Lead fishing tackle is easy to use, inexpensive yet deadly to wildlife. Wild birds can swallow lead sinkers along with gravel and suffer lead poisoning. The lead also poses a threat to humans.
Because of the danger to wild birds and animals, fishing tackle makers now use an assortment of materials in place of lead. Sinkers and weights made of tin, bismuth, steel, ceramic, stone, pewter and tungsten nickel alloy are now available at your local sporting goods store.
A good replacement for lead shot sinkers is ceramic sinkers. Ceramic sinkers are easy to cast and don't snag on the bottom when reeling in your line. Another advantage of ceramic weights: they weigh one-third less under water than in the air so that you can use a larger weight without sinking your float.
These weights are usually pyramidal in shape and are moulded using a pure earth material that won't pollute the water. The ceramic fishing weights are then baked at 704 degrees Celsius to make them stone hard.
Tungsten and tungsten nickel alloy fishing weights are very durable, harder than steel and 25 per cent smaller than comparable lead weights. Tungsten and tungsten nickel alloy fishing sinkers are available as barrel weights, bullet weights and ball slip shot weights.
Tungsten has an atomic weight of 183.84 and a melting point of 3,422 degrees Centigrade. This makes it extremely heavy and hard to cast. Tungsten sinkers are sintered from tungsten powder rather cast.The powder is put into a mould and heat is applied until the particles adhere to each other.
Bismuth is a brittle metal and fairly rare. Fishing tackle made from bismuth usually is a bismuth tin alloy. Twenty-five per cent lighter than lead, bismuth weights will sink more slowly than a lead weight. This allows the fish more time to detect your lure and improves the chance of getting a strike. Bismuth weights and sinkers are safe for the environment and wildlife but cost more than lead sinkers.
Bismuth is often produced as a byproduct from the production of other metals and is used in solder for electronics, as an additive to lubricating greases and as replacement shot in bullets and shotgun shells.
Natural granite fishing weights are a good choice because they look like a natural part of the environment. Shaped and polished into split shot, these sinkers work well when placed next to glass beads which will vibrate as the lure is reeled in to attract bass. The natural stone weights are smaller than comparable lead weights because they absorb water and get heavier.
Granite nearly always is found in massive formations. Hard and enduring, the stone is popular in building and construction and in sculpture work. Stone Mountain in Georgia is one of the Earth's largest granite formations.
Stainless steel weights come in bullet and egg shapes and an assortment of weights. These sinkers are more sensitive than lead shot and the price is usually only about 20 cents more than for lead sinkers. Stainless steel is often combined with ceramic material in fishing weights.
A real advantage of steel over lead for fishing sinkers: Steel sinkers retain their shape and last longer, while lead is malleable and deforms easily. The advantages are real, the costs comparable, and the environment is safer for wildlife.