Trolling With Lead Core Line- In The Water

This is a continuation of my posts on using lead core fishing line.  Lead core fishing line allows the angler to get his lure deeper into the water without the use of heavy weights, downriggers or other specialty equipment, such as dipsy divers.  With a fishing rod and reel set up with lead core line you can get your lure or bait down to where you want it, then just reel the fish in without having to worry about the weights or lines getting in the way of fighting the fish.  If you haven't already read my first two posts, check them out here:  Fishing with lead core line, What is It? and Getting Set Up.

Reel set up with lead core
Hopefully you have read the previous two posts and are ready to start fishing.  Assuming you are ready to hit the water on your boat, let's talk about how to use the lead core line.  In general, your lead core line is going to sink about five feet per color that you let out.  This will vary depending on how fast your boat is moving and how heavy your lure is.  The faster you are going, or the lighter the lure, the less depth you will get.  On the other hand, if you are moving slowly, or using a heavy lure, you will get your lure down deeper. 

While using the lead core, especially when you are fishing your lure near the bottom structure, pay special attention to how much line you have out, as well as your speed and how the boat is moving.  You may be moving fast enough to keep the line where you want it, but if you make a turn, any line on the outside of the turn will move through the water faster.  Conversely, any line that you have out on the inside of the turn will slow down.  This means that a lure that is traveling just over the bottom structure may drag or snag if you turn too sharply.  To keep the lure from dragging you will have to make very wide turns, or pull in some line. Another trick that I use some times is to speed up a little when I want to make a tight turn, that way the lures rise up a little in the water column as I turn.

Getting Deeper
I've had good luck with Sufix brand lead core

I generally use the five foot per color estimate, but if you really want to know how deep you are going, use the following trick:  Traveling at the speed you want to troll and using the lure you want to use, let out line until your lure starts bouncing off the bottom.  When you do this in an area where you know the bottom depth, you will be able to figure out how much line you let out to hit the bottom.  Obviously this works better with a relatively constant bottom depth and where there is as little as possible to snag on.

Now that you know how deep your line is going, you need to decide where you want to troll and how much line to let out.  If you are already familiar with the lake and know what you want to do, go for it.  Otherwise you will need to start getting an idea of how to fish a particular lake.  If you can, buy a map for the lake ahead of time.  A good map with under water topography will let you see the depth of various parts of the lake and will show fingers, valleys and points that are underwater.  Using the map you will gain an idea of the depth of a certain part of the lake and will be able to see where you need to go to keep your boat over a constant depth.

This is a great time to use your fish finder.  Your fish finder will not only show you were the fish are, but it will also give you information about how deep the water is and what the bottom looks like.  You will be able to see if the bottom depth is constant, or moving.  You will also be able to see if the bottom is smooth, or if there are rocks or other structure.

Out On The Water

Trolling with lead core at Chatfield State Park
Now that you know how to get to the right depth, now it's time to take it out on the water.  For example, we will use a dam face.  Typically a dam will have a fairly constant shape to it as it slopes down into the water.  Let's say you are 100 feet away from the dam and the water depth is 20 feet, if you troll along the dam and keep your distance at an average distance of 100 feet, you will most likely stay in about 20 feet of water.  Now with your fish finder, you can see that there are fish suspended at about 15-18 feet below the surface.  Using our average of five feet per color, you would let out about three colors to get your line down to about 15 feet.  This will put you right at, or just above the majority of the fish.  Now you can troll along the dam face and know that your line should be far enough above the lake bottom to avoid snags, but close enough to the fish that you will hopefully start getting bites.

Dodgers can help attract fish to your lure.
If you pass through the fish and none of the fish take the bait, keep trying.  Switch your lures and go back through the area that had fish.  Frequently it comes down to getting the right bait in front of the fish at the right time.  So don't give up when you know that the fish are there, keep switching it up until you get  bite.

Teach A Man To Fish...

You can use a similar method almost anywhere in the lake.  While fishing at Taylor Park Reservoir I was able to use the fish finder to locate a school of fish suspended 25-30 feet.  They were suspended over the old river bed, with a total depth between 40-60 feet.  I let out about five colors and everytime I went through the school I got a bite.  I wasn't able to bring every one to the boat, but it was exciting hooking a fish each time we went through that spot.  Without a fish finder to locate the fish and a way to get the lure down to the fish, we would have missed every one of those.

Hopefully you can use this series of posts to get your own lead core line set up and start catching fish!  Good luck and let  me know how it goes in the comment section below.

What is It?
Getting Set Up

What is a downrigger?


  1. Thanks, I bookmarked this for future use. I plan to do some trolling using lead core line at 11 Mile/Antero eventually.

    Do you have any recommendations on the brand/model number of reel to buy for lead core line?

  2. Imo, for the best bang for the buck, you'll wanna' check out the Okuma, star drag reels from the following link. I like to use higher capacity reels that can hold a full spool of 18# test lead core line. I hope that his helps.
    Take care, - Fishinbud

  3. Thanks for the comments, I currently have a couple Penn 60 reels. These have been discontinued, but I found mine at garage sales. I also have a Shakespeare Tidewater that you can pick up from Walmart for cheap, it won't allow as much backing as some of the other reels, but it is a great starter reel.

    To get started you can pick up a Tidewater reel and an Ugly Stick rod from Walmart, together about $55.00, if I remember right.


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