Larry's Fishing Hole

Managing or Setting Your Drag

  I recently fished with anglers that seemed to have questions on Setting the Drag for reels. Many anglers or people think the drag on a spinning reel should be set according to the size of the fish being caught or plan to be caught. When actually, drags should be set to match the line test being used. More good fish are lost to drags set too tight than to any other single angling error. Since I prefer to fish with lighter line, my drag makes noise when setting hook or at times when playing a fish. This may not always mean a Big fish but some anglers may not understand this, therefore, our article to follow will help clear up – Setting the Drag.
  For us anglers the outcome of winning or losing in the game of fishing depends on how well we handle that big fish that decides to run. Reeling in line is only half the battle but managing the drag makes up the most important part of this game of fishing. Maybe you have experienced near the end of a fight that required you to tighten the drag to get the fish in so you could make a safe release. But sometimes the only way to keep a fish from breaking off is to keep a light drag. When we say Big Fish, this is all relative to your tackle and species you target such as crappie fishing with light gear and line test, a 3 pound fish is Big.
  Most of us take our reel drags for granted and many just set it and forget it. Setting the drag is often overlooked but can be straight forward if some simple guidelines are followed. A good way is to get a scale like a spring-based scale, tie a good knot to the hook of scale and have someone hold it while you step back and hold the rod at a 45 degree angle. Slowly lift the rod until the spool of the reel starts to spin against the drag and at that moment read the pounds of pull. Most manufacturers suggest setting the drag to about 25 - 30 percent of the breaking strength of the line. Line test strength divided by 4 = correct drag setting. If you are using 8lb test line, the correct drag setting should be about 2lbs.
  We find it easy after trial and error of educating our hand to pulling line from our reel and you will eventually get a good feel for the drag tension you want.
  Before you start fishing, check the drag setting and one thing we also like to do is loosen the drag if there will be a long period before fishing again to help avoid any freezing of the drag system. If this happens put a finger or thumb on the spool and turn the reel handle a little to loosen it.
  Where you set the drag while trolling depends a lot on personal preference, but we suggest using as light a drag setting as you can get away with. This way if you hang a lure while trolling, your light drag will allow line to go out till you can stop and turn around to recover your lure without breaking off. When you hook a good fish then use your thumb, finger or palm to apply extra pressure to the spool to set the hook. I feel we have more control using thumb pressure for many cases than moving the drag knob. It takes a little experience, but is very effective.
  We feel it best to use only as much drag as you need and with experience you will know when to adjust the drag but avoid making any large adjustments to the drag setting at one time.
  Setting the drag is an important part of an angler's game plan and the anglers who take the time to adjust the drag will land more fish without the line breaking or pulling the bait out of fish’s mouth.
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