Leadsled Crank Baits

Category: article

 Mar 2nd, 2010 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Mar 2nd, 2010 at 12:00 AM

When most people hear Leadsled they think of a custom low riding car. Fishing has its own definition of Leadsled; we’re talking low riding crank baits trolled behind a lead covered line, with some custom additions.

Trolling for me has become a huge factor in my fishing arsenal. At one time I was strictly a live bait rigger, and unless I had a hunk of meat on a hook I didn’t do it. Fishing various bodies of waters such as rivers and reservoirs has forced me to learn trolling with lead core; I would like to share with you some of the details that I have learned to help you shorten your learning curve. You can virtually troll any kind of crank bait on lead core, stick baits, shad style baits, deep diving stick baits or shallow style baits. The biggest variable is trying to find out what the fish want. The time of year, water temps, forage base and depths at which the fish are holding is where a good piece of electronics comes into play. For me it is Hummingbird, in particular the 998SI and 1197SI units. The beauty of Side Imaging is you can scan out to the side of the boat to find fish! Just imagine a huge trawler net gathering in fish; now with Down Imaging and Switchfire it makes for a dangerous weapon in your fishing arsenal.

The other key components are your rod and reel choices, on lakes and rivers that allow you to run 2 rods per angler; 2 anglers 4 rods give you the option to mix up baits. The rods I like are a 10’6″ and a shorty in the 5′ length giving you a nice spread. I use the trolling rod made by Scheels; you want a rod with some give, not a buggy whip but a rod with some shock absorbency because lead core does not have any give to it. The reels I use are line counter style and sized to take all 10 colors of lead core line. When looking for a reel I look for the larger sizes. Speaking of lead core line, what is it you ask? It’s a long thread of lead wire coated with a Dacron covering for strength. I use 18# test; this is where the no stretch factor comes into play. The other component  is the leader material which I prefer to use Fireline Crystal in 14# test, with a leader length of 20′. The reason I chose Fireline Crystal is to telegraph back to the rod tip what the crank bait is doing, such as fouling with weeds or skipping across the bottom, helping to find the perfect position.
The way I prefer to connect the Fireline Crystal to the lead core is the Uniknot shown here. With lead core, you need to push the Dacron covering back about 8″ and break off the inner lead wire, use this tag end of Dacron with the Uniknot.  Some folks like to use a small barrel swivel in place of the Uniknot, and then use a snap to connect to the crank bait.


Now that you have the basic setup down, you need to get your boat setup; holding on to one of these rods could get tiring. I run a Tuffy 1890 Osprey boat equipped with side rails. I like rails because you eliminate the need to drill extra holes in your nice boat and after installed, you can slide the rod holders around to suit your needs. You are going to need a nice and stout rod holder with some adjustability; I prefer to use these rod holders from Cannon. When you are trolling between the occasional snag and some of the vicious hits a big Walleye has, these holders are built tough.

My main trolling propulsion is provided by a Mercury 9.9 Pro-Kicker, this engine is an ultra reliable workhorse. I can troll down to .8 or up to 3+ mph with a twist of the handle; it’s an ultra quiet and smooth running kicker. Another great feature; built in stow, deploy and centering straps.

A powerful tool that I often use in conjunction with my kicker is my Terrova by Minnkota. I often deploy my Terrova to assist in tight contour trolling by bringing steering to the bow, helping to make those tight swings. Another bonus is the assistance of keeping you going the right direction with the Auto Pilot feature. When you are fighting that big fish, you can stay on track!
Another feature that has come out is the Minnkota I Pilot. The I Pilot is awesome for contour trolling. The I Pilot is a GPS based guidance and control system, so you will be able to drop way points on a break line, then go back and troll that line with precision, all controlled with a handy remote.

Another thing you will need to utilize is Off Shores Tackle Planer boards. They are used to get a wider spread out of your presentation; keeping the lines away from the boat and the lures away from each other.

Now we’ve gotten you set up with a rod and reel and your boat rigged. Let’s talk about putting these lead sled crank baits in the water and start catching fish.

The first thing to keep in mind is the depth at which lead core will bring your crank bait down to. Due to the larger diameter of the line, the depth is speed dependent; the faster you go, the higher your crank bait will run. Slow down and it runs deeper; speed up it rises up in the water column. You can let out more line to fine tune the depth at which your baits run. There is no consistent dive curve, after some time on the water you will get a feel for this. What speeds at which to run? I typically find myself in the 2.0 to 2.8 mph range, but here is where you need to let the fish tell you the speed that they want it at. One thing to keep in mind, it’s easy to let out too much line! The lead core line itself will start dragging on the bottom, be sure to watch the rod tip for vibration, indicating that the crank bait is doing its “dance”.

My “go to” crank bait is a Berkley Flicker Shad but any other style of crank bait can be used. If I have 4 lines out, I mix up colors, styles and sizes, such as #5 or #7. Once again you need to let the fish tell you what they want for a meal.

Make sure you check your drag. I run mine on the loose side due to the low stretch factor of the line. This helps to prevent hook tear outs. The shock absorbency of a good quality trolling rod like the ones I use from Scheels is critical.

Ok, so lines are out crank baits are doing their thing, FISH ON!!! You have Minnkota in the water keeping you on a steady course allowing you to focus on the fight. You don’t need to set the hook, I actually let them fight for a bit before I grab the rod out of the holder which helps tire them out. Grab the rod out the holder (no need to pump the rod) applying a steady and slow pace when reeling. If the fish wants to run let them, don’t horse them in, you WILL tear the hooks out!

And that’s how you can get your crank baits down to where the fish are, using the Leadsled Crank Bait trolling method. This method helped me to win the 2009 FLW Walleye League Championship and I’m sure these tips will help you too!

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