Are we all a bunch of “Drag Queens”. By Richard Ziert, 4/2010

US Reel

The term “Drag Queen” is pretty funny in this regard because its common definition does not apply to anglers except in use of our reels drag device. I’ve purposely used the word “device” here because we are in fact the means behind the end use of drag. Back-reeling spinning gear to thumbing the bait caster reel, or just plain setting the reels drag properly is what we are all about here and on the water. Whatever method we choose ought to have some reason behind it and not just a “go to” because that’s what we’ve always done. The idea behind any drag method is of course to arrive at the best control of the fight and to wear the fish down before landing them.

I’d like to hear from as many of you on your methods and why you go there.  Email your reply to

My methods follow

For me, back-reeling starts with tightening my drag all the way to a no slip position, using the reel in closed bale free spool, and applying hand or finger pressure to the spool to control the fight. Thumbing the bait casting reel is pretty much the same process but using my thumb in control of how much and how fast your line leaves the spool. Frankly, both methods are preferred in most practical cases with lighter line. I don’t want the line to break, or the fish to run without adequate pressure and come unbuttoned because my drag was not set right.

Before we get into the notion of doing one or the other, let’s sit back for a minute and ask ourselves what size average fish do we catch or go after. There are times when we might want to go one way and other times our decision can be the opposite approach.

Let’s start with setting the mechanical drag properly. Drag setting to me should be one half our lines test strength. The reason for this is if I catch a 4 pound fish on 8 pound test, the fish weight alone should not be what I expect the line to hold. Fish are fighters after they are hooked. It’s not uncommon for a fish to apply pressure equal to 2 times its weight in the thrash and run. Setting mechanical drags is a fairly simple affair; merely count the number of turns you make on the drag dial from no drag to tightened line breaking point. Then back off those turns by half.

If in forethought my average fish is considered larger, I need to go to heavier line, or with lighter line have my head together enough to push the anti reverse lever or button thereby going to the back-reeling or thumbing methods.  There are some anglers who will adjust the mechanical drag in mid fight – sometimes that’s all we can do. The size of the fight will tell me what I need to do. We have to decide what is right for us. Some will go one way and some another. All in all it is to our advantage to see we need to qualify our approach before we go there and have the wherewithal to change directions in mid stroke.

Richard Ziert

Richard Ziert has been around the fishing world for 50 years or so. Coming from a forensic/analysis background, he looks at nature in pragmatic terms, or in a matter of fact, cause and effect way.  His work is not often off the mark.  He has been published by both In-Fisherman, and Walleye Insider. Richard owns and runs “The Leading Edge Custom Shop” for innovative fish baits and other outdoor equipment. Rich says “My main push in life is to never stop learning, to help others discover more about the outdoors, and together learn about ourselves in the process.”


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