My business is to provide people the opportunity to sample the exciting and challenging fishing available at the southern end of Lake Michigan. This page is dedicated to showing a bit of the behind-the-scenes work it takes to do that and to highlight the trips and fun my customers are able to experience.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Pick your favorite flavor!

It’s partly because I’m cheap and partly because I enjoy making and using handmade items. In this case, it’s both. A 10-pound downrigger weight from Cabelas costs 40 bucks. I can make one for 25 cents worth of propane, scavenged lead, a discarded beer can and a piece of wire coat hanger.

But does it work as well as an “engineered” store-bought weight?

I’m a professional skipper. I use what works and what works well, not just something that works “well enough.” We aren’t talking rocket science here - it’s a 10-pound weight!

If you don’t mind what the can looks like, the chore is very simple. Melt lead, pour it into an empty can, hold the wire attachment loop and release loop in place and fill the lead to the rim. The paint will burn off the can, but won’t melt the aluminum. Done.

To keep the paint from burning off takes a bit more effort. You will need a 1-foot square piece of half-inch or thicker plywood. Measure the diameter of the rim of your can. Measure the diameter of the barrel of the can. Cut a round hole in the plywood midway between these measurements so the plywood will sit on the can, but not slide over it.
I use rubber band releases but any kind will work

Find or make a container slightly shorter than a can. (It can be plastic.) Fill it with water. Put the plywood on the can and the can into the container of water. Now, the paint won’t burn off when the molten lead goes into the can.

I use a propane fish cooker for heat and melt the lead in a small cast-iron skillet. Any ol’ skillet will do, or any old pot. It’s not rocket science, it’s just melting lead.

Once the can is about 3/4-inch from being full, stick the wire loops in and let the lead cool until it’s hard and supporting the wires. Now add enough more molten lead to top off the can.

This is dangerous and you can be burned.
Do the project outdoors for fumes and to keep from burning your house down.
Molten lead and water don’t mix. Use the plywood, make sure the can is empty. Do the words “steam explosion” mean anything to you?
Use personal protective equipment - safety glasses, gloves, leather boots, etc. I don’t, but you should.

Depending on the exact alloy (wheel weights are different than pure lead which is different from bullet lead, etc.), a 12-ounce can will weigh within an ounce or so of 10 pounds.

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