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This week's Feature Blog

How Much Lead Core will Fit on that Reel?

By: Mark Romanack

Lead core is a sinking line that fishes beautifully when targeting suspended fish in open water. Most anglers fish lead core by spooling up specific segments of lead core (colors) sandwiched between a backing line and leader.

​ Chances are if you’re a serious troller at some point you’ve asked yourself, “I wonder how much lead core will fit on that reel”. As popular as lead core line has become on the trolling scene, there are seemingly no manufacturers of reels or lead core line establishing guidelines or at least suggestions as to how many colors will fit on certain size reels.


​ Before we jump into the discussion of how much line will fit on popular sized trolling reels, it’s important to understand how lead core is commonly fished these days. Lead core line is fished by sandwiching a select amount of lead core line between a backing line and a leader line. This is accomplished using a double uni knot to tie the backing line to the lead core and the lead core to the leader material. ​​​

​ Commonly called “segmented lead core” this set up allows the angler to load various amounts of lead core ( 3 color, 5 color, 7 color, etc.) on his reels so as to target a wealth of different depths. With the help of in-line boards, an angler can set out a number of different lead core rigs on each side of the boat. To prevent tangles, the shortest length of lead core is set as the outside board line or the line running highest in the water column. Boards set progressively closer to the boat are longer lengths (deeper running) of lead core. The deepest line in the pattern is the inside board line. This set up makes it possible to hook a fish on an outside board line and land that fish without having to clear any of the other board lines.

​At Fishing 411 we commonly run a six rod spread (three boards per side) using segmented lead core. Our popular set ups typically include a 3, 5, 7 or a 5, 7 and 10 color combination.  If we are targeting fish high in the water column like steelhead or Atlantic salmon, we might opt for a 1, 2, 3 lead core set up.

If you have ever wondered how much lead core line will fit onto popular trolling reels, read on. This blog will give you all the information needed to hit the water equipped to fish lead core line for trout, salmon, steelhead, browns and walleye.


​ Of course there are some variables to consider when fishing lead core such as the type of backing line used, the diameter of that backing line, the pound test or diameter of the lead core selected and of course how much lead core line is desired on any given reel.

​If you’re a walleye angler, you don’t need a lot of backing line. Chances are you’re not going to hook into a walleye that strips 20 feet of backing line off the reel. On the other hand, if you use lead core to target larger species like salmon, you better have plenty of backing line on that reel or you’ll get spooled quicker than you can say “oh crap, I’m about to get spooled!”

​Because it’s not practical to rig up different lead core set ups for different species, at Fishing 411 TV we opt to use 27 pound test lead core for everything we target including walleye, salmon, trout, steelhead, browns and more. We set up our lead core rigs in pairs. So rigged and at our disposal we travel with 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 and 10 color lead core rigs. This allows us to target fish from just below the surface, down to about 50 feet.


​ Most anglers who fish segmented lead core, settle on using a super braid as the backing line. This decision is based on super lines being thin in diameter and allowing a greater amount of backing line to be loaded onto smaller reels.

​At Fishing 411 we agree super braids are the best option for lead core backing line, but we take it a little further. Because our planer boards are set up with line releases suited for nylon lines, we tie in about 20 feet of 20 pound test fluorocarbon between the braid backing line and the lead cord line. This allows us to let out our lure, the leader, all the lead core loaded onto the reel and then attach our in-line board to the fluorocarbon bumper. This set up prevents us from having to carry two sets of in-line boards, one for nylon lines and a second for super braid lines.

​While this set up requires a lot of knots, we have never had any issues with the double uni knot failing even when targeting trophy chinook salmon.

Lead core line is commonly associated with trout and salmon fishing, but this sinking line can also be used to target many other species.


​ So now down to the nitty gritty. How much lead core will fit on respective sized trolling reels, provided adequate amounts of super braid line is provided as a backing line. This guideline is based on round frame level-wind style trolling reels. All the respective brands have trolling reels that fit into these size categories. We use level-wind style reels with lead core, but line counter reels can also be used.


20 size reel, 250 yards 40 pound test braid backing, 1 color of lead core

20 size reel, 250 yards 40 pound test braid backing, 2 colors of lead core

30 size reel, 300 yards 40 pound test braid backing, 3 colors lead core

30 size reel, 250 yards 40 pound test braid backing, 5 colors lead core

40 size reel, 360 yards of 40 pound test braid backing, 7 colors lead core

40 size reel, 290 yards of 40 pound test braid backing, 10 colors lead core.



  ​So there you have it. For the anglers who are all about trolling with lead core, these tips will get you going in the right direction.



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