You can buy the best reel made in the world but to land big fish, you just can’t set a drag and forget about it. It hurts to lose a big salmon or tuna to a snapped line or a straightened or pulled hook when it could have been avoided when a minor drag adjustments would have prevented the loss of your trophy fish.
The drag on a reel serves a couple of functions. It exerts pressure on the fish to wear it out and acts as a buffer to prevent tension on the line to reach a breaking point.
Most of us have feel for where the drag should be set after years of fishing. If you don’t ask a buddy what he sets his dag at and measure it by pulling the line out and checking the drag tension on an electronic scale. You now a have a starting point to set up your reels for the species you after.
If you use the scale method (pretty standard in big game fishing) have your buddy hold the scale and then attached it to the line. Why pointing the rod directly at the scale with no bend in the rod. Ask your buddy to pull the scale back slowly and steadily and call out the reading on the scale. Tighten or loosen the drag to you get the desired setting.
The general rule of thumb for mono drag setting is 20 percent of the breaking strength.
Example: 30lb mono would be a drag setting of 71/2 pounds.
Drag settings for braided line which has zero stretch and smaller diameter are different to prevent sudden spikes in tension. With braid, lighter drag settings are required.
Example: 30lb braid would be a drag setting of 6 pounds.
Be aware there are many variables that increase the drag setting during a fight with a trophy fish. Drag tension will increase as the fish peels line further out of the reel and spool empties along with the degree of bend in your rod. Also adding the magic little extra thumb pressure we all seem to do to stop a powerful run will add extra drag.
Never wind line when it leaves the reel. Winding as the reel spools out creates twists and will weaken the line and will prematurely wear out the drag.
Once the fish is at the boat and you ready to net or gaff back off the drag to about half so if it slips the net it will not pull the hook or break the line. This also will help prevent broken leaders and rod tips in the netting process.
When you store reels I wash mine down with drags on full. Mist of fresh water and then dry them with a towel and back the drags off so they don’t create memory or fatigue in the drag system. This will prevent uneven drag pressure and your drags will last much longer.
The proper drag setting regardless of fishing species when you have that trophy on can make the difference between being a hero or a zero.