Leadcore Trolling Tactics for Fishing Devils Lake
Walleye fishing on Devils Lake is considered excellent and many different presentations produce fish. Because of the size of the lake along with variety of structure, anglers can use a variety of methods to catch fish. In fact, some anglers argue that you can use just about any traditional method with some success. Classic walleye presentations like vertical jigging, live bait rigging, bottom bouncers and spinners and trolling compliment some fun and exotic shallow water methods like slip bobbers and pitching crank baits or jigs.
For targeting midsummer walleye, few methods can be as effective as trolling crank baits behind lead core line. Avid Devils Lake angler Al Freidig has spent a tremendous amount of time on the water trolling lead core and has credited lead core trolling presentations for a number of his successes catching walleye on various tournament trails.
“After the water reaches 60 degrees in the summer, I troll with lead core line a lot,” says Freidig when asked what his favorite tactic is on Devils Lake.
Lead core line is a fiber coated lead strand that sinks as it is trolled behind the boat. This allows anglers to put a variety of lures into deep water often close to the bottom. Lead core works best when paired with a high capacity line counter reel that has a spool big enough to handle the added bulk of the line.
Most walleye anglers will use 18 lb. lead core line. Lead Core line is color coded every ten yards with a different color. As a general rule of thumb, one color or thirty feet of lead core will sink your lure down about 7 feet when trolling 2 miles per hour.
Rods don’t have to cost a lot or be fancy, a simple trolling rod with a moderately soft tip works. The heavy line absorbs a lot of the action from the lure. The entire rod will load up when a fish strikes the lure and the rod action should have a uniform parabolic bend that cushions the fight of the fish.
Lead core is used to sink spinner harnesses and shallow diving baits into deeper water… precisely in the zone where the fish are active and biting. Many types of crank baits popular for walleyes can be paired with lead core line.
“I like to use lures that have similar dive curves,” Freidig explains, “that makes it easier to run multiple baits along side one another when you have a lot of line out”.
A clear fluorocarbon leader works well when trolling lead core. The heavy line can sometimes have enough presence to spook fish in clear water so a long clear leader will give this presentation some stealth.
“I run 20’ leaders on all my lead core rods,” says Freidig. “It gives relief to the lures when contacting the bottom and when snagged. It also allows me to reel the swivel that connects the lead core to the leader onto the spool before the fish is directly next to the boat.”
The connection between the lead core line and leader will always be the weakest point in the rigging. A barrel style swivel, small enough to be reeled through the guides of the rod and reel, is most commonly used when connecting the two lines but by default it is at this point where the lines are tied to the swivel that you will have your weakest point. A 20’ leader allows anglers to have the swivel safely reeled onto the spool while fighting a fish next to the boat.
Trolling lead core is very sensitive to boat speed. As you increase speed the heavy line will rise up as it trails behind the boat. Slowing down (has the reverse effect) allowing it to sink. Boat speed varies depending on lure choice. Spinners are best run around 1.0 mph, crank baits will have an average speed of 2.0 mph but as you fluctuate boat speed throughout the day be aware of how that effects the depth of your lures and make the proper adjustments.
On Devils Lake, anglers often use lead core line to troll crank baits along sunken roads and road ditches. Another productive zone or area to pull crank baits with lead core line is by trolling old shorelines. Devils Lake has risen over twenty five feet since the early 90’s. As a result, there is the “old shoreline” that often holds fish and this depth range can often be followed by using GPS contour maps. Because of erosion, this old shoreline often has a lip or drop off that often holds fish.
Spending time on the water practicing and perfecting different fishing methods like trolling lead core, is something that Al Freidig has been known to do for years.
Al Freidig fished as a Co-Angler on the PWT and FLW tournament trails through the early 2000’s. Freidig learned from the Professionals he fished with, learning what it takes to be a successful tournament fisherman. Then in 2008, Freidig began fishing in the Professional ranks in the Masters Walleye Circuit or MWC.
Freidig, along with his fishing partner Clint Devier, have fished many tournaments together in the past 8 years and have finished near the top on many occasions. In 2015, Freidig was inducted into the ND Fishing Hall Of Fame in Garrison ND.
“I was so humbled to receive such an honor,” says Freidig. “I have to give credit to everyone who so generously helped me over the years.”
Al talks about all the great pros he fished with back in his co-angler days and all the great walleye fishermen residing here in Devils Lake.
“I have been blessed to have many great mentors” says Freidig. “That’s why I try to pay it forward when out on the water, if I see a boat of young people struggling here on Devils Lake, often times I’ll let them know what I’ve been having luck on and share baits with them. I always had more respect for the guys that treated me that way over the years so that’s how I want to be.”
For simply placing a lure in front of walleye and catching fish, lead core trolling is a deadly tactic for targeting walleye on Devils Lake through the summer and fall.