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How Do You Personally Set Your Drag?

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Typically what I do is just back it all the way off, and then give add just a little. I wait till I catch a fish to adjust the final drag setting. Ive often felt there was a better way, but this is how I do it.

How do you do it?

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I set it to 1/3 of the line breaking strength, or rod's max line rating, whichever is lower. Then I forget it. You're line or rod will never break, and you'll generally have plenty of power. I use a spring scale on a hook attached to my bench, and tie to the scale hook. From there, it's just a straight pull until I get where I want it. After a while, you can go my feel, but I like spot check things once in a while.

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You know Ive asked this question on every board Ive every belonged to. Alot of ideas have been mentioned to me to find a better way. Tried one guys suggestion and all I ended up doing was breaking a tip. I have to admit that this right here is the best sounding suggestion Ive heard to date. I'll be trying this one out for myself.

And Im not kissing up either!!!

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One thing I do is back off the drag if the reel is going in storage for a while. Another thing I like to do is "massage" the drag before I start with a rod that's been sitting by turning the spool on a spinner or holding the spool with my thumb and cranking the handle a couple turns. Keeps the drag smooth that way.

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depends on the line, lure and rod, sometimes its very light, I'm thinking of poppers, and sometimes its cranked down like for jigs, buzzbaits and such...I don't think about my drag settings much for most fresh water though...

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I set it to 1/3 of the line breaking strength, or rod's max line rating, whichever is lower. Then I forget it. You're line or rod will never break, and you'll generally have plenty of power. I use a spring scale on a hook attached to my bench, and tie to the scale hook. From there, it's just a straight pull until I get where I want it. After a while, you can go my feel, but I like spot check things once in a while.

J, when you are measuring pressure, are you just doing a straight pull from the reel(spool), or do you have it lined through a rod and bending the rod?

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I've been at this long enough that I just pull out some line and can tell from the feel if the drag's where I want it.

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I set it to 1/3 of the line breaking strength, or rod's max line rating, whichever is lower. Then I forget it. You're line or rod will never break, and you'll generally have plenty of power. I use a spring scale on a hook attached to my bench, and tie to the scale hook. From there, it's just a straight pull until I get where I want it. After a while, you can go my feel, but I like spot check things once in a while.

This method has always worked for me. I've got a scale fixed to my bench for this purpose.

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Line guides add a great deal of force. If you don't set the drag with a bent rod you ill be way to heavy.

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Line guides add a great deal of force. If you don't set the drag with a bent rod you ill be way to heavy.

No doubt, a straight pull right off a reel and at one third the breaking strength, might be ok for an XF rod with little bend and the handle angle at 90 degrees to the line, but the more the rod bows as in a very moderate action and the more you increase the handle angle to the line the more the poundage at the reel is increased by the force being broken over each eye at a more severe angle, and although the more experienced fisherman know this and use the power and action of their rod to apply more drag and less drag as required to fight and land their opponent it take time and experience to realize just how much you can get away with. I have set so many different rod's and lines up over the years I know where to start by feel and then as the fight requires use leverage applied by changing the angle from the rod to the fish to put the proper pressure on the fish I am fighting at the time. It is just part of fishing that makes you a better fisherman than a beginner once you have the experience an know what and when to use it, and the only way to get good at it is fish, fish , and more fish..

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I've been at this long enough that I just pull out some line and can tell from the feel if the drag's where I want it.

It doesn't take a lot of experience to know where you want that drag set. I have never used a scale to set my drag, not once. For the majority of my fishing, both fresh and saltwater I don't feel the initial setting is that critical and my drag almost always is adjusted when I have a decent fish on, I do not recommend this for most people. I said adjusted, I didn't say tightened down all the way, I also palm my spool on my spinning reels to increase drag without having to make a manual adjustment, you can get cut with braided line doing this, I don't recommend it unless you know what you are doing.

The most care I take in a drag setting is a reel with a lever drag, not that it's hard, just takes a little more time. Once I got used to a lever drag, I don't think I'd ever go back to a reel with a star drag.

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I set mine fairly high, basically to the point that my line is almost at it's breaking point to give drag, but I rarely use my drag. With baitcasters I prefer to disengage the spool when I need to give a fish line and thumb the spool. Spinning reels I prefer to backreel over using the drag. Just my personal preference, I feel I have more control over the fish because I can add more pressure or take away pressure as I feel it's needed. I set my drag so it will slip just before the lines breaking point in case I hook a fast fish that hits the end of the line before I can disengage or start backreeling.

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Depends on what I am fishing, if it is a top water I will keep it lower and adjust while I am bringing in the fish. I like to keep it hard enough to get a good hookset, but not so hard that I would ever have to break the line. I actually do a lot of mico-managing of my drag with my spinning gear, and hardly ever touch it on my BC setups. I keep it pretty high on my BC's, heavy line, jigs, trigs, FC, I like a good solid stab with that gear.

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J, when you are measuring pressure, are you just doing a straight pull from the reel(spool), or do you have it lined through a rod and bending the rod?

Doesn't matter, but if you want to feel what it's like on the rod, then string it up, and use an obtuse angle. I think you'll be surprised at just how much a little poundage feels. 5 lbs. is enough to snap most tips when high sticking.

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Excellent replies to this question so far and it's a topic that might not have only one definitive answer.

Setting the drag for me is dependent on my style of fishing at the time; this includes but is not limited to the cover (or lack there of) and of course the tackle being used. A fish that makes repeated long sustained runs (usually not done by bass) requires a different setting than a one that makes a few short powerful bursts (more of what a bass does).

