Leadcore Setup Basics

By Lance Valentine

Leadcore line has always been an effective depth control option, but it has really caught on in the walleye world in the past 2 decades and it is now hard to find any serious walleye troller that doesn’t have at least a few leadcore setups on their boat. Let’s take a quick look at the basics of leadcore and what you need to get started.

First, leadcore line is simply a lead line (“core”) surrounded by a Dacron sheath. Leadcore is commonly sold in 18, 27 and 36lb break strengths. This number indicates the break strength of the outer Dacron sheath. The amount of lead in 18 and 27lb leadcore is the same, so they sink at the same rate, while 36lb has heavier lead and sinks faster and deeper. Leadcore is manufactured in “colors”, a change of color every 30’ of line. Anglers use these “colors” to determine how deep their leadcore is diving. For 18 and 27lb leadcore you can figure approximately 5’ of depth per color at normal walleye trolling speeds (1.5-2.5 mph). For 36lb leadcore figure 7’ per color. As speeds increase, leadcore will reach less depth.

Second, Leadcore line is fished in one of two ways. The first is spooling on a “full core” of 10 colors onto a large capacity reel. Anglers can easily adjust how much leadcore is out, quickly adjusting lure depth. This is a great option for fishing flat lines with no planer boards and is often used as a “corner” down rod when trolling. The other option is to spool up “segmented” lead core. This is a reel with only a specific number of colors of leadcore (1, 2, 3, 5 color for example). The reel is filled with mono or braided backing, then the desired amount of leadcore is added. This setup is designed to target a single, specific depth, but by using segmented leadcore an angler can attach an inline planer board to the backing and fish a wider spread of leadcore setups, often fishing multiple amounts of leadcore on each side of the boat.

Third, the rods and reels used for leadcore are important. Leadcore rods should have a “soft” tip and a sturdy backbone. Planer board or downrigger rods work great. I prefer longer rods of 8’ to 8’6” for all my leadcore fishing applications. Line Counter reels with a larger capacity are preferred. Being able to exactly duplicate a hot depth is easier with line counter reels. Use reels with large spools so it is faster bringing in a fish or retrieving line.

Lastly, leaders are needed at the business end of the leadcore to attach lures to. Most anglers use 16-20lb fluorocarbon leaders in lengths of 20-30’ for the main leader. Attach a 6’ leader to the main leader with a high-quality ball bearing swivel then add a round bend crankbait snap to attach lures to and you are ready to go fishing with leadcore!

If you are not fishing leadcore for walleye, try it this year. It adds a unique action to lures as it “snakes” through the water and some days is the best way to catch a limit of stingy walleye

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