Ron's Tackle Tips — Setting the Drag

Ken Jones

Staff member
Setting the Drag
By Ron Crandall of Ron's Reel Repair (February 1998)

How to set your drag.

In order to properly set your drag, you must first know the proper line weight for your rod (see Tackle Tips for January 1998). Now, remember when you were determining the line weight, you read your scale while your helper was holding the rod with the tip at a 90 degree angle to the butt. The number on your scale (the reference number) is also the proper drag setting for your reel.

Now fill your reel with the proper weight line for your rod, attach the reel to your rod and string the lines through your guides. Leave about 30 feet of line out and attach the end to your scale and your fixed object. The drag is off. Tighten the drag some. Pull up your rod until you have reached both the 90 degree angle (of the rod tip to the butt) and your reference number on the scale. Have your helper read the scale and let you know when you reach your reference number.

If your drag slips before you reach the 90 degree angle, or your reference number, tighten the drag and try again.

Continue in this manner until your scale reads your reference number and your rod is at 90 degrees. What you have done is take into account the friction of the guides, the friction of the level wind (if you have one) and the friction of the line itself.

The next step is to measure the pull required, at the reel, to make the drag work.

Leaving the reel on the rod, unstring it from the guides, and reattach the scale. Now pull the scale (and line) until the drag slips. Read this number. This number is what your reel should be set to each time you use the same combination of rod, reel, and line.

When using monofilament and ceramic guides, the drag reading will be very close to (a little less than) your reference number. (In other words there is very little friction caused by the line and guides). What's important here is that as long as you don't change the rod, reel, or line type you can reset your drag at any time by yourself by measuring the drag at the reel and know it is matched to the rod, line and reel.

Now back the drag off. Each time after you are done fishing, back off the drag. Do not store your reel with the drag on, as this will cause the drags to seize.

The next time you go fishing with the same rod, line and reel combination, measure and set the drag to the same number on your scale that you determined in the last step, which under ideal conditions should be about the same as your line weight divided by 4.

Note: With Dacron or Super Lines, your drag weight number will be different than with monofilament line

Too confusing?