“Break out the Wire” for Lake Trout

During the June 2003 RVTA tournament, I had 2 keeper Rainbows in the live well and was now out in the deeper waters off the camper’s beach seeking lake trout. My all-out Laker spread consisted of a silver mooselook wobbler on one downrigger, a copper Sutton 44 on the other rigger and a wire-lined, willow blade down the middle. Suddenly, the wire line rod gets railed and I’m into a huge fish taking line on a tight drag. During this event I was fishing by myself and had to clear the 2 downrigger rods to play the big fish without the concern of a huge tangle. Somehow I managed to get the two lines up and shifted into neutral while maintaining pressure with the wire. After 15 minutes, I radioed my friend, Paul Silva, and informed him of my dilemma. Paul immediately was on his way with a huge net. His wife, Linda, maneuvered his boat close so he could jump aboard for the assist. He was doing the throttling and steering so I could concentrate on the fish. The wind was blowing NW toward the back of the reservoir and we decided it was best to try to keep the fish in the deeper water rather than drift toward the shallows…not sure now if that was the best idea in retrospect. After give and take for quite some time, the fish could be seen on the graph only 30 feet from the surface. In a blazing fast run, it takes one final shot to the bottom and hangs up on some debris. Another 10 minutes was spent trying to get loose from the snag. Finally, when no life was detected at the end of the line, we had no choice but to give up and cut the wire free. A heartbreaker to say the least – especially during a tournament!

In March of 2005 Mike Kalinchock caught this 20lb Lake Trout while Wire Lining
In March of 2005 Mike Kalinchock caught this 20lb Lake Trout while Wire Lining

Wire lining is an alternative way to get trolled lures down to the bottom in 60, 70 even 100 or more feet of water without the need of pricey downriggers and heavy lead cannon balls. The standard single-strand 30lb test Monel will virtually slice through the water column and get your lure of choice right where most lake trout live – close to the bottom in deep water. With a trolling speed less than 2mph, 300 feet of wire line gives the ability to effectively fish depths of 60 to 75 feet. Intend to fish deeper than that? Then you’ll need to add more wire on your spool. You can elect to have a shop fill the reel from a bulk spool, or you can purchase individual spools typically sold in 300 foot lengths from manufacturers like American Fishing Wire and Malin. Additional wire can be added with the use of a quality micro-swivel like Berkeley’s power swivels in size 10. Another Berkeley power swivel is used to connect the end of the wire to a 30 foot length of heavy mono leader. This will help you muscle out the inevitable snags that come along with this technique and will also minimize the abrasion cut offs from all the bottom clutter. Often we see curious lake trout on the graph, come up to investigate a 10lb downrigger ball dangling from an extra thick wire emitting a loud humming noise. Hence, there is no need for stealth. If you are not snagging bottom from time to time, you do not have enough wire out.

Connection showing swivel to wire junction
Connection showing swivel to wire junction.

Most new guests on my boat stare wide-eyed at the wire line rod and ask “What’s that for?” “You catch trout with that setup?” Heavy duty saltwater sized reels, like the Penn Jigmaster 500 and Daiwa’s Sealine X50SHA, are needed to handle 100 feet of 15lb – 20lb mono backing, 300 to 500 feet of 30lb Monel and a 30 foot length of 25lb mono leader. The initial mono backing acts as a cushion for the spool to prevent it from cracking under the intense pressure of wire. Level wind reels are not recommended, as with use, the wire will eventually tear up the gearing.

Penn JigMaster and Daiwa Sealine Reels

The rod needs to have a sturdy backbone, but also possess a soft tip with parabolic action. No fun is had when fishing with a rod that can double as a pool cue. Rods should be in the 6.5’ to 7’ class and have cut-proof guides (aka Carbide or Hardloy) which resist insert grooving and will hold up to the rigors of wire. The addition of a “Twili-Tip” by FJR industries, http://www.fishingrodstuff.com/twili_tip.html, is highly recommended. Some opt for a roller top, but the Twili-tip is “tops” with us. This ingenious invention uses a spring to allow the wire to effortlessly enter the rod’s guide set while reducing the dreaded kinking which will weaken your wire.

FJR Industries Twili Tip
FJR Industries – “Twili-Tips” come with a variety of tip sizes to accommodate any blank.
Simple installation instructions are also included.

Spoons of all shapes and sizes are the bread and butter of most wire liners. Suttons, Stingers, Mooselooks, Savants, and any generic willow blades will produce. The trebles must be swapped out with single hooks. This will minimize the amount of snagging. With the heavy gear and line being used, most lures that have found their way into solid snags can be manhandled to the point where the single hook is straightened out.

2001 Record Laker - Walt Neumann 26lbs
In 2001, Walt Neumann caught the previous State record Lake Trout at Round Valley using a wire line outfit.

To prohibit the natural tendency of the wire to overrun and unspool itself, one must first enable the reel’s clicker mechanism before switching to free spool. Put your motor in gear and begin your slow troll. Place the rod on the floor of the boat and, from the tip top, manually pull out the 30 foot leader and the first 50 feet of wire. Once enough wire is out, you can pick up the rod and begin to carefully thumb the wire in free spool. Start out slow! Otherwise you’ll be cursing me out for merely saying the word “wire”. Wire line is unforgiving and you will be using the cutting pliers on your expensive monel if you try to hurry. Beginners should get a feel for the lure, by getting in 65 feet or deeper and letting out approximately 150 feet of wire. A few sharp jerks of the rod tip and you will get a sense of what the wire and spoon should feel like in open water. You should notice the resistance the spoon’s concave shape offers and feel it give a kick when the rod is jigged. Let out the balance of wire up to 300 feet and see if the bottom can be felt. When fully deployed, the wire will establish a belly and begin to stir up clouds of dust and sand ahead of the business end of your trolled offering. Start methodically jigging the rod tip every 30 – 60 seconds. Play with the intensity and cadence of the jig. Some days they want aggressively hopped, and sometimes subtle taps is all it takes. Once hooked up, it is only necessary to maintain pressure on the fish. Wire is typically not pumped and reeled like mono. Any slack given usually results in a lost fish. Along with any other new method, wire lining will take weeks of practice to get used to and months to master.

Like most anglers today, we always opt for tackle and line weights that are appropriately sized for the fish being targeted. Wire lining is certainly not the sportiest way to catch trout. But, without a doubt, it is a year round technique that downright catches fish when times are tough. Need that kicker laker for the tournament? Downrigged rods not firing at all? Lead-core rods seem to just be washing lures? Have that guest on the boat that’s been hearing all your fish stories and you cannot even buy a hit? Then it is time, as they say, to “break out the wire”.

Tight Lines,
John F. Korn

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3 thoughts on ““Break out the Wire” for Lake Trout”

  1. Thank you for this article. As a girl who’s interested in fishing, i’m sometimes intimidated by all the men on the lake and talking in the forums but a post like this informs me and make me a more confident fisherperson! Thanks again.

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