First off: I’m a leadcore rookie. Straight-up. Have done it a handful of times (locally in central MN) when I can’t get bit pitching/casting and feel like I “have to” to put fish in the boat. And every time I pull lead, I wonder why I don’t do it more often because it’s CRAZY effective. Can be anywhoooo….
We had our local walleye league last night on North Long Lake near Brainerd, MN. It’s good-sized at 6,190 acres, but 3,905 of that is < 15′ deep (called the littoral area). That’s a TON of shallow weeds and sand to cruise to find fish — with less than 2 hours to pre-fish the day before, I didn’t feel like I had time to break it down and decided to snoop around out deeper where I could graph for fish/bait with my Humminbird HELIX 12 at 4-10 mph.
First thing I noticed was an insane amount of bait clouds (believe they were all little perch) scattered along anywhere from 28-34′ on the edge of the basin. Soooo thick I could just barely see fish on my Down Imaging mixed in with the bait.
Plopped a #6 Rapala Flat Jig back into a cloud of baitfish that had a couple of marks mixed in it, and almost instantly caught a nice “eater” walleye. By the time I got that fish in an unhooked, the baitfish were gone on my electronics. The way they were scattered all over out deep — with no structure to hold ’em in one spot — told me I had to switch up techniques to something not so spot-specific.
I have 2 identical setups I always keep in the boat: Okuma Cold Water Line Counter Reels (CW-303D) — on 8′ 6″ medium, moderate Dead Eye Classic Trolling Rods — spooled up with a full 10 colors of 18-lb Sufix Performance Lead Core. I run about a 30′ section of 10-lb leader since most of the lakes I fish are zebra-mussel clear. Then #0 VMC Crankbait Snaps since they have a “teardrop” bottom that lets the bait do its thing, and of course you can quickly swap out cranks without re-tying.
My confidence leadcore bait right now = #7 Berkley Flicker Shads. Gotta say that the Troll Master Depth Calculator app was absolutely spot-on for knowing exactly how much line back to run ’em — uses a “physics-based calculation to determine lure depth” and they nailed it:
My wife Amanda was running that fish-sexxy “firetail hot perch” color. I only have 1 of ’em right now, so I’m not sure how she got to use it lol:
About 45-sec after we had our 170′ of lead out, we doubled-up! Mine was a chunky 18″ fish I was able to get in quickly so I could net Amanda’s solid 23-incher:
That was all we needed to see! So we left biting fish hoping they’d stay put for league night, and were off to pick up the munchkin from daycare on our way home.
The next day (tourney time!) the wind had nearly done a 180°. Instead of adjusting to the current conditions — and scanning for bait/fish before sending out our lead — I got stuck fishing memories…making the same exact pass as the night before. Did catch one little 1.25-lber, but that’s all we were able to weigh-in.
Lesson #1: Don’t get stuck fishing memories.
We did have some excitement, and my wife is still barely talking to me since it happened LOL…. Half way through one of those passes, her rod absolutely doubled-over in 34′.
If you’ve ever run leadcore, you know that the majority of fish barely fight thx to the weight of the line — you’re sorta just sloooowly reeling ’em in at 2 mph and get to see how big they are when it comes time to scoop ’em into the net.
Let’s just say whatever she had on was HEAVY. Probably took 5+ min to get the fish within 35′ of the boat…and in that time we traveled nearly 1/4 mile. Believe with leadcore you’re supposed to keep the boat moving while fighting a fish, ‘cuz if you slow down too much you’ll get a big bow in your line (since leadcore sinks) and makes it easier for fish to throw the bait.
We had a crazy side wind pushing us up shallower and shallower all throughout that fight. Eventually at the end of that 1/4 mile fight, there’s a huge corner that turns into a massive weed flat…and we ended up getting pushed into 6-7′ weeds just as the fish was finally getting close to the boat.
Long story (slightly) short(er)…the fish/line ended up getting wrapped in weeds and was able to shake off just as Amanda’s line-counter hit 35’ and was getting to the leader. If I could’ve just kept the boat off the break for a few more seconds…she might’ve finally got herself one for the wall [face-palm emoji] — I mean it was HUGE. Guess we’ll never know….
Lesson #2: Don’t make your wife mad.
Lol. Okay…I actually learned the hard way that if you’re running leadcore, good boat control is just as important while fighting a fish as it is while simply fishing.
After that all ^ happened, I started using my Minn Kota i-Pilot Link to 1) choose a specific contour for the boat to follow and 2) set the “cruise control” to 2 mph on my Ultrex. Not sure why I wasn’t using those sick features before…because with ’em all you have to do is sit there until it’s time to reel in a fish…. Next time.
Shout-out to the teams that got it done last night!
– Chuck Eggert and Chris Biermaier took home the ‘dubyah’ with 11.57 lbs:
> Chuck: “We were in 28-33’…pulling Rapala Scatter Rap Tail Dancers on leadcore…color didn’t seem to matter but we used perch and pink tiger UV. Depending on the trolling run we had 150-175′ of line out. They only bit when we were trolling into the wind — not with it.”
– Jason Bahr and Mike Peterson got 2nd with 9.96 lbs:
> Jason: “Trolling a shallow 6-7′ sand patch (about a 125-yard run) in the middle of a big weed flat. Wind was howling right into it. Running a #4 Rapala Shad Rap and Berkley Flicker Shad Shallow at 2.0-2.5 mph. Best bite was early on — soon as we got there we started catching fish. Normally you think of the shallow crankbait deal being a nighttime/evening thing….”
Nice job fellas!