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The Essence Of Lead Core


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By Jim Six(Sixshooter)

Lead core line is often at the top of controversy lists when Great Lakes fishing methods is the primary topic of conversation. On a sunny prime time August morning you can often hear fellow fishermen tossing verbal diarrhea back and forth about somebody running over somebody else’s lead core. Let’s face it, if you have a full core out behind your boat you are looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 to 400 feet of line behind the boat. I advise use of common sense and not fish your long cores in crowds. On days where I can’t get away from the crowd I will not fish my lead core setups.

However, on the flip side lead core is a VERY productive method to catch fish.

Lead core generally comes in 100 yard spools. The spool is segmented into colors. It may start off red, then after ten yards it may turn white, then yellow, etc. This will go for the ten colors that make up the 100 yards of the spool. Before I go further, let me toss out the terms of the lead core trade:

Full Core--full 10 colors (100yards) lead core.

Half Core--5 colors (50 yards) lead core.

Short Cores--also known as 1, 2 and 3 color cores....and you can guess what that means.

Spoolofleadb.JPG

Spool of lead core. As you can see the different colors.

Of course being Americans, in the land of ingenuity, we will use any length under the sun for different depths we wish to probe. Somebody may put a core and a half on a reel, which would be one full lead core with a half core added on for extra cranking.

Now that you have some of the basic terminology of lead core in your grasp, I can start getting a little more in depth.

SETTING UP A LEAD CORE:

First, for full lead core setups, you need a high capacity reel. Depending on who you ask, you will get different opinions on this issue. The Okuma Convector 45L is a fine reel for such a cause. Some fisherman will only put about 150yards of line to back the lead core but, that scares me. I like to have about 300 yards of line on my lead core setups.

This can cause a problem with the Convector 45L because you cannot fit 300 yards of 20lb mono on the reel and a full core. The way I get around this, is to use a super braid.

Get yourself a spool of 30lb Power Pro it has the diameter of 8lb mono. You can spool on 300yards of Power Pro and then use a “Double Willis Knot” (see bottom of article for instructions on how to tie the Willis Knot) to attach the backing to your lead core. Spool on your lead core and use the Willis Knot again to attach a leader.

For leaders, I like to use 20 to 25lb test Berkley Big Game. I will add anywhere from 12 to 35 feet of leader. It has been my experience that shorter leaders seem to work better than longer leaders. And there is, of course, less to reel in.

For a rod, Okuma makes a 7’ trigger rod just for lead cores. These little rods are awesome for fishing with inline boards. They are short so you can reach your board without a stepladder, and they are stout enough to handle the board really well.

WHAT STARTED MY LEAD CORE CRAZE

One January afternoon standing waist deep in frigid water on the upper stretches of the Muskegon River. My good friend and fishing buddy, Ken DeVries, and I were thinking how we couldn’t wait for the spring boat fishing to start again. Ken was telling me about this novel concept he was thinking about trying in the spring. His idea was simple, to use “short” cores in the spring, trolling the sandbars.

To this point I refused to add lead core to my big lake fishing arsenal. All the fighting on the radio I vowed would never be me. But my mind was quickly changed when I fished with him in the spring. He invited me to fish with him out of his 26’ boat parked in a Muskegon Lake Marina. Of course the sucker I am to go fishing I accepted. Ken’s little trick proved to be worth its weight in lead.

We were running high lines on walleye boards on the outsides, then on the inside boards, we were running 2 color short cores. Then I think we ran a couple down riggers that day. In our short trip in early April we took home a mixed bag of six fish. It was a mixture of Browns and Chinooks.

From there, my interest was peaked and I had to learn more so I took the plunge, bought some lead core stuff to get me going. I spooled up a full core on a Mitchell Riptide reel, then a half core on a Rhino RBCXL, a 2 color core on an old Penn 209 and a 3 color core on a similar Penn 209.

I have to admit that I don’t run the full core all that often but sometimes it is the rod that will take the fish. I don’t like reeling in all that line out there. Although this past season the biggest fish landed on my boat was a 20lb 2oz Chinook that was taken on a full core pulling a Bloody Nose Magnum Stinger spoon. My hottest lead core set up this year was half cores and the short cores. In fact, my half core was so productive for me that I bought another half core setup.

