One of the most important features of a fishing reel is its drag system, as this is ultimately the deciding factor in how much power your reel possesses when it comes to pulling in fish. Hesitant to alter the drag out of fear of losing a fish, some anglers will tell you to set your drag to whatever you like and not to change it at all during a trip. However, knowing how to effectively tighten or loosen your drag while fighting a large fish can mean the difference between winning and losing the fight.
Keeping your reel’s drag at a constant setting during a trip to the lake is fine, as long as the fish aren’t very large or powerful, but it can cause you to lose bigger fish if you’re not careful. Such larger fish will most likely be prone to fight harder and make sudden runs with bursts of energy and will require a little finesse and quick-thinking when it comes to adjusting your drag during the fight.
As line is taken by a fish, and the spool diameter of your reel diminishes, the leverage on your reel alters, which ultimately makes the drag heavier. A good way to prepare for this is to set the drag for strikes and the fight that will surely follow, but then be ready to loosen it to prevent against line breaks and stress on your hooks, just in case the fish makes a long run. As you regain line during the fight, slightly tighten the drag, little by little, back to its original setting.
When landing a sizeable fish, it also helps to slightly loosen the drag. This is due to the fact that there is shock-absorbing line out and a sudden burst of energy from the fish has the potential to snap your line if the drag is too tight. Also, one thing to always keep in mind is to make sure you never exceed the original drag setting on the reel in relation to the tensile strength of the line you’re using.
While the idea of adjusting your drag during a long fight may seem a little intimidating, it really isn’t that difficult. The overall concept is simple: loosen the drag when the fish runs and tighten the drag when the fish tires out. Allowing the fish to tire itself out with bursts of energy, while maintaining a good hook-set, is the main goal. It may take a little getting used to, especially with a trophy fish on the end of your line, but at the end of the day, being able to effectively alter the drag during a fight will mean the difference between a lost fish and a full livewell.