no effect.
For Slide Divers I prefer a high quality clear 25# monofilament because it works great in the clamp and has a decent amount of stretch. Stretch is important for slide divers because you’re not running a snubber so the monofilament acts as its own shock leader. I rarely use this line for anything deep so the stretch never gets to the point where I can’t pop the diver for retrieval.
For backing on leadcore and copper, I prefer to run a high visibility monofilament in the 25# to 30# class. I use high capacity reels and I’ve yet to be spooled and since I strip and change these reels quite often, I don’t incur the expense of running braid. I know plenty of people that use braid or braided-Dacron for backing for cores and copper and segment a piece of monofilament in between for placement of the inline planer board and it gives you a lot more backing capacity.
For leaders I use multiple test strengths of a copolymer, monofilament covered in a sheath of fluorocarbon, which offers a great blend of low visibility, abrasion resistance, and pliability.
These are just the choices that we have made and what we have found works for us. With those choices, we have had an excellent landing percentage and overall catch rate. However, I fish on a bunch of different boats during the year that are equally productive and have a totally different mix of line types. With that all being said, it is still important to experiment with different lines during the season and keep abreast of what is on the market.
Remember you can always ask for advice on the Educated Angler!
Written by Mike Curreri - Educated Angler Field Staff
Wednesday, 28 February 2007 18:13
This article is intended as a primer to fishing big planer boards. While the article is specifically aimed at the shallow waters of the Western Lake Erie and the fabulous walleye fishery there, most of the concepts can be applied to other waters and species. Anglers who have not used this method or anglers that may have tried it and had problems should find it useful.
What are planer boards?
Planer boards or trolling boards are a method of getting trolled baits away from the back of the boat and off to the sides. There are two basic types of boards. The first type are generally referred to as Inline Boards. They attach to the fishing line between the rod tip and the bait. The second type of boards are often referred to Big Boards. These are towed by the boat and fishing lines are attached to the tow line by a release device. Both are considered stealth presentations. A versatile angler would be wise to consider both approaches depending on the situation. There is overlap in application of these devices, but big boards are what will be discussed in this article.
Why use big boards?
There are several reasons to employ big boards for fishing the shallow waters of Western Lake Erie for Walleyes. Probably the best reason for choosing big boards is that fish can be played unencumbered by extra tackle between the angler and the fish, since the fishing line is released from the tow line.
Most anglers agree that many fish will spook from an oncoming boat in shallow water. These fish are thought to move off to the sides of the path of the boat. Lures trolled behind boards end up passing directly through these pods of fish increasing the likelihood of strikes.
Fishing planer boards allows anglers to get more lines in the water. With big boards run off to the sides of the boat 80 or 100 feet and releases spaced every 10 or 15 feet on the tow line, anglers can easily run 4, 5 or even 6 lines per side without tangles. This approach also covers a wide swath of water.
Finally, big boards are easier for other boaters to see than the inline variety, especially if you have bright colored flags on your boards. This can save major headaches on the water when fishing in the pack..
Briefly, inline boards have a couple advantages. If you’re fishing solo or with one other angler, it is simpler to run inline boards. Also, when working a small pod of fish on a breezy day on a downwind troll, it is easier to pull and redeploy a small spread of inline boards to run back upwind and set up another pass.
Boat Equipment and Setup
Equipment needed to efficiently employ big boards is pretty basic. Specific manufacturers of the equipment discussed will not be mentioned because I don’t want inadvertently miss any. First you need a set of boards. These can be either purchased or home made. Plans for making a set of boards can be easily found on the Internet. You also need some method of deploying and recovering your boards. Ready-made commercial mast assemblies which consist of a mast, planer reels, pulleys, and tow line are a good solution for those with open boats. Bigger boats with T-tops or hard tops generally do not use a mast. These style boats present many mounting options for your planer reels and pulleys, including mounting to the supports of the top and rail mounts. The pulleys are used to move the tow point to a higher/further forward position. These items are commercially available as well.
You will also need releases, lots of releases. Two guys fishing a small boat should have at least a dozen. I regularly use over 50 and it is not unheard of to use many more. If you run out of releases you must reel in your boards to recover them. Then re-deploy the boards and re-use your releases. So the more releases you have, the more time you spend fishing. There is also a product available now that catches releases in the event your tow line should ever break.
When setting up your boat, keep the following general principals in mind. Big boards exert a lot of force. Use backing plates or big fender washers and thru bolt the hardware if you are mounting a mast to your boat. Board snubbers are available to help absorb the shock of wave action that would otherwise be transmitted to your mast or mounting hardware.
There are two basic things you deal with when fishing big boards. First you deploy & retrieve your boards using the planer board reels. Second, you will be attaching line releases to the tow line. If you are fishing from a boat with a cockpit, it’s real nice not to have to leave the cockpit to do these operations. In general, you want your tow point (top of the mast or pulley location) to be as high and far forward as possible and still be able to reach the tow line to attach your releases.. Your planer board reels should be mounted about waist to shoulder high to allow for easy operation with chest high probably being ideal.
Rods, Rod Holders, Reels, and Line
You can really maximize your efficiency by using matching rods. This allows subtle variations in the rod tip action to be easily detected. These variations can be caused by something fouling the lure such as a weed the size of a blade of grass. They can also be caused by small fish of the “by-catch” variety (either spike walleye or “junk” fish) that are hooked, but just swimming along with the boat. The advantages of matched rods really become apparent as you start running 3 or more rods on one side of the boat. Suitable rods generally run 6 to 7 feet with a medium or medium light action.
Using matching rods doesn’t do any good unless they are placed in holders in such a way as to allow easy comparisons. Typically, rod holders are placed along the gunwale and spaced closely together, with just enough room for the reels. The holders are adjusted to be vertical or angled slightly away from the boat and parallel to each other, see Figure 1.
Figure 1. Rod holder orientation, the bow of the boat is to the right. The far right rod
Written by Kyle Wogsland - Educated Angler Field Staff
Wednesday, 28 February 2007 17:07
Wouldn’t you love a chance to hook into a thirty inch walleye or a fifty inch muskie on the same trip? In that case the Fox River in DePere, WI is the place to go. This is the river connecting Lake Winnebago and the Wolf River to Green Bay and it is full of trophy fish. I have viewed pictures of walleyes up to thirty-three inches long and muskies over fifty-four inches caught in this river. The Fox is quite polluted so it is almost entirely catch and release which gives you a great shot at catching a lot of big fish.
In the spring the Fox is one of the first rivers in the DePere area that is open and has an early run of walleyes. You catch populations of fish from both the river and fish from Green Bay that have come up the river to spawn. You have a very good shot at a trophy here and for spring fishing the bag limit is just one and it must be over 28 inches. Even with that limit you have a great chance to get a keeper, but be prepared to battle for it because it is very crowded and patience can sometimes be lacking. There are many ways to fish at this time, but most anglers either jig the channel with a jig-tipped with a minnow or fish near the dam. Anglers at the dam typically are jigging in less than 10 feet of water or casting cranks into 5 feet or less trying for a bite. I know a lot of anglers catch even bigger fish here when they are willing to fish through the night. Don’t forget to check out the warm water discharges they will usually be holding fish.
Kyle with a nice walleye