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Author Topic: [Reels] Properly Set Reel Drag or Backreeling? Which?  (Read 1415 times)

Offline Jared

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[Reels] Properly Set Reel Drag or Backreeling? Which?
« on: June 15, 2017, 10:32:19 AM »

Many years ago when I first was getting into bass fishing, the way I set my drag, was to crank it down so my line didn't pull out when a bass yanked on it. I viewed the drag knob as nothing more than the knob that held the spool in place on the old Mitchell 300 I used back then. I would tighten the knob down and then back it off until I could turn the spool with my hand.

I cannot deny that I used that same method for many years.

That method is VERY wrong! Do NOT do it!

I use to blame the line breaking on the wrong pound test, the cover, the fish or some other unknown reason. I never put the fault on an improperly set drag.  

These days, we know the drag was the reason my line broke.

Setting proper drag is crucial to successfully fighting and landing fish. It is even very important when it comes to setting the hook. Many light line techniques work better if your drag is lose enough so that when you snap a quick hookset, your drag releases a bit of line. This ensures that you don't pop your line on the hook set with today's advanced high modulus fishing rods and near stretchless fluorocarbon line.

But how do you set your drag properly?

This is a good question, I am sure many have asked themselves.

Many anglers set by feel. They grab the line coming off the spool and pull on it to feel how much tension they must place on the line before the drag releases more. If you have years of experience it is possible to do this accurately and properly. Though it is not the most accurate method.

I have been known to take the end of my line, hold my reel in one hand, grab the line after it comes out the top eye with my other hand and pull on the line making my rod bend. If my rod bends all the way and my drag begins to release, I consider it too tight. I loosen my drag. I like to see my rod bend about 20-30 degrees before my drag starts to release line.  This method has worked decently for me over the years. Though this is still not the most accurate method.

The most accurate method of setting your drag is to use a scale tied to the end of your line. You want the drag to be set to 25% of the breaking point of your "weakest link". I say "weakest link" because if you have a 15lb test main line with an 8lb test leader, the leader is your "weekest link". You want to set your drag to 25% of 8. Therefore, you want to set your drag to 2lbs.

You do this by attaching your line to the scale, then pulling up on the rod, making it bend. You apply pressure until the drag releases line. Taking notice of the read out on your scale, you want to see no more than 2lbs on your scale at the point when your drag begins to release line.

Some people claim that with bass fishing, drag can be set higher than 25% and say you can go as high as 50% of the line's breaking strength. I believe this would be ok for heavier lines but when it comes to light line tactics, I stick with around 25%. I'd rather have my drag set loose rather than too tight.

All this talk about drag could be deemed unnecessary if you are a fan of backreeling.

Backreeling is exactly what it sounds like. You take off the anti-reverse on your spinning reel and crank your reel backwards when fighting the fish. Many feel that backreeling is much more reliable than the drag systems. This may have been true years ago but with a lot of today's high-tech fishing reels, the drag systems are very reliable. The other notion is that with the drag the fish is in control but with backreeling the angler is in control.

To backreel successfully, you want your drag tighter than usual. You want to use the rod bend to fight the fish. You must maintain constant contact with the fish. When you feel the fish is about to make a run, be ready to start backreeling to let the fish have a bit of line. You want to do this all the way to the boat. It's a game of give and take. If done properly the bend of the rod will wear the fish out quickly.

I know when I first taught myself to backreel, there was more than one occassion when my hand slipped and the reel handle spun wildly out of control when the fish made a run. I had sore knuckles from the handle spinning around and cracking me on them. It does take a bit of practice to get the hang of backreeling but once you get the feel for it, it can increase your confidence with landing even the biggest fish.


You always want to make sure that when you get the fish to the side of the boat and are ready to bring it on board, switch your anti-reverse back on so you can have a free hand to grab the fish without worry of your reel free spinning backwards and line peeling off.  

Whichever method you use is really up to you. However, perfecting either or is an integral part of successfully landing a high percentage of your fish. I prefer to know how to do both so when on the water, even if my drag is set correctly, I can always flip off my anti-reverse and fight the fish backreeling.

I hope you find these tips helpful and may they result in your next fishing trip be a more successful one.

