What's The Deal With Drag?
What’s the deal with drag?
Musky fishing for most is a hard road of wins and losses on the water punctuated by some exceptional moments that keep you coming back for more. Unlike many other species, musky fishing requires some of the most precise lures and gear that may not cross over as much as you wish they would. One of the major components that many must adjust to in adopting musky fishing are baitcasting reels. There are a few hangover anglers that prefer the zip of a spinning rod, but the consensus has definitely made the switch.
Baitcaster reels, despite their sleek look, can be a bit of work to handle upon introduction. Unlike spinning equipment there is an adjustment to casting and cranking with the opposing hand, confusing a lot of those learning on the go. The concepts are the same in utilizing the gear, but the mechanics of movement really take some getting used to. One of those seemingly simple similarities are the adjustment and maintenance of baitcaster drag.
Unlike a knob or scrolling thumb wheel, baitcaster drag adjustments most likely occur on a star shaped nut located directly under the handle. Righty tighty, left loosey commonly works to adjust your drag tension on any baitcaster. There are a lot of DIY methods of getting your drag set for peak performance, but one of the easiest is using a rod holder and digital fish scale.
Before I explain the technique, let’s go over the finer points of what drag does for your fishing game. When fishing for musky, most of the time you will be using braided line. Unlike monofilament, though generally tougher to cut, this line does not have much stretch. Over time the line impacts with various underwater structure, like logs and rocks, as well as tangling with many muskies and pike of course. Also, fighting a fish puts a lot of pressure on your various tied knots whether on your leader, swivel or directly on your bait. This is where drag shows up to help you.
Setting your drag properly to prepare to fight large fish, prevents added pressures on individual knots and micro wear spots, and prevents overstretching of your braid leading to breakoffs. If you properly set your braid prior to trips, it will prevent you from losing those fish of a lifetime.
For the Rod Holder and Fish Scale method, you will utilize your rod holder while your boat is on the trailer. Set your rod holder to lean your rod at about 45 degrees to imitate fish fighting stance. Attach your fish scale to the line swivel, and you will be pulling and incrementally changing your drag until doesn’t pull until it’s reached 20% of your overall braid weight. You will pull down from the ground as if you are a fish, each time making adjustments.
If you are fishing 80lb braid, your line shouldn’t budge until you reach about 16lbs. This will prevent so many more breakoffs and over tension on your line during fights. If you are concerned about power hook setting with zero drag, then learn to back your drag the amount of turns to get you to your 16 lb goal. As you are setting your drag make a mental note of ½ turns and back your drag that amount once the fight has begun. This will allow you to achieve a max power hook set, while still fighting the fish with less tension on your line.
As most sports, musky fishing offers a necessary learning curve in making sure your gear is functioning appropriately, while also developing your own feel for your strength in fish fighting. These suggestions should never supersede anyone’s proven tactics but are recommending as a starting point for those either trying to remedy lots of breakage or those starting out with less baitcaster experience.