LAKE VERMILION, Minn. -- Jeremy Maslowski zeroed the line counter on his oversized baitcasting reel and nudged the trolling motor to produce a consistent speed of 2.4 mph.
"This should do it," he said. "Go ahead."
Bulky, Dacron-sheathed fishing line rolled into the water, pulled by the resistance of small, artificial lures. Each 30-foot section of line sank into the lake in colored sequence. First red, then purple, then orange and so on -- until the crankbaits were 115 feet behind us.
Our hand-held rods were set. They jutted out from opposite sides of the boat in trawler style. As easy as that, we were ready for walleyes to strike.
Lead core fishing sounded more complicated than it was. As a first-timer, I had envisioned awkward, expensive rigging. But aside from the sheer beef of the rods and reels, it was a lot like trolling for walleyes or northerns using spincast equipment. The big difference between the approaches is a flexible ribbon of lead housed inside the sheathing. The weight drops wooden lures that normally can't reach bottom to just above the deep mud.
"I grew up bobber fishing, so this was something different," said Maslowski, a 30-year-old fisheries and wildlife ecologist who lives in a small cabin on Vermilion's Pike Bay.
While the method still is foreign to many anglers, lead core trolling isn't new. Maslowski learned it from a friendly neighbor in Tower. He was told it's a way to pick off walleyes when they are otherwise hard to catch. For Maslowski and others, it's been a successful late-season option after Labor Day.
"He told me it was the method of choice out here in the fall," Maslowski said. "If you are marking fish you are probably going to catch them."
Not more than a mile into our cruise, south of Ely Island, Maslowski reeled in a quick measure of credibility. The walleye was small, but promising. Earlier in the day, our regular crew of fall walleye chasers was shut out while deploying live minnows on jigs. We arrived more than a week during the dawn of a stiff cold front and our live well was empty. At our resort, all the fish-cleaning pails were spotless.
"Must have been lockjaw," Maslowski jabbed. "There's definitely fish around."