Environmental concerns aside, I love non-toxic fishing weights. That’s because whether you’re talking steel, brass or tungsten, each has a unique density (as seen in the photo of 1/4-ounce bullet weights; from left, steel, lead, brass and tungsten) and behavior. Thus, they allow an angler to fine-tune my presentations. Understanding the materials’ differences will let you do the same, no matter what species you target.
The ability to transmit sensations that indicate bottom and bottom type is one of a sinker’s most important characteristics. Again, tungsten comes out on top, followed closely by steel, with lead and brass about tied at the bottom of the scale.
Tungsten’s superior feel and density come at a price, however. Because of the high cost of the metal itself, combined with the complex processes required to manufacture it, a tungsten weight is many times the price of a lead weight of the same size and style.
Density and feel aren’t the only valuable characteristics to consider. Although brass is least dense and least sensitive of all weight materials, it excels at creating sound when used in conjunction with beads in, say, Texas or Carolina rigs. And in muddy-water situations where you want your bait to move a lot of water, brass’ low density is actually useful because it means you’re using a larger profile weight.
In situations where finesse is critical, however, downsizing your weight might be necessary to get bit. And if you’re fishing deep, you need a heavy, but small weight—and that means tungsten.
When fishing conditions don’t require finesse, but call for feel, steel represents a great, cost-effective compromise, even when compared to venerable lead weights, as its sensitivity allows you to feel subtle bottom characteristics. In fact, advanced anglers like Minnesota fishing guide and seminar speaker Scott Petersen often go to a lighter steel weight as opposed to a lead weight when fishing deep water. To get the same feel, he’d have to use a much heavier lead weight.
“The more sensitivity you can get out of your presentation the better off you’ll be,” he says.