Tin has long been a popular lead alternative, especially with fly anglers. Tin has a fairly low melting point making it fairly simple to use for folks that pour their own lead weight. The downside to tin is that it is lighter than lead, so what might be a half-ounce lead weight, will be less than a half ounce with tin. There is a good side to this though. As lures get bigger, those made with tin will be lighter and easier to cast and work than would be its lead counterpart. Being nice and soft, tin is often used to replace tin in splitshot, but is also found in jig heads as well.
Like tin, brass and steel weights are a bit lighter than lead. Both materials fall between lead and tin when it comes to density. Brass is nothing new to fishing either. Unlike tin and lead, unfinished brass is often an attractive color and used in spinner bodies and blades effective in stained water. When tied as the slipweight in a bass carolina rig, brass and steel create a sharp ticking sound against beads to attract fish that might otherwise be ignoring your lure. Brass and steel also accept plated coatings better than tin or lead, so you're not left with the materials natural color. The downside is that these materials do oxidize - steel faster than brass - so care does have to be taken to prevent rusting. Besides just weights, steel and brass, because they're strong materials, are also used in spinners, swivels and snaps.
The use of tungsten has revolutionized fishing. Tungsten, unlike tin and brass, is denser than lead. This allows lure makers to build heavier jigs and weights without making the lure too big. When presentation is important, or when working crystal clear waters, the reduced size of tungsten weights is less likely to spook fish. Tungsten powders have also been worked into clay putty. These putty weights are excellent for fly fishermen to easily add a bit of weight to their leader without having to crimp on a piece of splitshot and possibly damage the line.
Fairly new on the market, but on the fishing scene since man first carved a hook to put in the water, are natural stone sinkers. Rockybrook Stone Sinkers use natural limestone rocks to make their fishing weights. Limestone weights are completely invisible to fish as they blend into the natural environment. Unlike all the other lead-alternatives, limestone is also beneficial to the water, should the weight find a permanent home in the water. Limestone is a water conditioner, naturally reducing pH and is often used in pollution restoration for waters around the world.
Lead tackle can leach toxins into the water causing problems for the fish, and even our drinking water. By replacing lead with any of the above alternatives, you can help keep our waters healthy and make sure fishing will be a pastime to enjoy for years to come.
Looking for some of these lead-free weights? Try out these websites
Recycled Fish and YakAngler are bringing a series of tips and articles to help you become a more conciense angler. Recycled Fish is a non-profit organization promoting a lifestyle of stewardship on and off the water. Visit their website and take the Stewardship Pledge, because when we're fishing, we are stewards.
About the author: Isaac considers himself an "equal opportunity angler" and will fish anything that will take a hook. Isaac often makes live internet video broadcasts when fishing from his kayaks, giving up-to-the-second reports on conditions and tackle choices. He also blogs at 'Yak Fish, hosts Kayak Fishing Radio West, PR Director for Recycled Fish and is a YakAngler Pro Staffer & Associate Editor.