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Now you are asking what do you put on the ends of these lead core set ups? I will break up my setups for the time of year:

SPRING

Short cores, riding high in the water column. I did really well with Moonshine, Stinger, and Dream Weaver spoons up high. Body baits, such as, J13 Rapalas, Bomber Long As, and Thundersticks did well also. In April, we would troll these in between over the top, and around the sandbars. This is a good technique for picking up Browns, Steelhead, Cohoes, and Kings early in the spring. Later in April, Kings move off shore a little bit, however our techniques don’t change much. We were catching Kings out in 180+ foot of water on 2 and 3 color cores. By the way, those early season Kings sometimes think they are Steelhead they are jumping around so much.

SUMMER

The water starts to warm up and the fish start dropping lower in the water column. This is where the full and half core setups start to play their game. There is an estimation that people say that you get about 5 feet of depth out of each color of lead you put out. I personally do not believe this “rule of thumb”. I think you might get 35 feet of depth out of a full core and probably around 15 or 20 feet out of a half core. Of course, if you add lipped body bait you can get some added depth out of these setups. Not to mention the snap weight revolution that has hit the scene. It is possible to hit say 40 or 50 foot if you add a 2 or 3oz snap weight to your full core.

In the month of July I met my current girlfriend. Now get this, guess what we did for our third date? I some how got her to go fishing with me. Is that nuts or what? Yeah I’m the man! It was a gorgeous day with temps in the 80’s inland around Grand Rapids. But for about three days earlier we had some pretty hard north winds blowing down the coast. The waters of Lake Michigan did a flip. The surface temp of the water was in the mid to upper 40’s. It was pretty much freezing out there.

So I’m out there on my third date with a girl I’m trying to impress right. It is 80 degrees in Grand Rapids and it is about 50 Degrees out in the boat. Great impression I’m setting here! But all was saved when I set lines I put out a 2 color core on one side a 3 color core on the other side and then went with a couple dipsies and riggers. The two cores were getting hit so many times I pulled a dipsy and quickly rigged up another short core and put that out in its place. It turned out to be a really good day. My girlfriend had never been big lake fishing before, it was just the two of us and we have a triple header on. All three fish are on short cores in July. We limited out on Kings and had a bonus Steely and Coho in the group. To say the least she had a blast even if it was cold out, and I think I might have a fishing partner for life.

DSCN0004a.JPG

When the water flips like that don’t fear putting lines up high. If you put a Stinger spoon on the end of a 2 color core I think you probably only get about 7 feet or so of depth on that lure. If you put a J13 jointed rap I suspect you get more in the range of 10 feet or so.

Under normal conditions, in July, you are going to be running your full cores or half cores. A week or so later I found a sorry soul to go fishing with me in some pretty tricky waves. We got out there and we set up in about 90 foot of water. I put two half cores out two dipsies and two riggers. Right off the bat the two half cores started ripping line almost in unison. I looked at my partner and he looked at me and we each grabbed the rod that was on our side of the boat respectively. After all was said and done we landed a double header of Steelhead. The half cores took steelhead for me all summer long. If I’m fishing in over 30 foot of water, I will put out half cores.

In July still was fishing a small “tournament” comprised of a bunch of members from a website. This was dubbed the “Port Challenge”. There were fisher people from St Joseph, Maple Rapids, Hastings, Rockford, Muskegon, and a whole lot of places in between.

We were out there fishing for the glory and of course bragging rights. We had a couple fish in the boat but hit a dry spell. So I started calculating my thoughts on what to do next. We needed to get another fish in the boat and it had to be a decent fish. So I pulled the full core out of the rod locker and dug through the spoon box till I found the Bloody Nose Magnum Stinger. We pulled one of the unproductive lines in and sent the full core out, put on an inline walleye board and waited about 15 minutes. Then the full core started screaming. My first mate, Paul, took the rod and battled to the boat a 20lb 2oz monster.

