Neil Taylor, Strike Three Kayak Fishing

Drag1In a mostly visual sport, one thing sticks out from the audial part of fishing.    “Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”, the sound of a fish pulling line off the spool.    Exciting.

What is this that is happening when you hear this noise?    Perhaps the most important feature of a fishing reel is the “drag”.   The drag is a feature that allows you to either prevent line from coming off the reel or allowing it to peel off a reel.

There are a number of things to consider.   Where is your dag set?    Your drag setting isn’t as important as it is to know how to quickly adjust your drag.    Proper performance of the drag means winning the battle against the best of opponents.

The number one mistake you can make (usually to start the day) is to have your drag too light.  So many times I’ve missed a redfish hookup because   “I HAD THE DRAG LOOSE AFTER CLEANING THE REEL”.     If you don’t have the drag set properly, things won’t work well right from the time of “hookset.”    Mostly, my reels are set at the same drag most of the time.    Adjustments:   Tighten or loosen during battle as necessary.    It is easy to turn the knob (clockwise to tighten, counterclockwise to loosen) during the fight.

In this age, drag systems are pretty good even on cheaper reels.  Buying a more expensive reel?   Why?    What you are investing in is durability.    Performance will be longer lasting.     My reels are Daiwa and the drags work EVERY time.   I would rather pay for it and always have it work right.   Drag3

Drag and snooking: If you’re in “Pass” are situation you can back off on the drag a great deal and still catch a world class snook.   25# fluorocarbon leader and a “medium” class rod:  You’re fine.

Get in to a mangrove, dock situation and hook a large snook:  You’d better have your drag tightened up a great deal (and probably move up to 30# leader).   Two very different situations, two very different drag settings.

How do you “set” your drag for various conditions?   You should be able to grab the line above the reel and give it a tug and the line comes out smoothly (but not “swiftly”).  If you’re adjusting your drag for dock fishing or casting to big snook on the tree line: Give the line a pull and the spool should provide a lot of resistance giving up line.  A redfish is going to pull some line but it is rare when you lose a lot of line to these fish.     Other species like snook or a cobia, they have the ability to take a lot more line.     Drag becomes more important the larger the fish you are dealing with.

Speckled trout have mouths with lips that will rip if too much pressure is put on the lure or hook.  But a properly set drag should prevent “lip rip.”  With both flounder and trout, you will hook more fish if they are able to pull a little line off the reel immediately after the strike.     The drag tighter, a lot of these fish pull free instead of getting hooked.  Try it, it works.

You should be ready to “adjust your drag mid battle.”   And, learn to “use your hands.” Cupping the spool or otherwise touching the spool during a battle can tighten the drag manually, something that becomes very important when you are running out of line when a very big fish is “spooling you.”

Having your drag serviced isn’t a bad idea.   If it fails at the wrong time, you could lose out on one of those “once in a lifetime” fish.    I routinely just check the underside of my spools for salt buildup and other debris that collects.   This shouldn’t be something you have to worry about too much unless you own older reels.


Lockdown:   No line can be pulled by a fish.   When you are getting spooled by a fish “lockdown” is grabbing the spool before a fish gets to the end of the line.

Cupping the spool:   Adding drag, putting your hand on the reel spool to slow the amount of line a fish is pulling off the drag, it is a manual technique to modify the drag.

Learn to use your tools the best you can.    The drag on your reel is critical when you are dealing with larger fish.   The goal being to tangle with larger fish, make sure you are ready and know what to do in various scenarios.

Neil Taylorstrikethreekayakfishinglogo

Kayak Fishing Specialist- Strike Three Kayak Fishing


Neil Taylor

Full time kayak fishing guide, Neil was an advocate for conservation since before the time he started guiding.Outdoor writer, speaker and radio show host, Neil connected closely with Captain Mel Berman and did many positives with Mel to promote ethical angling. After Mel passed away, Neil managed and eventually became that web site’s owner.
Neil Taylor

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