01: Setting the Drag

Between The Lines - Ch 04: Setting The Drag

0401_04_ReelMarkingsSetting the drag on a reel is very simple to do, once you have some understanding of what setting the drag and the various settings are for.

Lever drag reels are the preferred choice as the drag has several jobs with various settings to cope with them.

Strike drag is where the reel is normally positioned while trolling lures. It is set at a third the breaking strain of the line class used. In the following examples 24kg is used, therefore 8kg would be the strike drag.

Lighter drag settings are used as strike settings when relatively small fish are expected, as it should be allowed to turn and run against the drag pressure and improve hook up rates. A fish should never be pulled through the water directly towards the angler or flipped backwards when it jumps. As a guide, strike drag should be a third of the line class but no more than 10% of the weight of the expected fish, ie 3kg drag setting on a 30kg fish. We therefore have lighter settings marked such as 3kg and 5kg.

Higher drag settings such as "Full" often called "Sunset" should also be marked and the rating known. The area between "Strike" and "Sunset" is fighting drag for larger fish of five times the line class and over. The setting should be around 50% to 70% of line class.




Setting drags involves using scales to measure the weight of the drag. There are many types used including spring scales and digital. The ones easiest to use record the maximum w0401_06_ScaleTapeeight either by a sliding collar or marker in that it remains at the highest reading or a digital readout. Most scales are adjusted by a thread on the main barrel.

Almost none of the commonly used scales are accurate and should be checked against a set of certified scales at a fishing club or in any shop where merchandise is weighed, or by weighing something with a weight that has been checked on certified scales. Once the scales are checked, tape the adjustment thread to stop anyone inadvertently readjusting them.

Although drags can be set by putting the rod in a holder, it is preferable to get an angler set up with a gimbal belt for stand up tackle or fighting chair for heavy tackle bent butt outfits. This will give them an indication of the pressures that are applied to the rod when under load and also gets them used to adjusting the drag. It also helps the angler know how to adjust settings by putting the lever back to free spool and adjusting the preset knob then putting the lever back up to position.

There are several factors affecting drag settings, the greatest of which is the speed at which the scales are pulled.

 The correct speed to set the drag is medium pace which is aprox 4mph or walking pace.


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