Paul_20lb_King.JPG

That was the fish we needed to win the tourney. That day we ended up taking first place and bragging rights.

FALL

This is where half cores shine. (Get your short cores and your full core out at this time as well). August to October, my half cores were very busy. Every trip out started with two half cores in the water. I would put some sort of Glow J-plug on them and let them out. They were taking fish left and right.

In September, during another one of the website's member tourneys, we were fishing out of Muskegon. This tournament had a special rule that you could only weigh three fish. We weighed our three fish and won that tourney. All three fish came on half cores and J-plugs.

I often find myself asking why didn’t I have some lead core previously.

November 17th I took along a friend of mine out onto the big pond for some relaxing fishing. We ended the day with 4 Steelhead, 3 Browns, and a small King.

All but two of our fish that day came on short cores with J13 jointed Raps

WINTER

If I could launch my boat in January and February I would. But most of the time it just isn’t possible

As you can see lead core can be a very viable option to add to your fish catching arsenal. It has pulled many, many fish for me this season. I’m sure it will put fish into your boat as well.

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THE WILLIS KNOT

I did not invent this knot it was showed to me by a fellow fisherman. I can attest that I did not have a single break off due to a Willis Knot failure.

Step 1

Take your lead core line and pull back the Dacron sheathing about 3 or 4 inches. Clip the lead core at this point but DO NOT clip the Dacron sheathing.

Step 1

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Step 1-2

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Step 1-3

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Step 2

You will then want to tie a LOOSE over hand knot about 6 inches back from the end. You want to make sure that the knot at this point does not hinder the 3 or 4 inches of Dacron you have cleared.

DSCN00011b.JPG

Step 2

Step 3

Take your backing and insert your mono/braid inside of the Dacron sheath. Make sure you get your backing ALL the way down to where the lead starts again. So basically you will have 3 or 4 inches of your backing inside your hollow Dacron.

DSCN00031b.JPG

Step 3

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Step 4

Once you have the backing all the way down to the lead you will want to take your loosely tied over hand knot and work it up the line toward the end of the Dacron backing junction. Take the knot as far to the end as you possibly can. Once you get it into position pull it tight.

Caution:

For mono this knot will NOT slip out. However for super braids such as Power Pro, Fire Line, or the like, you will want to tie TWO loose over hand knots to attach. This being dubbed the “Double Willis Knotâ€.

DSCN0010b.JPG

Step 4

Step 5

Start reeling. Try and keep some tension on the spool while you are winding it on your reel. Once you reach the desired amount of lead core on your reel you will repeat the above steps to add on a leader. I use some where between 12 and 100 feet of 20 to 25lb Mono for the leader. Leader length is all personal preference but I almost seem to find that a shorter leader will get more strikes.

DSCN0012b.JPG

Step 5

finisheddoublewillisknotb.JPG

Finished double Willis Knot

Note: All the equipment needed to get started on Lead Core can be found at www.fishdogco.com. They have the Okuma lead rods, Convector 30L, and 45L’s, along with all the lead core and backing. They will even custom spool to your demands.

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Jim

Most excellent article..Great Job!!

I too resisted adding lead to the boat. Now it is the first rods in and the last out.

I made a believer out of Midway this past fall in Manistee. We took 9 kings in about 1 1/2 and all of them but 2 came on cores.

Thanks for the great article!!

Mark

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Well written, Jim, but who is this Ken DeVries dude? :D

Allow me to add a thought. If you ever get a monster fish on and you're running core down the chute or behind inline planer boards, you may want to pull it. On more than one occasion I've seen fish run straight over to leadcore and use it to remove the lure from their mouth. Apparently they see it as a useful tool for that purpose, and it does work. Three years ago I had a monster on while fishing off Muskegon and neglected to have the full core pulled, even though we had plenty of time to do so. Yep, that fish boogalooed straight to the core and released itself, and when we pulled the core the lure was firmly embedded in the dacron sheath. A hard lesson was learned that day by me. :(

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  • 4 months later...
Step 4

Once you have the backing all the way down to the lead you will want to take your loosely tied over hand knot and work it up the line toward the end of the Dacron backing junction. Take the knot as far to the end as you possibly can. Once you get it into position pull it tight.

