The Weighting Game
By and large, anglers are a practical bunch.
We wouldn't use a bent nail if a bait hook were available. We wouldn't choose a skanky, dead crawler over a plump, writhing one. Nor would we opt for a rowboat if somebody handed us the keys to a motorboat.
It only makes sense that more anglers are making realistic, baitfish-shaped in-line weights part of their trolling game plan. It's a simple, efficient and versatile way to achieve depth control while incorporating the sinker into the overall appearance and effect of a rig.
Best of all, in-lines can be poured and painted inexpensively at home with products manufactured by Do-It Corporation, adding the satisfaction that goes with catching fish on something you've created yourself.
Standard in-line set-ups consist of a main line with a snap swivel that is attached to the sinker, followed by a 6- to 8-foot snell that can feature anything from crankbaits and spinner rigs to live bait or even jigs.
The advantages of baitfish-style in-lines are numerous. It's all about getting the most out of a presentation.
Besides the natural look, flash and action they add, you can change sizes and colors in seconds as conditions warrant. Because of the way thin-bodied in-lines track in the water, you get more precise depth control that allows you to match your presentation on multiple rods when you've established a successful pattern.
Fish-shaped weights feature a rounded nose that helps them bounce off rock and wood in situations where split shot, bell sinkers or pencil sinkers might become wrapped or wedged.
In-lines can also help anglers land more fish. You'll keep a larger percentage of fish hooked if you don't have to deal with weights that are swinging around on a three-way, sliding violently up and down the line (egg sinkers) or must be removed in the middle of a battle (snap weights).
The applications for baitfish-shaped in-lines are endless. They have found particular favor with anglers who seriously pursue walleyes, trout and salmon in clear-water environments. Beginning in late April and May when walleyes are feeding heavily to rebuild their strength after the spawn, slow-trolling spinner and crawler rigs is a productive presentation on most bodies of water. Fish tend to be scattered as they flush out of adjoining rivers and creeks and leave the reefs and humps where they spawn, which makes trolling the most practical way to contact numbers of fish. The water is still cold, meaning walleyes won't be super aggressive, and that's why slowly moving crawler rigs tend to be more productive than crankbaits.
These are also fish that are exhausted and in search of prey that's not hard to catch, and the best place to find multiple sources of food this time of year is in shallow, warmer water such as fertile bays or rocky shorelines with emerging weedbeds.
Seek out areas with wind or wave action, which will stir up the water and provide a measure of security that will hold walleyes throughout the day. When there isn't any wind and the water clears, focus on areas where the wind was most recently blowing into and concentrate your shallow efforts on the low-light periods. As the light increases, probe deeper areas in the same general locations.
Using a set of planer boards to carry your lines away from the boat, set up a spread that targets multiple depths. For example, send out one line with no weight to cover the 2- to 5-foot depths. Send out a second line with a small in-line weight to cover the 5- to 10-foot areas.
In states where three lines are legal, dead-sticking the third with an in-line weight allows you to probe the bottom directly beneath the boat. And if that's not proving effective, you can attach a board and send it shallower, too.
As you move deeper, adjust the size of your weight or let out more line to reach the desired part of the water column. Because walleyes tend to move up in the water column to feed, target the depth a foot or so above the fish you identify on sonar.
There will be times when one side of the boat consistently produces and the other doesn't, even when similar rigs and set-ups are in use. Chances are, wind action, wave action or underwater currents are affecting the action and tracking of your rig. Don't fight it. Move more lines to the productive side of the boat.
Baitfish-shaped in-lines are also a great tool for anglers who like to pursue Great Lakes trout and salmon from their own small boats, which probably aren't equipped with multiple downriggers and outriggers that charter captains use to thoroughly cover the water.
Used in conjunction with downriggers and directional trolling sinkers, in-lines add another dimension. Because of their appearance and action, they help attract fish in these clear waters where old-fashioned in-lines might have spooked them. And because they can be fished on monofilament, it eliminates the need for segmenting no-stretch lead line or using heavy braids and gives anglers a better chance to land these open-water brutes.
Creating your own baitfish-style in-lines is a simple and satisfying endeavor. You'll need Do-It's model 3407 mold and the accompanying inserts. The 3407 mold is actually designed to produce shad-bodied lures, but you can easily transform it into a multi-purpose mold for in-line sinkers. Add a B-Chain swivel (2422) to the insert before pouring to help reduce line twist and a Duo-Lock snap (2253) to the beaded swivel to facilitate quick rig changes.
You'll want a variety of colors to match the spinner rigs or cranks you troll with in-lines. Do-It offers a wide range of Pro-Tec Powder Paint colors that are easy to work with, as well as air-brushing equipment for more detailed finishes. Apply a final layer of Seal-Coat finish and your weights will look good for years to come.
Get the lead out, get in line and get ready for some fast action!