Lead Vs. Tungsten Weights

When it comes to fishing weights, there is a big move towards tungsten over lead. But this raises the question- are tungsten fishing weights really that much better than lead? Are they worth the extra costs?

In this article I will cover the benefits and drawbacks to both lead and tungsten weights to help you make your own decision.

Are Lead Fishing Weights Bad For The Environment?

In short, yes, lead weights that are left in waterways can be detrimental. The threat is not so much a threat against fisheries or humans. The main threat is against waterfowl.

Ducks and other waterfowl consume small pieces of lead. They tend to eat small hard objects, like seeds, to help aid in the digestion of solid plant material.

Unfortunately as the lead breaks down, it gets into their bloodstream producing lead poisoning.

Loon populations in the northern US have been severely impacted by this problem.

Even if you don’t live in areas with significant waterfowl populations, lead may still have some unknown effects.

This doesn’t mean that you have to switch to much more expensive tungsten. You can simply be more mindful and not discard lead sinkers in the water. Also, if you see lead sinkers left on the shoreline, picking them up and disposing of them properly can help. 

Are Tungsten Sinkers Bad For The Environment? 

I could not find any scientific data that point to whether tungsten is toxic in our waterways. It does seem that in this regard, tungsten is definitely an improvement over lead which can be highly toxic.

Pros And Cons Of Lead Sinkers For Fishing

lead Drop Shot Weight

The image above shows a 1/8th ounce drop shot weight made of lead. It will do the job just fine. But if you lose it in the water, as mentioned earlier, it could cause problems for wildlife.

When it comes to fishing characteristics, lead is adequate for providing a fast sink rate. It can definitely make casting lures and baits easier.

It will also get your baits and lures to the bottom much faster than without any added weights.

Compared to tungsten however, the only advantage lead has is that it’s much cheaper than tungsten weights.

Pros And Cons Of Tungsten Sinkers For Fishing

Tungsten Drop Shot Weight

In the image above you have a 3/16ths ounce drop shot weight made of tungsten. As you can see, it’s the same size as the lead weight above. However, at the same size, the tungsten weight weighs almost 50% more than the lead weight.

Tungsten Is Denser Than Lead

The key advantage tungsten has over lead for fishing is that it is much denser than lead. This leads to much greater sensitivity over different bottom types. 

This sensitivity advantage will allow you to feel bottom structure much more easily. For example, you can determine if you’re fishing over small gravel as opposed to larger chunk rock.

Tungsten weights will make it much easier for you to tell the difference between the two. As you pass over small rocks with your tungsten sinker, you’ll feel more frequent bumps over the small rocks. When dragging tungsten over large rocks, you’ll feel a longer time between the bumps.

You will also get a better feel for the scraping as the tungsten passes over the rock.

This will be true for other types of cover too. You’ll feel the differences in softness between rock and wood more easily as well.

The increased density will also deflect off of hard cover more quickly.

Tungsten Weights Are Smaller Than The Same Weight Made Of Lead

For example, a 1/4 ounce lead bullet weight will be larger and softer than a 1/4 ounce tungsten bullet weight. This difference in size will also cause the tungsten weight to fall faster through the water.

If you’re looking for a smaller finesse presentation, then the smaller size of tungsten is the way to go.

Heavily pressured waters often find anglers resorting to smaller lures and lines. Tungsten shines in these scenarios. Small tungsten shakey head jigs are ideal for such situations.

Tungsten skirted jigs are also a great choice for pressured waters. You can opt for a regular jig head or a football jig. Football shaped jigs are less likely to get hung up on rocky bottoms.

Tungsten Weight Make A Different Sound

Sound is oftentimes a very desired attractant. The clicking sound made by weights can help bass or other fish home in on your lure.

And there most definitely is a difference between the sounds that lead and tungsten make.

Lead, being less dense and softer, makes a much duller sound when it hits something. The loudness of the sound will depend on how fast the weight is moving and the hardness of what you hit with it.

Tungsten, being much harder, hits things with a higher pitched sound. You get a high clicking sound that is different. Sometimes this difference is what it takes to get a bite.

If everyone around you is using lead and you start clicking rocks with tungsten sinkers, you may be the one that gets the big bites.


Tungsten is more expensive, and if budgets are tight, it’s not really a must-have item. However, if you can pay the extra cost, tungsten does have some assets. Tungsten weights give you an advantage on feeling the bottom.

The differences tungsten sinkers bring can also get fish to bite.  Characteristics like sound and fall rate may get fish to strike. So, give tungsten a try on your next fishing trip.

Leave a Comment