A few years back we were asked by a few of our pro's and captains to bring a weighted steel fishing line product to the market, and we were skeptical. There were a few facebook posts and video's circulating with claims that weighted steel sinks the same as copper, and is better than copper fishing line in every way. These weren't posts from seasoned veterans or tournament pros, just a small handful of rec anglers who had caught a few fish on weighted steel.
So...we jumped in. Being that we already have the largest selection of weighted fishing lines on the market, with three sizes of copper trolling wire and two sizes of leadcore we thought "why not, another way to get lures deeper and a similar way to what we already have on the market".
Let's lay the groundwork on some facts before we discuss our opinions and feeback going into our third year with this product on the market. First, it does not matter to us how you want to troll deep and stealthy...copper, leadcore or weighted steel. If you want to buy it and use it, we will sell it to you....so, no horses bet on in this race.
Second, weighted steel fishing line does not sink the same as copper fishing line, nor does it weigh the same as copper, therefore it cannot achieve the same depths as copper. Put a spool of 300' weighted steel on a postal scale and then weigh a 300' spool of 45lb copper and 32lb copper, they are all different. If anything, weighted steel is more like 32lb copper in terms of depth and performance BUT with the diameter of 45lb copper. Is this a win somehow?
We performed depth testing measurements with a Smart Troll real time depth measurement device the same way we tested all of our copper fishing line and leadcore fishing line products. We tested in a "no current", no wind, flat calm offshore (35 miles) environment using the same sized spoon....we wanted no external variables to impact the measurements. We found that weighted steel fishing line dives much closer to the depths of 32lb copper than to that of 45lb copper fishing line. Close, but not the same...but close enough.
Digging into weighted steel a little further, there are some pros and cons. First, the connections for weighted steel flat out suck. We do offer weighted steel connection kits that include all of the necessary terminal tackle required to terminate BOTH ends of the steel...backer and leader. But the fact that you have to terminate both ends, and have to use crimps, is a big negative. This is not something you are going to be doing in the middle of a hot bite on the water when you need to re-tie for some reason. Nothing beats copper and a quick albright knot to get your lines back in the game.
Weighted steel cannot be repaired. Should you need to cut and retie, its not a simple haywire twist repair as you can perform with copper fishing line....it's a game over situation with weighted steel...there is no repairing it to the same or stronger strength as with copper.
The diameter of weighted steel is the exact same as 45lb copper fishing line, .036". This is a plus and a negative. For a plus, you do not have to recalculate your backer amounts if you want to swap out 45lb copper for weighted steel. The negative, you actually lost some depth attainment with weighted steel in exchange for the same diameter product.
Let's talk about some pros for weighted steel. First, it is nearly fool proof. Yes you can literally strip all of the weighted steel fishing line off your reel onto the floor of your boat and reel it back on again without any issues. If you find yourself bored, or in a fishing lull, try this exercise with a buddy on board your boat...it works! For practical purposes we aren't sure why that's a plus or why you might want to do that (maybe to redo a connection buried in the reel).
There is no question that weighted steel is a breeze to deploy...while it can and does backlash, it finds a way to work itself out without kinking...we love that! It reminds us of the simplicity of our 32lb copper fishing line for ease of use and deployment.
Weighted steel fishing line can also double as downrigger cable, if you are ever in a situation where you need to fix a wrapped up downrigger...just spool off a 300' weighted steel onto your downrigger and you are good to go. Yes, weighted steel is basically just softer 150lb test downrigger cable.
The most important question to be asked, is does weighted steel catch fish..and the answer is yes. But so does 45lb copper fishing line, so does 32lb copper fishing line, and so do 18lb and 27lb leadcore fishing line.
Does weighted steel fishing line catch MORE fish than copper or leadcore fishing lines...the answer is no of course.
We did find some interesting results in the past couple of years, and we had a number of our charter captains and pro's run weighted steel on every long rod, or one side of the boat. The findings were revealing.
First, you cannot mix copper of any kind with weighted steel on the same side of the boat...because the dive curves are different. If you love tangles, try it, but we don't recommend it. You should dedicate an entire side of the boat to one or the other. The issue does not arise from straight line trolling, but from turning. Weighted steel fishing line and copper fishing line (and leadcore for that matter) all have a different settle rate in the water on the inside of a turn. They will often overlap each other, with copper sinking much faster than the steel.
But in our captains testing when dedicating an entire boat or entire side of the boat to weighted steel...the results were mixed. Some days it appeared that weighted steel would be very hot...running similar baits on the opposite side of the boat running just copper. It was if the action of the weighted steel was different than the copper, and the fished loved it. We have seen this numerous times in the past with leadcore fishing line and copper fishing line, so we believe the results. Sometimes it's just the action of the line, not the depth of the lure.
Other days, weighted steel would not move...while copper fishing setups continued to produce. It happened several times where weighted steel would go and go for a week or two long streak and then die for several weeks after.
It seems when ALL long lines essentially died, copper and weighted steel both underperformed. But when it was a "long line bite" copper performed more consistently than weighted steel. No differences were noticed between 32lb copper or 45lb copper....when the coppers were hot, they were both hot.
So the summary conclusion as far as weighted steel is concerned, it is an entirely different animal with its own dive curve and action in the water. There is no question there are periods when weighted steel gets hot, even hotter than copper. It would be wise to have a couple of 300 weighted steel setups on the boat or in your garage at the least, in order to capitalize on a hot steel bite.
But as for a wholesale replacement for copper fishing line...not in a million years. Copper still continues to reign king for consistency season over season...no other line type catches more fish trolling than copper fishing wire.
We do have an article discussing leadcore vs copper...and again it appears that even leadcore fishing line in certain specific situations will outperform shorter coppers. It appears that weighted steel has similar results in that you don't want to be caught without a couple of setups when the steel bite gets hot. But when it's not hot, stick to your copper setups and continue to put fish in the box.