The lowdown on leadcore


Whew—I am back home after a whirlwind weekend to Saskatoon and Edmonton where I had the pleasure of presenting walleye seminars in the Cabela’s stores in each city.

It was great fun, especially meeting up with so many keen anglers like my young buddy Ryley Stephani, who coaxed his mom to drive him 1 1/2 hours into the city to take in the seminar. In both cities, as well as in Winnipeg the weekend prior, I asked the anglers to raise their hands if they troll with leadcore line, given that leadcore has become a standard arrow in my walleye quiver.


As I suspected, not many folks put up their hand, and when I asked why they didn’t use leadcore, most replied they thought it was mainly a deepwater lake trout technique.

Nothing could be further from the truth.



Indeed, buddy John Butts, who is only the second Canadian angler ever to win a PWT walleye tournament is a leadcore fanatic. Ditto, good friend Mark Stiffel, who I regard as one of the best leadcore anglers on the continent.

Both John and Mark will tell you they regularly troll with leadcore in ultra-shallow situations, preferring the unique line for its ability to precisely track the path of the boat. Plus, you can take a small, shallow running crankbait and troll it where no walleye has ever seen the lure before.


By pure coincidence, when I arrived home, I read an email that Mark had sent to Patrick, an Outdoor Canada Magazine reader, who had been intrigued by a leadcore feature I’d written for the magazine in which I’d interviewed Mark extensively.

Patrick wanted to know how Mark determined the amount of line to let out. Needless to say, Mark’s answer was so good I had to be share it with a much wider audience.

Here is his response:

Try it and you will be hooked—literally. 

I have been trolling leadcore for 30 years and it is deadly.

Nothing matches its effectiveness, just remember to keep in mind the general rule of thumb: your lure will go down three feet in depth for every color of leadcore line you let out. 

That varies with the trolling speed, of course, so you will need to experiment. For example, if you are trolling a long flat bay in 20 feet of water, let out half-colour segments as you troll along, until you feel your lure tick the bottom. Now, you have your formula for depth per color at your chosen trolling speed. 

Let’s say, for example, that you tick bottom when you let out five colours when you’re trolling in 20 feet of water.  That means at the speed you’re trolling you are getting roughly four feet of depth per color of line (20 feet / 5 colors = 4 feet per color). 

Your trolling speed will obviously make a difference.  When you troll dead slow, for example, you will get up to five or six feet deep per color.  When you troll faster, you will average two to three feet in depth. 

You also need to factor in the lure you are using. A spoon,  like the Williams Dartee in the “D2” pink finish, which is my favourite spoon in the spring for trout, will add no depth. 

A plug like a Rapala, on the other hand, will add roughly the equivalent of one colour of leadcore to the depth achieved. So, if you troll a spoon use the formula above once you have figured out your depth per trolling speed ratio.

But, if you are trolling a plug, use the same formula but deduct one color. So, using the example above, if you want to get down 20 feet, you’d let out four colours. 

The beauty of leadcore is the precise depth control you can achieve with it. For example, when you’re lake trout fishing in the spring after ice out, the fish will cruise the shore lines and also the surface area over deeper water. Troll with three colours out and you know your lure is down 12 feet.

Or, you can troll the 16 foot contour line along shore and put your lure at 14 feet, keeping it two feet off the bottom. It is the perfect presentation. 

I prefer using a long leader in the spring when I am fishing for trout with fewer colours. So, I run 150 to 200 feet of Maxima Ultrageen 8-pound test line. Maxima is an exceptional monofilament line with superior knot strength and abrasion resistance. 

In the summer, when I am running more colours of leadcore to get deeper, and in the fall when I am trolling for walleyes I’ll shorten the leader to about 100 feet. 

I prefer using 27-pound test leadcore, as I find 18-pound test does not last as long, due to wear on the guides.  Speaking of which, another plus with using leadcore as oppose to trolling with straight monofilament or using downriggers is that when you work your rod, the connection to the lure is more like a braided line in that there is very little stretch. The movement you are imparting to your rod is translated directly to your lure. (The new braided leadcore that has come out this year looks interesting and I anxious to try it.) 

Finally, use a large baitcasting reel that has the capacity to load 15 plus colours of leadcore with a bit of backing.  By the way, you don’t need a reel with a line counter as the different colours on the leadcore will do that for you. 

I use a nail knot to attach the monofilament to the leadcore to minimize the size of the knot and make it easier to slip through the guides. The ideal rod for leadcore trolling is an 8-1/2 foot long downrigger rod with a bit of backbone, but not too stiff.You want the bend in the rod to absorb the strikes or the fish will sometimes pull out the hooks.  Remember, leadcore has very little stretch which is another reason for running a long leader. 

I hope this helps, Patrick. Try leadcore line and you will like it. It works!