Setting the Drag Correctly - World Fishing Network

Setting the Drag Correctly

Posted by on Jan 19, 2011   12:00 AM  | Fishing Tips & Techniques

Setting the correct drag on a reel

 The drag on your reel is designed so you can set how much resistance a fish will experience when it runs with the line. The tighter the drag is set, the more resistance the fish undergoes during the fight. You need enough drag to tire a fish during a fight, but too much drag will result in a broken line. In this post I hope to help you understand drag and how to correctly set it.  

Whether you use a spinning reel or a bait caster, the reels have a drag setting. The drag needs to be adjusted by the mechanism provided by the manufacturer following their instructions. The drag adjustment can be found in different locations as illustrated above.       

The most accurate way I have learned to set the drag on a reel requires a digital scale. Ideally the drag on should be set at less than 25% of the breaking strength of the line you are going to be fishing with. The line’s pound test is the “breaking strength”, which is labeled on the package and spool.   


Set the drag by placing the rod in a holder, unless it is cold outside and you improvise using furniture as I did.  The scale should read no more than 20% to 25% percent of the breaking strength when the drag starts to slip in the bent fighting position. For instance, 12-lb test line should have a drag setting of about 2 lbs and between 2.5 and 3 pounds when fighting a fish with a bent rod.    

To help illustrate the proper drag setting imagine that you have set the drag correctly on a light-tackle combo loaded with 12 lb line. With the rod tip pointed in a straight line at the scale, the reading should be about 15 percent of the breaking strength when you hear, feel and see the line pull off the reel.  For 12 lb test line this would be 1.8 LB of drag.    

When the rod is bent in the fighting position friction will increase the drag, resulting in 2.2 lb of drag. Increasing the drag from 15 % to 18.3 % percent. Remember that when the drag is set more than 25% of the breaking strength there is a chance of loosing a trophy fish due to line breakage. The goal of playing a fish is to tire him down to surrender not exhaustion or death.  

I hope this help you to get bigger fish to the boat.  

Happy Fishing!