Fishing a drop shot say in open (Clear) water with very light line (4-6 lb test) I'm going to set it on the lighter side. There is less worries of the fish getting me into anything. A lighter drag may also help keep that small hook pinned in the fish. A long run here is fun. I do however often use the boat to move/keep the better fish out in the deep stuff (40-50 ft)

On the other hand - If I'm fishing heavier cover (wood, pads, heavy weeds) or flipping the slop with heavy braid (jigs, plastics and Frogs) - No Drag Slip is the rule- Slam the hook home and winch them in.

This is not a give and take situation - it's all take. Anything else usually results in a fish getting free.

Of course your tackle must be rated to handle the demands required.

Moving baits and treble hooks baits (topwater, crankbaits, spinnerbaits etc) are somewhere in between. They are routinely fished in and around some cover as well as more open water. Hook pulls are a concern and a overly tight drag here can contribute to this. Separately from your drag setting, your rod and type of line play a role here in keeping the fish on.

A softer / slower action rod may absorb some of the stress applied in a fight where a stiff / faster action rod might not.

Rule of thumb here could be a bit of drag slip on the hook set is a good thing. This setting could differ widely depending on your tackle (rod, reel and line combination).

So what does all this mean - like most everything, this comes with experience. But at some point, we stop thinking about it and just do it. Until then, most of us learn the hard way, by losing some fish. Hopefully, it's not "The One" that keeps us up at night.

A-Jay

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I set it to 1/3 of the line breaking strength, or rod's max line rating, whichever is lower. Then I forget it. You're line or rod will never break, and you'll generally have plenty of power. I use a spring scale on a hook attached to my bench, and tie to the scale hook. From there, it's just a straight pull until I get where I want it. After a while, you can go my feel, but I like spot check things once in a while.

Is the rod's max line rating based on how much pressure it can take before breaking? I was always wondering about the line rating on rods.

It doesn't take a lot of experience to know where you want that drag set. I have never used a scale to set my drag, not once. For the majority of my fishing, both fresh and saltwater I don't feel the initial setting is that critical and my drag almost always is adjusted when I have a decent fish on, I do not recommend this for most people. I said adjusted, I didn't say tightened down all the way, I also palm my spool on my spinning reels to increase drag without having to make a manual adjustment, you can get cut with braided line doing this, I don't recommend it unless you know what you are doing.

The most care I take in a drag setting is a reel with a lever drag, not that it's hard, just takes a little more time. Once I got used to a lever drag, I don't think I'd ever go back to a reel with a star drag.

I have always been setting drag roughly by 'feeling' also. My initial setting is always loose side, but not too loose to effect the hook set, then I adjust as I got fish on the line. Maybe I will test my 'adjustment on the water' with a scale one day, so that I know where I have been setting.

BTW, SirSnook, I have tried palming the spinning the other day after I learned from you, and it worked perfectly! I guess you can do the same with baitcaster?

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BTW, SirSnook, I have tried palming the spinning the other day after I learned from you, and it worked perfectly! I guess you can do the same with baitcaster?

Glad to hear it worked well for you, what I did not mention was actually grabbing the spool, I probably do that more than just palming. I have pulled some really hefty fish out of heavy cover by grabbing the spool, not to say it works each and every time, no one lands them all. I didn't make this up myself, I actually learned it watching Mark Sosin, a saltwater TV host, not only do I use this technique in saltwater but apply to my freshwater fishing as well. As far as using this technique with a b/c, I can't comment as I don't use them, there are not many fish I can't handle with spinning gear using 15# or 20# braid. Most 15# braids break at 30+ pounds, in essence you are using a thin 30# test line, works well for the way I fish.

If I need a rod to handle heavier lures, I just use a bigger spinning rod, same reel and line.

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Is the rod's max line rating based on how much pressure it can take before breaking? I was always wondering about the line rating on rods.

Generally speaking, yes.

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I set mine to half breaking strength of lines rating, 12lb is set at 6. I to use a scale but the difference is that I back off about 20ft and test by gingerly loading the rod until the drag slips. I use a side ways action, I DO NOT use a hook set type of action, but slowly start adding pressure so I don't damage the rod.

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we're fishing bass not tuna lol. i adjust accordingly by pulling with my hand

One of the best posts I have ever read.

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Another way to set your drag on the fly is feel or look for some slippage of the spool on a hard hook set. When using braid that always works for me. If you are using a spinning reel just listen for the drag.

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we're fishing bass not tuna lol. i adjust accordingly by pulling with my hand

Fair enough, but we're also using (I imagine) proportionally lighter tackle. Ergo, the drag can be just as important to fighting/landing the fish.

Where I might agree is that, by and large, the trend in freshwater fishing seems to be towards "can't fail" tackle. That is, we're chasing 5-10lb fish on, in some cases, 40+lb rated tackle. If you're flipping in heavy cover, so be it. But I think that part of the challenge of fishing is having to play out the fish and use your equipment properly to prevent it from breaking you off.

If you're like me, the drag matters.

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I tend to adjust mine while fighting a fish, meaning I will set it by hand what I feel is close then when I hook a decent fish I will adjust it to the fish. I adjust it enough where if it makes a hard run it will slip but tight enough I can keep him pinned. After that I never touch it again. It is usually tight enough after that it won't or will barely slip on the hook set. That is for baitcaster, spinning I pretty much do the same thing but at a much lighter drag pressure, it almost always slips on hook set.

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