It’s the middle of the winter here in Canada and aside from thinking about the fish I caught last summer, I also started thinking about the fish I lost. One of the variables that could have had an effect is the drag on my spinning reel – did I have it too tight or too loose? This led to a Google Search for “How to use fishing reel drag”.
To prevent losing a fish due the level your drag is set at, you need to have it adjusted to 25% of your lines break strength. Some anglers have a good feel for this and can adjust by feel – pulling the line out by hand. If you’re a novice angler, you can gain an understanding of this feel by using a scale or weighted items and adjusting the drag left to right.
In order to learn more about the functioning of spinning reel drag, keep reading!
How the Drag Mechanism Works
Drag inside a spinning reel consists of friction plates (washers) within the spool body. These plates regulate the rate that the line unwinds off the spool.
To increase drag, turn clockwise (to the right) and to decrease the drag turn the dial counter clockwise (left).
Here is the Cabela’s link of my reel above as I’ve had some questions on what I use: Shimano Stradic Ci4+
When you tighten the drag on your reel, the discs compress against each other and create more friction slowing the unwind or ability of the fish to pull the line at a fast rate. If you loosen the drag, there is less friction allowing the line to unwind at a faster rate.
Drag adjustment is there to reduce break off from landing the fish.
If you are targeting a smaller lighter fish, you would want less drag so there is not as much resistance which could result in a break-off. For a larger stronger fish, you would want a tighter drag to prevent line to release too quickly allowing the fish to throw the hook.
The idea here is to adjust the drag based on the line break weight and species of fish you are targeting.
How to Gauge And Adjust Fishing Reel Drag
If you’re targeting trout, chances are you use in most cases a 3-8 lb line which is shown on all fishing line packages.
If you’re targeting bass, chances are you are using a 10-15 lb line or more.
The technical adjustment should be 25% of your line break strength point. If your fishing line break-point is 8 lbs, your drag should be set to 2 lbs.
So how can you tell what your drag is set to?
You should be able to pull the line off the reel fairly easily with a slight bit of tension to equal the 2 lbs as mentioned above. You should have a tougher time from what we know with a 10-15 lb line. Experienced anglers can feel the drag level by pulling the line out with their hand.
This judgement is based off experience and repeated adjustment.
It is best to start out with the scale testing method, as follows:
- Tie a fishing scale to the end of your line.
- Have another person hold the scale.
- Pull the line with your hand and adjust the drag to what you think is 25% of the line strength.
- Start to slowly step back and you will start to hear the drag kick in – at this point have the individual read you what the scale displays.
- Increase or decrease the drag depending on this reading (if the scale displays above 25% of the line strength, reduce the drag. If it displays less than 25%, increase the drag).
- Repeat this process until you are familiar with your drag levels.
Below is an excellent video explanation from Salt Strong’s Luke Simonds:
Once you get comfortable gauging where your drag is set to it will become second nature to adjust before your first cast each day.
Now you know how to use fishing reel drag! Have another way to practice setting your drag? Let me know in the comments below!
If your next question is “Which fishing line should I use?” click here.