How To Set The Drag On A Fishing Reel

The general rule with how to set the drag is to always do so at one-third breaking-strain on all types of lines as long as they’re in good working condition.

This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Drag is an essential part of fishing. You should not only understand how to set your drag but also know its dynamics.

Ask any fisherman and they’ll quickly tell you that there’s nothing more painful than losing a trophy to a broken line or a pulled hook. It’s even more painful if you take into account that a simple drag setting just before the fishing trip would have stopped the misfortune.

This is why learning how to set the drag on a spinning reel is so important. With simple adjustments to your drag, you’ll never have to rue that a catch got away under your nose.

The main aim of learning how to set a drag is to safeguard against the fishing line breaking when the fish is hooked and you’re preventing it from getting away. This device, which is located in the spinning reel, acts like some sort of a clutch. It sets the level of resistance that the fish feels when it’s pulling the line. So to prevent your line from snapping and letting off your catch, it’s critical to learn how to set the drag.

Table of Contents

Without much ado, let’s get down to the details.

What is the Drag on a Fishing Reel?

The drag is essentially a safety mechanism that enables the spinning wheel to turn when a given level of tension is applied, especially when the line is pulled from the reel. Generally, the drag is a simple screwdriver that either holds the reel in place or is located just at the back of the reel. The drag is designed to help you set the level of resistance that the fish can encounter when it attempts pulling on the line.

As an angler, the main aim of using the drag is to ensure that you can play and tire a hooked fish so that it doesn’t break your line or get away. This is why it’s important to ensure that the drag is set at the correct tension. The drag tension is always measured in pounds and the tighter the drag, the more resistance the fish feels.

What is the Correct Drag Setting?

You should always make the drag tight enough that the fish becomes tired if it tries fighting you. However, the drag shouldn’t be extremely tight that your line breaks under pressure. This is why you need a scale when setting the drag.

But before getting into that, it’s critical to note that you should understand the strength of your line before setting the drag. By being familiar with how strong your fishing line is, you’ll be able to know the level of abuse it can take before it snaps.

Is your line old, worn or damaged? Do you have knots all over the line? These are some of the questions that you might be asking yourself before setting the drag.

If the line is brand new and all the factors remain constant, then you should use the specifications on the reel itself. It’s always specified in pounds and labeled on the reel itself or the front of the box of a new reel. That being said, the general rule is to always set the drag at one-third on all types of lines as long as they’re in good working condition (not old and worn out).

For example, if your fishing line has a 45-pound breaking strain (as in it can hold up to 45 pounds), the correct drag should be 15 pounds. You should, however, keep in mind that anglers have different opinions on this based on their experiences and personal preferences, but something close to one-third should work out just perfectly.

How to Use the Drag Knob

The drag will become redundant if you do not know how to use it. The most important thing is that you should always set your drag before the fishing trip. Needless to say, you’ll be doomed if you try setting the drag when the fish is already hooked. And as we noted earlier, the drag is some sort of a screw and works in the same way as an actual screw. In other words, you’ll tighten it if you turn it to the right or clockwise and loosen it if you turn it to the left or anticlockwise.

So How Do You Set the Drag on a Spinning Reel?

Here’s the process.

Step 1: Use a Scale

The scale is of great importance if you want an accurate and reliable calculation of your drag setting. You don’t have to buy the scale itself. You can borrow it from a friend, a neighbor or even at the fishing store. We always recommend the digital or electronic scale for more accuracy.

Step 2: Tie the Fishing Line to the Scale

It’s important to tie your fishing line to the scale using a good and strong knot. Make sure that it is properly secured to the scale.

Step 3: Make sure that the Scale is Secure

None of this will work if the scale itself isn’t secure. The best way to do this is to find a friend to firmly hold the scale so that it doesn’t move when you pull the fishing line.

Step 4: Apply a Forceful Bend on the Rod

You should loosen the drag (turn the knob to the left or anticlockwise) until you no longer feel any form of resistance. Forcefully bend the rod as if you’re fighting fish. The bend should mimic how the rod will perform when the fish bites. By doing this, you’ll experience how it feels to have a fish hooked on your line. Better still, it will give you an absolute understanding of how the entire fishing system should work.

At this point, you should check the scale and note down the weight of your line. In this case, let’s assume it is 45 pounds.

Step 5: Adjust it to One-Third of the Line’s Weight

You had noted the weight of your line, right? This is where the actual drag setting occurs. Using the weight of your line (in our case, 45 pounds), turn the knob of the drag right (clockwise) until it’s at one-third of 45 pounds, which is 15 pounds.

Step 6: Try Feeling it without the Scale

After setting the drag a couple of times using the scale, you’ll get used to it. With time, you may be able to set if without the scale but based on feel alone. This is where experience will come into play.

Now Go Out There and Catch Fish

The importance of learning how to properly set the drag cannot be downplayed. It is what makes the difference between reeling in all the fish that bite and losing a catch just because your line snapped at that critical moment! And because there’s arguably nothing worse than losing a catch because of a simple setup that you have full control over, you should know how to properly set the reel’s drag.

Remember, the reel’s drag becomes one of the most important things once the fish is hooked.