Tungsten Vs Lead Fishing Weights

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When you’re setting up your favorite fishing rigs, you’ve probably spent some time browsing over different fishing weights. The choices can be overwhelming; lead, stainless steel, copper, bismuth, tungsten, brass, and glass can all be found in weights and sinkers. Each has its own unique look, and specific purpose, and some are more cost-effective than others.

Whether you are big on bass fishing or just enjoy tossing a hook into the water to catch fish with your friends and family, you may have heard about some controversy about lead sinkers over the years. Some anglers and environmentalists feel that lead is not an environmentally friendly option for any fishing tackle and can end up harming fish and other wildlife.

In an attempt to find alternate and safer materials for fishing weights that still perform well and can be used on everything from a Texas rig to a Drop Shot rig, some fishermen are willing to pay a bit more for weights made from other materials. This is where tungsten sinkers and tungsten jigs come into play.

Regardless of the potential environmental concerns, lead and tungsten both remain very popular choices when it comes to fishing weight material. But is one better than the other? Are the advantages and environmental benefits of tungsten fishing weights enough to make up for the extra cost when compared to other materials? Let’s take a closer look at the two weights and see which is better for you.

Best Lead Jighead
Gamakatsu Superline Swimbait Jighead
  • The head profile is streamlined for a natural action.
  • The lifelike eyes exhibit true fear to predators.
  • The Superline Swim Bait Head is also compatible with all internal and external swim bait rigging.
Best Budget Jighead
THKFISH Jig Head Fishing Lure Bullet
  • Effective fishing jig heads saltwater
  • A durable and sharp hook
  • Wonderful jig heads for soft plastic lures 
Best Tungsten
Reaction Tackle Tungsten Screw Lock
  • NEW Reaction Tackle high quality SCREW LOCK jig heads (5-PACK)
  • Available with black or green pumpkin color in 1/8, 3/16 and 1/4 sizes
  • Jig fishing is one of the best techniques for catching more fish especially bass

What’s the Difference Between Lead and Tungsten Fishing Weights?

Tungsten is a better choice over a lead weight when it comes to micro finesse jig rigs because of its increased density.

Relative Density

Density is the overall weight of the material used in the fishing weight for a given volume. Stainless steel is the lowest, while lead bullet sinkers and tungsten fishing weights are both at the higher end of the density scale. This increased density allows you to get the same weight in a smaller package regardless of the shape, which makes tungsten a better choice over a lead weight when it comes to micro finesse jig rigs.

When using a tungsten drop shot or bullet that is denser than other fishing weights, you will be able to feel vibrations through your rod much better. This means, if you have a sensitive hand, you can feel your fishing weight being dragged across rocks and through vegetation and may even be able to prevent hang-ups by changing your location before your rig gets snagged in heavy cover.

This increased sensitivity can also give you a good idea of the contours on the bottom of the lake so you can feel depth changes easier, as well as alert you to sunken obstacles such as logs and branches where fish may rest or spawn. Even without a fish finder, if you pay attention to the different vibrations and sensitivity changes you can get a visual in your mind of the different fishing locations you frequent.

Sink Rate

Even when comparing a lead and tungsten drop shot of the same ounce size, their fall rate will be slightly different. Some anglers say that lead weights will fall slightly slower due to their less uniform shape regardless of the jigs, bait or full line you may be using.

A tungsten weight is streamlined, polished, and well-formed. It can glide through the water with less resistance and will fall faster, pulling your fishing bait or lure behind it in a smooth fashion. While this may not make or break your overall fishing experience, in some areas a smoother glide through the water can change the amount of vibrations your rig makes as it falls.

This change in vibrations and sound can entice fish to come out of hiding and strike your bait or lure. You’ll only get this smooth torpedo-like drop from a tungsten or stainless steel weight, as they are extremely smooth and machine sanded.

Finish and Appearance

When it comes to the appearance of your fishing weight, lead is a very rough and random chunk of metal. While it is placed in a mold to get the relative torpedo and drop shapes you are used to, the side can be rough or pitted, and the ends are potentially jagged with a sharp edge where your line runs through. 

For tungsten sinkers, a bit more care is given to the shapes and finish of the weight. While it is shaped in the same way as a lead weight by being placed into a mold, it is machine sanded and polished to ensure the exterior and inner hole are all smooth and uniform. You won’t find any jagged edges to abrade your line even if the weight is used as a sliding weight.


Lead weights can be in packs of multiples for a small price, whereas tungsten weights come in small groups for a relatively higher price.

When comparing the price point between lead and tungsten weights, you will almost always be paying more for each tungsten weight you purchase. Lead weights can always be found in packs of multiples for a small price, whereas if you buy tungsten weights, you’ll most likely find them in singles, pairs, or small groups for a relatively higher price.

In some cases and certain locations, you will pay as much for three to five lead weights as you will for one tungsten weight. The material of the weight is less toxic to some wildlife in case you lose it, and can give you identical if not better results when it comes to sink speed and glide ratio of your rig.

Tungsten is also a better choice than stainless steel, especially if you are looking for a smaller size for jigs but still need the same ounces you are used to on a larger type. You can easily carry multiple tungsten drop shots in your tackle box to give you an advantage when it’s time to switch up your jigs.

Uses of Tungsten Terminal Tackle

Jig Heads

When using a tungsten jig head, you’re going to get a great vertical presentation of your soft plastic baits and lures.

Tungsten is an excellent material for use in a wide selection of jig head styles when out on your favorite lake. Tungsten is a smooth material and can be painted in a variety of ways to suit your needs. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find tungsten jig heads as super rounds, finesse rounds, widowmaker, and micro finesse styles.

When using a tungsten jig head, you’re going to get a great vertical presentation of your soft plastic baits and lures. Additionally, being a more dense material than others available on the market, tungsten weights are great for fishing with micro baits and lures, such as with fly fishing, reef fishing, and more.

When you want to have an advantage over your competition while sticking with a smaller-sized bullet sinker, for example, tungsten is the material you want to consider first. Yes, it will cost you a bit more money, but the advantages you can get may be well worth it to you. Try these Reaction Tackle models.

Weights and Sinkers

Like any other weight or sinker you use, tungsten can be formed into a wide range of shapes and sizes to suit your needs. Some of the most popular denser tungsten weights are sliders and drop shots.

When fishing with a drop shot, using a tungsten weight can give you an edge over the competition. Drop shot rigs are specifically dragged across the bottom of the waterway and over a rock pile while your floating bait remains above. Tungsten is extremely smooth, which helps your drop shot weight to slide easily across the bottom rocks without getting snagged on everything.

For sliders, tungsten is preferred over some other materials, such as lead, due to the extra machine sanding that takes place. The inner area of a tungsten slider where your lines run is extremely smooth with no jagged edges. That means you won’t be replacing or repairing your line every few casts due to friction damage.

Final Thoughts on Tungsten vs Lead Weights

While tungsten is a more expensive fishing weight, it shouldn’t be something you have on the must-have list if your budget is tight. If you can splurge a bit on your tackle and really want something with a higher hardness rating, replacing some lead weights with tungsten weights can help. You’ll get a better feel for the bottom of the lake and switch up the sound difference your rig makes in the water at your favorite lake.

Both lead weights, and tungsten weights will get the job done and can work perfectly well on a wide range of fishing rigs. It’s up to you to make the decision on whether or not investing in a fancier tungsten weight brings an advantage or environmental benefit that is worth it to you personally.

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Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.
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