Line Selection for Walleyes
Fishing line for me is like shoes for my wife. I need different kinds for every occasion. Braid for throwing hard-baits, leadcore on the trolling rods; to the point where heading out to buy some line gets confusing. Ever get to the retailer and stare at that kaleidoscope of pretty shapes, colors, and brands, wondering which ones you’re going to try this year? Eenie, meenie, minee….NO! Stop. We can do much better than randomly stringing up whatever has the most convincing packaging. This stuff’s important. Don’t skimp on the most direct link between you and the fish, and don’t leave your selection to chance. Here’s how I get ready for the season.
Inspect – Hard lines like braid and leadcore can be fished for much longer than people realize, even after the dyes that color the fibers fade. I’ve got some Sufix 832 on rods that I’ve had for about 3 years, and though it’s slightly faded, it performs just like it did when I put it on the reel. Deterioration, separation of the fibers, and fraying are what makes me toss it. Mono and various polymers have a much shorter spool-life, so as a general practice, I replace annually at least. I know many tourney fishermen and guides that re-spool as often as weekly. The key with these line types is to look and feel for grittiness, hard kinks, and excessive memory. Leadcore holds up well, but is simply subject to a bigger beating with it always being near bottom. Look for small loops of protruding lead coming out of the braided sleeve, and replace when you start seeing more than just a few of them.
Select – Think situation-specific here. How do you like to fish? I’ll admit, there is an element of personal preference here, but I’ll highlight the line I spool up with, and the applications it excels with.
· Nano braid – Early season is about pitching shallow, and has the potential for long casts. Nano is superior in situations where you need to get small baits a good ways from the boat, like light jigs in wind.
· Superline/Braids – I’m a big fan of the sensitivity and low-stretch of these line-types, so I fish them on the bulk of my rods. Jig-fishing, live-bait rigging, and even bottom bouncing can be improved with these lines, so I usually buy bulk spools of 10-20lb test. Why so heavy? Because braids can, in smaller diameters, be too small to effectively cast hard baits and even jigs without tangling or wind-knots. The effect is exacerbated in a stiff breeze, or with baits that tumble on the cast.
· Fluorocarbon – If you fish braid for walleyes, your fluoro leader material should always be handy. In most applications, I’ll have a 3 – 6’ fluoro leader tied off of my main-line braid with an Albright Special or Uni-to-Uni knot.
· Mono – I’ve always got at least one or two mono rods in the boat, typically with hi-viz coloring, and I reserve it for fishing jigs in current or for crankbaits if I’m having hook-up issues. Mono doesn’t cut the water like braid, and provides more lift to jigs in moving-water situations. This translates to smooth and contiguous bait movements rather than sharp “bop, drop, and plop” jigging movements. Because I’m typically working wing-dams, wood, or other structure in a river, I prefer something that’s extra abrasion resistant.
· Leadcore – The newer Advanced leadcore dives deeper, is thinner, and is more sensitive than standard leadcore, so it gets the nod from me. At a 7 foot dive per color vs. 5 foot per color, the Advanced means less line out to get to the desired depth. Smaller diameter means I can fit more line on smaller reels without having to go to sizes typically reserved for Great Lakes Salmon or Saltwater.
Detect – Strike detection is different for the various line types as well. Due to the stretch of mono, I’m more of a line watcher, and I also am heavily reeling on the hookset to take that rubber-band effect out. For braid, there are bites where I’ll actually pause, just to make sure fish have a jig fully inhaled. For the most part however, strike detection on the hard lines is much easier than with mono.
Do yourself a favor too; try one spool of one of the major categories outlined above, and mix it into the rotation. If you find yourself pickup up that rod more often and enjoying everything about the line, you’ve got a winner. Your new favorite line might not be something you’ve ever fished with, and those old “tried and tested” versions you already have great faith in were never to be until you tried buying them, and tested them out!