Tattered Thumbs & Bigguns, Jared
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Offline fish365

Re: Properly Set Drag or Backreeling? Which?
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2017, 11:56:18 AM »
 Depends on what set up I'm using. My tightline or vertical Damiki setup: backreel. My silver buddy setup: drag.
 I use 4-6 lb fluoro on first and 15lb braid with 10lb leader on second.
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Offline Jig Man

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Re: Properly Set Drag or Backreeling? Which?
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2017, 12:16:12 PM »
Never could back reel worth a flip.  I keep my drag (except for A rig with 50# braid) loose enough so that I get a hook set and a pulling fish can take some line.  If it is too loose I can adjust with thumb or finger pressure.  Way better too loose than too tight.

I used to think those little knobs on the drag were places that you could grab on to with your pliers when cranking down the drag.
If you're too busy to go fishin' you're too busy.

Offline Jared

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Re: Properly Set Drag or Backreeling? Which?
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2017, 12:26:33 PM »

I used to think those little knobs on the drag were places that you could grab on to with your pliers when cranking down the drag.
LOL! Exactly! You are not alone lol  I had no clue what all those washers in there were for either. ;)

Offline Jigfishn10

Re: Properly Set Drag or Backreeling? Which?
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2017, 12:31:58 PM »
While I'm not in the "crank the drag down" camp, I'm still in the "pull the line from the tip top" camp and see how much my rod bends and I back off from there. You're right @Jared, not the best way of doing it, but still better than taking the ractet set out of my tool box and "cranking the drag down". My drag is set pretty loose, but like @Jig Man, feathering the spool works well for me.

Properly set drag, you don't want me back reeling. Chewing gum and fishing is a chore these days. :grin:

Offline Jared

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Re: Properly Set Drag or Backreeling? Which?
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2017, 08:11:58 PM »
better than taking the ractet set out of my tool box and "cranking the drag down".
:rofl:
Definitely not a job for the torque wrench ;)


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Offline Oldschool

Re: Properly Set Reel Drag or Backreeling? Which?
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2017, 07:25:49 PM »
I learned to bass fish using the old knuckle buster bait casting reels and your thumb was the drag.
Spinning reels became popular where I fished in the late 50's for trout fishing. We learned to set drags because of the 2 lb to 3 lb leaders needed for trout fishing. The rule of thumb back then was 1/3 rd the leader strength or about 1 lb of drag for trout using 3 lb leaders.
The next type of fishing I did was off shore big game tuna and Marlin fishing using conventional reels with star drags and we applied the same 1/3 rd the line strength to prevent the fast running big fish from breaking the line was essential.
When bait casting fresh water reels came out with free spools and star drags, I used the drag setting learned from both trout and off shore fishing; 1/3rd the line strength and still use that rule of thumb for bass spinning tackle, not braid strength but mono/FC line strength.
I use my didgital scale today, old spring scales years back and can estimate drag lbs very close after over 60 years of setting drags.
Why spend lots of money for spinning or casting reels with state of the art drags and not use them? Back reeling for me only happens in an emergency or very big bass using light line near the boat, I rarely back reel and trust my drags.
Most medium spinning rods max out with 3 lbs of dead weight or drag force. Try lifting 3 lbs with your spinning outfits. 3 pints of water in plastic bottles in a plastic bag = 3 lbs, try lifting it!
Set your drags and use them.
Tom

Offline Jared

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Re: Properly Set Reel Drag or Backreeling? Which?
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2017, 08:39:12 PM »
Why spend lots of money for spinning or casting reels with state of the art drags and not use them?
 Exactly! I agree completely, Tom. (y)

Offline Adam Mihara

Re: Properly Set Reel Drag or Backreeling? Which?
« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2017, 11:08:45 PM »
In my experience largemouth don't pull drag unless 4lbs or better. Not worth backreeling on them+I'm lazy.

I can totally see how some guys who are fishing super clear water like the Great Lakes or Minnesota would backreel on a big mean smallie. I don't get to fish for them often so I don't backreel them either. 

Offline joe waller

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Re: Properly Set Reel Drag or Backreeling? Which?
« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2017, 10:34:39 AM »
I have all my reels drags set by the weight of the line.  All of them are different.  I don't have to back reel because I set my spinning reels very light, I let the fish play them selves out before I bring them to the boat.  I don't keep reeling when they are taking line as all this does in put twist in your line.  That's why rods and reels are designed to help you play the fish before you land them.
Put a rod in my hand and a boat under my feet and watch me catch bass.

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