What’s The Proper Drag Tension For A Fishing Reel?
Published by Luke Simonds under
Last updated on: February 6, 2017
One of the most overlooked factors in fishing that can make or break the day is the drag setting of a reel.
I can personally attest to this factor being overlooked by many anglers because I’ve fished for over 30 years and have never once actually tested the true tension of my drag…t has all been based on feel that has been carved into my memory after trial and error.
It has all been based on feel that has been carved into my memory after trial and error.
Worst of all, an improperly set drag can be the core reason that a fish of a lifetime got away with your favorite lure, and that is exactly what I experienced on multiple occasions as I was developing my “feel” for the proper tension.
So what exactly is the proper drag tension for a fishing reel?
And how can someone consistently achieve the proper setting without the trial and error of losing big fish?
This short article and associated video will answer both of these questions for you so that you don’t have to learn the drag setting lesson that hard way like I did.
What Is The Proper Tension For A Reel’s Drag?
After researching the interweb reading many articles and watching videos on this very subject, the recommendations seems to all stay within a narrow range…
The consensus is that a reel’s drag should be set at 20% to 30% of the lines strength rating.
At first glance, this seems to be low since that leaves a lot of strength on the table (especially for those of us who took the time to test out different knots to see which ones are truly the strongest… see yellow section below for knot test results).
But when considering the amount of drag that the water pulls on the line when a fighting fish is swimming at max speed, the low rating make more sense.
Yesterday, I actually tested the drag setting on my inshore reel that was 100% based on trial and error over 25+ years with a scale because I was very curious to see how it actually compared to the 20% to 30% range from the online educators.
Since the line I use for inshore fishing is 10 lbs, the recommended range is 2 to 3 lbs.
So I was pleased to see that my time-tested drag setting is 2.3 lbs, which is in the middle of the recommended range.
Note: If wondering how to handle big fish near heavy structure, then click here to see a trick that has helped me land big snook, redfish, grouper, etc. on light line when fishing around structure.
How To Check The True Tension Of Your Drag
The reason I never checked my reel’s drag is because I always assumed that some fancy equipment was needed so I never bothered doing it.
But that was far from the truth because it actually all can be done with just one piece of equipment that costs less than $10.
And it only takes a few minutes.
Once the reel’s drag setting is at the proper tension, then I recommend pulling it out with your hand several times to develop some muscle memory to how the tension feels so that you can accurately set it via hand going forward.
Watch the short video below to see how it’s done:
It is extremely important to properly set your reel’s drag before your first cast because you never know when a fish of a lifetime will bite.
And there’s nothing worse than losing a fish of a lifetime due to something basic like this that we have 100% control over.
Because although this factor seems minimal in the vast amount of factors that have to come together to land a great fish, the drag becomes one of the most important once that fish is hooked.
So if you have not already done so, make sure to truly test your drag to make sure it falls in the 20% to 30%
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