Understanding A Spinning Reel Drag System

The Spinning reel drag system is the vital part of the mechanism of a spinning fishing reel. If you are the first time angler, there are a lot of things that you should know about your fishing reel. For examples fishing line, rod and of course the drag system.

In general, having a good drag system in your fishing reel will allow you to catch big heavy fish with ease. There is nothing worse than spending a day quietly, lure a big fish but then lose it in the last minute, right?

So in case you are keen on improving your fishing performance. Or never want to miss any fish you can possibly catch. Read on to learn more information about one of the most important feature of a fishing reel – the drag system.

How A Drag System Works

How A Drag System Works

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Overall, a drag system functions as a slip clutch system. It works on the concept of allowing the fish to pull line from the reel when the line becomes too tight to support the strength and the weight of the fish. Without the drag system, when a heavy fish pulls the line strongly, strong force will break it down. They use pounds to measure drag. It represents the resistance the fish will be able to feel when it pulls the fishing line.

Now, let’s move on to study the fundamental principle of a spinning reel drag system. In general, it works with 2 discs. People install them face to face against each other. One disc connects to the side of the spool. The other disc connects to the reel’s cranking.

When you have tightened the drag system, these 2 discs are pushed closer. They create resistance against the pulling of the fishing line from the fish. In another word, the heavy fish needs to pull much stronger to slip the fishing line. When you tighten the handle of the spinning fishing reel, pressure will be put down on one disc. It will then tighten the other disc connecting to the cranking. The rate at which the fishing line is pulled by the big fish is then slowed down.  You can know the drag system is doing a good job by hearing the sound of the sizzling.

How  To Set A Drag On A Spinning Reel

Setting the drag on a spinning reel is very important. If you don’t set it right, it will never be able to work as you wish it to. In case you set the drag system too loose, there would not be enough pressure from the system to catch on with the fish. On the other hand, if you set the drag system too tight, extra pressure will eventually break the fishing line. And as a result, you will lose the fish.

Setting a drag on a spinning reel is not difficult at all, even for beginning anglers. First of all, you should know how to calculate the correct drag setting.

In general, the drag setting in pounds should be deducted from dividing the breaking strength of the line over 4. For instance, if you are using 6lb test fishing line, you will need to set the drag setting to 1.5 pounds.

Now I will show you how to set the drag on your spinning reel:

  • Prepare your rod and reel. The fishing line needs to be threaded through all the guides from the spool to the top.
  • Attach the tipping end of the line to the hook of a scale. You can use a digital scale or a spring scale.
  • Hold your fishing rod like when you go fishing, forming a 45 degree against the horizontal line. Let go of the scale so that it will bend down the fishing rod.
  • While you look at the reading on the scale, you need to adjust the drag system. Thus, it would slip at the intended setting for the line strength.

Experience plays a big part in determining if you have the proper drag adjustments of the kind of fish you are aiming for. All will be based on how you feel- whether the drag system is tight or loose. However, you will be able to come up with better adjustment and feeling over time.

Spinning Reel Drag System Tips

There are a lot of things that can influence the performance of your drag. For examples the heat, the surrounding temperature and the spool diameters. Knowing about these variables would provide you better knowledge. This helps a lot when it comes to how to handle drag changes in the big battles with the big fish. There are many things else you need to take into consideration for a better drag control. For examples the spool diameter, the rod and how well you care for your fishing reel.

Back off the drag when the heat is high

After a while on your fishing session, or after you have been chasing down some hard to get fish, your drag will become hotter and stickier. Hence, it would need more pressure for the next time a fish pulls the line. Therefore, when you think that the drag is hotter than it should be, take a rest. You can use a wash down hose to cool the fishing reel off before setting it back to the water.

Consider the surroundings’ temperature

When you go fishing for a long time from the morning to the night or vice versa, you should allow time for your drag to cool down or readjusting. There is possibly a big change in temperature from the morning to the night. That will make the drag tighten. Finally, it is better that you can set the drag the afternoon before. At this time of the day, the fishing reel tends to be warmest.

Adjust for the diameter of the spool

When there are not many yards left on the fishing line, the spool has to turn for more rounds to release line. Hence it will create more pressure onto the line. That is the reason why when you are running out of fishing line on the spool, you should loosen the drag instead of tightening it.

Watch the rod

Watch the rod

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In case you have light soft rod, you can go for a tighter drag system. The softer rod can bend more easily and hence would not be able to add extra pressure on the fish so you will need extra power from the tighter drag system.

Check your drag frequently on a fishing session

You can do so by simply pulling on the line with a bit of pressure. You will get a feel of whether the drag is a good condition or not (if it feels tight, loose or sticky – there must be something wrong.)

Ensure you have a proper cleaning and maintenance with your fishing reel

Make sure that you check the spinning reel drag system every time you go back from your fishing trip.  Any rust or corrosion will instantly damage the system. Not to mention that when you apply too much oil or lubricant onto the spool shaft or bearings, clogs will form in the drag system and hinder the movement of the spool.


Before you try the drag system with a real fish, you can set up a scenario at home. Just sticking the ending tip of the fishing line with a heavy item and try to work on working the drag system with it on.

Stay calm no matter how nerve-wrecking the situation is

Finally, when a really big fish is hooked on your lure, the first thing you need to do is staying calm. Don’t rush or you will lose the battle that you are going to fight with the fish. When you have the right setting on the drag system and have enough pressure on the line to hold on the fish without breaking the line, in the end, you will be able to catch it.

That is all that I want to tell you about a spinning reel drag system, how it works, how to set it properly and other tips. They are what you need to know if you want to fully control the system and finally catch a big fish.

There are a lot of things that you need to do in the process of becoming an advanced experienced angles. I hope that with this piece of information about the spinning drag system, you would be able to successfully catch a lot of big fish. It certainly will make you proud and improve your fishing experience a great deal.