Pier Fishing in California

Resources :: Tackle Tips

Grease and Drags

For a number of years drag washers were made of leather and felt. These drag washers were always greased. With new technologies, the variety and type of drag materials has changed, as have greases and greasing requirements.


Pliable drag washers, i.e. Leather and Felt. Examples of reels using these drag washers are early Daiwa Millionaires, early Ambassadeurs, and many Daiwa spinning reels.

DO NOT Grease

  1. Ridged drag washers, i.e. Penn’s HT-100 and Ambassadeur’s 20907.
  2. Drag washers that look and feel like the material in the brake shoes of your car, i.e. Daiwa Sealine 47H, Shimano TLD‘s.
  3. Drag washers that have a slippery feel to it when new i.e.: Smoooothe washers.

If you are not sure

  1. Check your owner’s manual.
  2. Contact the manufacturer. Most manufacturer’s have websites and e-mail addresses.
  3. Check with a Fishing Reel “service” shop, (not necessarily a retail store, with the clerk of the month). Repair shops should be able to tell you whether washers should be greased or not, and they should have new washers in stock if you need them.

Types of grease

  1. Molly based grease works best on the leather washers. Example: Engine Assembly Lube by Sta-Lube.
  2. Light oil works best on felt washers. Example 3 in 1 oil

NOTE: Most of the time, the grease you use on gears is not the same as the grease you use on drags.

Symptoms of improperly greased drags, or drags that have been greased and should be dry

  1. A drag that jerks instead of running smooth.
  2. A drag that either has a very heavy start up or is frozen completely.

Problems with improperly lubricated drags are compounded by the fact that several of the large reel manufacturers state that their drags run dry, but on disassembly you find that they were greased at the factory. These drags fail shortly after first use.


Always back off the drag when storing reels, and after you are through using the reel for the day. This is particularly important when using Smooothe drags, as leaving the drag on, even as little as overnight will cause the drags to compress and lead to future failures.

Information sources

Another source of information on drag types and improvement is the book Practical Light Tackle Fishing by Mark Sosin.

This Tackle Tip offered Ron Crandall of Ron’s Reel Repair