Caution:

For mono this knot will NOT slip out. However for super braids such as Power Pro, Fire Line, or the like, you will want to tie TWO loose over hand knots to attach. This being dubbed the “Double Willis Knotâ€.

DSCN0010b.JPG

Step 4

Step 5

Start reeling. Try and keep some tension on the spool while you are winding it on your reel. Once you reach the desired amount of lead core on your reel you will repeat the above steps to add on a leader. I use some where between 12 and 100 feet of 20 to 25lb Mono for the leader. Leader length is all personal preference but I almost seem to find that a shorter leader will get more strikes.

DSCN0012b.JPG

Step 5

finisheddoublewillisknotb.JPG

Finished double Willis Knot

Note: All the equipment needed to get started on Lead Core can be found at www.fishdogco.com. They have the Okuma lead rods, Convector 30L, and 45L’s, along with all the lead core and backing. They will even custom spool to your demands.

Can someone explain an easy way to feed the mono into the dacron?I have 25lb big game going into 27lb mason lead core and it took me forever to get it in the dacron 3" Any help would be appreciated.

P.S This article was a great help for me starting out with core:help: :help: :help: :help::D :D :D

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Can someone explain an easy way to feed the mono into the dacron?I have 25lb big game going into 27lb mason lead core and it took me forever to get it in the dacron 3" Any help would be appreciated.

P.S This article was a great help for me starting out with core:help: :help: :help: :help::D :D :D

It is much easier to use 20lb mono for your leader. As far as puting the superlines in the sheathing. Steve Arend has a GREAT idea. Get a VERY small sewing needle. Thread the needle with your power pro and feed the needle down the sheath. OF course watch your fingers so you don't get poked.

ANother way is to get some of the old school elmers glue the white stuff. Take about six inches of your power pro and with your fingers saturate the power pro with the white glue. Kind of whipe of the excess and let sit for a little bit. THe glue will stiffin up the braided line and you can then feed it into the sheath. But the needle thing is the quickest. And least messy unless you are a bleeder.

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It is much easier to use 20lb mono for your leader. As far as puting the superlines in the sheathing. Steve Arend has a GREAT idea. Get a VERY small sewing needle. Thread the needle with your power pro and feed the needle down the sheath. OF course watch your fingers so you don't get poked.

ANother way is to get some of the old school elmers glue the white stuff. Take about six inches of your power pro and with your fingers saturate the power pro with the white glue. Kind of whipe of the excess and let sit for a little bit. THe glue will stiffin up the braided line and you can then feed it into the sheath. But the needle thing is the quickest. And least messy unless you are a bleeder.

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Fishslayer I have to appologize. It wasn't until my wife read the post and said hey you idiot you didn't answer the guys question he asked about mono.

Well with 25lb mono you want to make ABSOLUTE sure you cut the line clean and don't leave those little clipper spurs on the mono. If you have those little flattened out spurs it catches all the way down the sheathing.

A good sharp pair of finger nail clippers work great.

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Fishslayer I have to appologize. It wasn't until my wife read the post and said hey you idiot you didn't answer the guys question he asked about mono.

Well with 25lb mono you want to make ABSOLUTE sure you cut the line clean and don't leave those little clipper spurs on the mono. If you have those little flattened out spurs it catches all the way down the sheathing.

A good sharp pair of finger nail clippers work great.

thank you again

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Thanks Tim,

Of course we learned everything we know from you.:cool:

Um, Jim......

I've only owned leadcore for 2 weeks now... Not thinking I taught you anything here.....

Wanna borrow my scale????

:lol:

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  • 2 years later...

This may be a little too nit picky but I found it easier to tie the double willis knot by putting one overhand not loosely on the core side and one loosely on the mono side. Maybe it's just my clumsy fingers but before I did this I always seemed to pinch the second knot on the leadcore. Great visuals and explanations on the article. Saved me a tone of time setting up my leadcore.

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