How to Set the Drag on a Spinning Reel Without a Scale

How to Set the Drag on a Spinning Reel Without a Scale

There’s a common misconception among the inexperienced fishermen who think that having a scale is absolutely necessary for a good drag.

On the contrary, in the world of fishing, there are alternative ways for doing pretty much anything.

People are often too focused on getting the right equipment in order to simplify their fishing experience.

A scale is one of those tools that is considered an absolute necessity.

We won’t lie, the tool itself is extremely useful because it speeds up the whole process of setting the drag. However, you need to consider the fact that there were successful fishermen long before scales became a thing.

However, to set the drag without a scale:

If you’re doing a 10 pound test for example, take something that weighs 10 pounds and place it in a bag. Hook the bag and drag it on a smooth surface. You want the bag to slide at least 2-3″ before the drag starts to slip. This is how you find your 1/3 setting. 

In this article, we’ll show you the exact way of setting the drag on a spinning reel without having to use a scale. Furthermore, we’ll try to cover some additional topics that might be of great use to you. But before we move on to the particulars of the procedure, let’s start with the basics.

What Is Drag Fishing?

To put it quite simply, if you’re using a rod and reel to fish instead of a pole (or a net), then you’re drag fishing. The term ‘drag’ refers to a pair of friction plates that are located inside every fishing reel. The friction, as you might have concluded already, plays an important part here. For example, when the fish pulls on the line hard, the reel rotates backward. That’s how it prevents the line from breaking – by letting the line out.

A good piece of advice is to always set the drag before your first cast. Setting it during the pull might be a frustrating experience. In such situations, you need to be adaptive and fully able to multitask.

The drag mechanism on the spinning wheel allows you to control the exact amount of pressure that fish can feel. Therefore, knowing how to properly set the drag might be extremely beneficial to you and result in a catch.

To avoid losing your fish, you need to find the perfect balance between too tight and too loose. Either one of those can cause your line to snap. Additionally, drag fishing requires good pressure management. That means that you should know when to apply force on the drag and when to let go. The reel has a drag setting that allows you to control the force. We’ll talk about that later in the article.

People usually measure drag in pounds. However, most manufacturers decide to use kilograms instead.

Things to Pay Attention to Before Setting the Drag

Before you start setting up the drag, it’s best you familiarize yourself with your reel and how to use it properly.

The first step is to check the type of the reel that you’re using. There are three available reel types: spin casting, baitcasting, and spinning reels. We won’t get into details about each of these types because that’s a topic on its own. However, we want to mention that they have different functions, which can affect (to some extent) the way you set the drag. For example, they all have different line placement. Some types have the line exposed while others have it encased by a cover.

Next, you should locate the drag adjustment on your reel. Spinning reels often have a circular knob at the front of the line spool. Meanwhile, baitcasting reels have a star-shaped drag adjustment, which is right next to the reel handle.

You can tighten or loosen the drag by turning it left or right. The drag adjustment for spin casting reels is the same as the previous one, except it makes a clicking noise when you turn it.

The most important thing to pay attention to is the breaking strength of the line. In most cases, you can find information about this by looking at the package that your reel arrived in. The optimal drag should be around 25% of the line’s breaking strength resistance.

Make sure your fishing line is not “old” as this will result in a broken line!

However, if there are no specifications and you want to calculate it yourself, it’s quite simple. You just need to divide the breaking strength of your line by 4. The number that you get is basically the value of the drag.

How to Set the Drag Without a Scale

Setting the drag on a spinning wheel is actually easier than you thought. People often think that they need to know everything about the procedure in order to do it properly. That is often not the case. The only thing that you need to have is the correct feel for the pressure for the line. However, you’ll need to have some relevant experience before you master it, as it requires patience and time.

Your drag should have an appropriate level of the resistance force. That means that you need to make sure that it’s neither too tight nor too loose. Otherwise, there’s a high chance that you might lose your fish — and that’s the worst possible outcome.

Fortunately enough, testing the resistance of the drag on a spinning wheel is quite simple. The easiest way to do it is to pull the line that’s directly above the reel. If the resistance is strong, you’ll have to loosen it and vice versa.

In order to tighten the drag, you need to turn the wheel of the drag to the right. Alternatively, you can turn it to the left if you want to loosen it.

We’re sure that most of you already know how to do that, but we mentioned it just for the sake of it. You’ll know that the resistance level is optimal when you feel that the pressure is balanced. That should be your goal. Your drag should be tight enough to allow you to get the fish without breaking the line.

If you’re fishing for a bigger fish, you might want to set the drag a bit looser because you’ll probably fight with the fish for a while.

No Scale Required

When setting the drag, most people opt for the easiest solution possible, which is to use a scale. A scale certainly hasn’t outlived its usefulness, but it’s not completely necessary. In fact, you can completely avoid using it and still get the same result. The whole process revolves around using household objects. Does it sound ridiculous? Yes, it does, but it works and here’s how!

Before we tell you the exact procedure, we need to consider the weighting system for a brief moment. The testing weight should be ⅓ of the line strength. For example, a 15-pound test would be 5 pounds of drag.

That being said, let’s think about the stuff that you can find around your house and use. You need to consider and take into account the fact that one pound equals 16 oz. and half a pound is 8 oz. Therefore, if you’re doing a 15-pound test, you’ll need objects that weigh from 5 to 16 oz. in order to make 5 pounds. You can use anything that’s pre-packaged and that has the weight printed on. For instance, you can use water bottles, various cans, weights, etc.

Provided that you now understand the weighing system, you can proceed to the next step. Once you gather the household items, you’ll need to place them in a plastic bag. Place the bag on a smooth surface (avoid textured floors, cement, carpets, etc.). The main goal is to make the bag slide across the floor for 2–3 inches before the drag starts slipping. When you manage to do that, you have found your ⅓ pound setting. Keep in mind that you need to include friction as well. Therefore, you might have to re-adjust the drag accordingly.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, it’s very important to understand the significance of alternative methods for drag setting. The fact that you don’t have a scale doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t attempt to set the drag yourself. In truth, most people opt for using a scale right off the bat because it’s automated and easier. However, the method that we’ve showcased shows you that it’s definitely not the only available option.

We hope that you’ll put the information from this article to good use. As you can see, the method that we’ve talked about is rather simple. You just need to get the hang of it, but through trial and error, you’ll probably get there in no time!


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