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Max Drag vs. Line test weight. Am I safe from breakoffs?

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Hi All,

I've never really had a big fight where the fish pulls much line/runs and was wondering if you could give some insight on proper drag adjustments and line test weights for when I (hopefully) hook up with a cow.

I am using a 4000 sized reel with max drag of 13 lbs according to the specs. Does this mean that if I use 25lb test braid there is no chance of the braid snapping even if I crank the drag down as much as humanly possible?

If that's true, I did have my line snap once so assuming that was from frayed line?

Even the 8000 size reels I see have max drags of 25lbs. Does that mean that if using 25 or 30lb test, breaks should be near impossible in pretty much all cases?

Nobody's ever really explained drag to me and I just set it by 'feel' when pulling a bit of line with my hand since I'm worried it would snap if too tight.

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The amount of drag increases as line goes off the reel.  Also as you raise the tip of your rod and put a bend in it.

 

The general rule of thumb is to set the drag at 25% of the lines actual breaking strength.  You can go 33% with a lever drag reel.

 

Buying a scale, using it to set your drags and test the strength of your knots, is a very good investment.

 

Do not trust those advertised drag ratings.  Most reels wouldn’t survive being fished at them.  Do not trust the label on a spool of line either.

 

If you really want to up you game, trying lifting a pail with a known weight of water in it.  You want to get to the point where you can feel how much pressure you are putting on a fish and what your gear is capable of.

 

It might surprise you how hard it is to lift even a modest amount of weight, especially in real fishing conditions.  Just be sure to never bend your rod more than 90 degrees.

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I am not sure in the world of braided a hard rule can be made.  At least not without stipulations.  Such as what is the real drag capacity of the reel.  What is the actual break strength of the weakest knot.  What is the rod actually rated for?  If its all properly matched up OK but it never seems to be.

 

With braided people are using line with 3x the break strength of when they used mono and still have more capacity LOL. Not to mention no stretch to take a good amount of that tension and shock before drag comes in.

 

It seems many rods are broke from high sticking which was not the issue it is today back when most were fiberglass.

 

If I am in open water I tend to go lighter on drag and if there is structure I can get broke off on I go higher.  All within weakest knot break limits with a healthy cushion.

 

It may very well be that using rod bend can be easy initial setting.  Tie line off  (ideally using a scale)rod at 45°and put tension to before 90°  bend say 80°( as spool is full etc)..  That way the line will release in a good safe range of rod tip flex.  Of course this assumes that much tension to flex is within safety range of line knot break strength etc.

 

You can always add or take away a bit once a fish is on and you get a feel for it.

 

Maybe its a bad idea and there are good reason not to?   

 

Given its a system I would think all the parts limits (drag, line, rod) have to be taken into account.

 

Edited by RiverShoulders

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Russ57 gives good advice. Personally, I go by 'feel'...I fish a lot of different scenarios for striped bass, and where I want my drag set varies given the situation. If it's not an "I need to stop the fish before it gets 'there'" type of place, I will not lock my drag down and, instead, attempt to set my drag so that it gives just before the point that my rod is bending into the danger zone. This varies depending on which rod I'm using that night. There is also the function that, when a fish makes a sudden run, it will pull the rod/your hands down towards horizontal momentarily; and at this time is usually when the drag engages. This is good because it keeps max pressure on the fish until it needs to give some slack. I would say that if your smaller catches aren't taking any drag, your medium ones make the drag sing 1 or 2x for a brief second, and your biggest fish have an initial short run and another when the fish realizes wtf is happening, then your drag is set right. The only scenarios in which a striped bass should take a lot of drag (IMO) is when you're using a rod too flimsy for how big the fish is, or when you've hooked into something very big and you're worried about line strength.

After I breakdown and clean my reels, I am always guessing how my drag is set. I let the first few fish I catch tell me how accurate that guess was.

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Wanna find out what your rod, reel, line and drag can really do?  Go outside, clip your terminal tackle to your garage door, mailbox, tree, whatever, and pull.

 

I think you'll be surprised how hard you have to pull on 25lb test to break it.  Be sure to put the rod perpendicular (sideways, 90 degrees) to where you're clipped, so you're getting the effect of the rod fully bending.  If you're not putting all that leverage on the rod, it's not the same test.

 

Aside from that, line breaks are almost always going to come from 3 things............ frayed/damaged line, a cracked guide, or a sticky drag.

 

All the care with your line and drag settings will be for naught if your drag is sticky and not working really smooth.  That initial force required to break the drag free is a huge factor when it comes to break offs.

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I think the reason you are seeing different answers is because of different locations and the tackle used relative to the fish.

 

I’m near Miami.  Down here we have a lot of moderate sized fish that are very fast and some fight well.  I think we tend to use lighter tackle too.  Used to be folks used a 4/0 and 30# for sailfish. Now some are using 12# on a spinning reel.  I can tell you when you are doing that you really can’t afford to be guessing on your drag setting. Also you better not try to adjust it during the battle.

 

Some of the fish down here are going to make 100 or 200 yard runs.  And these guys are swimming fast, like 60 MPH. Guys panic and get broke of when they have enough tackle to win the battle.

 

It all starts with knowing the limits of your gear and being able to judge by feel where you are at. While I don’t adjust my drag on the water, unless it’s a lever drag, I will cup the spool to stop a fish when I must.

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You should also be using the rod to fight the fish, not just the drag.  Remember to pump the rod, pull the fish with the rod, drop the tip and reel as you do.  Even 8-10 lbs of drag is alot, you're more likely to pull a hook at higher drag then land fish if you're horsing a fish in.

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I've only used 22 pounds of drag once, in a losing battle, I had a good friend behind me, ready to catch me when the line snapped (he did). The leader wore through, rough skin I guess.

If you set your drag over 20 lbs, there's a good chance that a bruiser will pull you right off your rock

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