You will never hear legendary Lake Erie charter captain Paul Powis doubting the old saw “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Intrigued by the giant walleye he could see on his sonar, sulking on the bottom and not biting, he was determined to find a way to consistently catch them.
“Everybody knows that to control your depth, you are supposed to only pull shallow-diving cranks on leadcore,” says Powis, pointing to the number one rule of fishing with leadcore line. The problem was, shallow cranks just weren’t working, so he broke the rule and attached a Luhr-Jensen Hot Lips—one of the deepest-diving crankbaits you can find—and sent it down behind 10 full colours of leadcore line. “It was deadly, and they were all big mommas,” he says. “Man, how I wish I could have kept that technique secret.”
According to Powis, when you pull a deep-diving crankbait on leadcore, it performs totally differently, ploughing its big plastic bill across the bottom, stirring up mud, debris and sediment, and looking like a ravenously feeding forage fish. “The reason it even crossed my mind to try it is because of another trick I employ when the walleye get ornery,” says Powis, who runs J&P Fishing Charters out of Erieau, Ontario. “I set my downriggers so deep, the cannonballs are literally bouncing and scraping across the bottom. That got me thinking about doing the same thing with deep-diving crankbaits and leadcore. It changes the dive curve of every lure, and there’s no limit to how deep you can troll.”
As zebra mussels continue clearing up the Great Lakes, driving the light-sensitive walleye ever deeper, Powis can now troll a deep-diving crank 70 feet or more down into the Twilight Zone to catch them. “When my guests reel in their lures, they’re shocked to see the lips and bills are all scuffed up and marked from banging the bottom,” he says.
For this rig, Powis lays down a monofilament foundation on his line-counter reels, then spools on 10 colours of 18-pound-test Cortland or Sufix leadcore line and finishes it off with a 25-foot leader of 15-pound-test Sufix fluorocarbon. While his favourite bait is the Luhr-Jensen Hot Lips, he also uses Rapala DT series and Tail Dancer crankbaits, as well as Storm ThunderSticks and Livetarget Smelts.
“When you can see the fish on the screen, but they’re not biting, think outside the box,” says Powis. “Put a deep-diving crankbait on your leadcore outfit, get it down, stir it up and put it in their face.”