12/06/07 – I used to be asked, “do I really need a disk drag” it was a frequent question. Now I’m seldom asked that because even most entry-level reels have a disk drag. There are still plenty of older models of spring and pawl reels out there but not many offered as new reels.
Why – because Disk Drags are a good thing. One of the biggest reasons is they allow you to put a lot of pressure on the fish and get fish in quicker. The key there is QUICKER. It is the same reason I use a net. I can get a fish into the range of my net quicker if my drag is set and I can net them while they are still hot.
I often back my drag way off – easier for me to strip out line and it protects my tippet on the initial strike and run. However, after that first run I crank on my drag and work that fish in as quickly as I can. If I’ve got no drag save the click and pawl over-spin prevention setting it just plain takes me longer to land that fish. Many times I don’t need to set the drag but when I get a good fish increased drag allows me to land fish quicker.
I know I could palm my reel and at times I do – usually on the mid-sized fish – the ones not big enough to require adjusting the drag but a little to big to allow them to run as they wish. However, if I get one of those 20” plus Landlocks on Grand Lake Stream using light tippets I’d rather have a SMOOTH drag then my fumble fingers protecting my tippet. And in a little darker water than that of Grand Lake Stream if I get a bigger fish and I’m using 2X tippet I crank that drag down and play that fish hard to my net.
IF&W’s number one listing in “TIPS FOR CATCHING AND RELEASING FISH” is “TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE” and I think they are right. I think a lot of fish are over played and even if an exhausted fish swims off that doesn’t mean the built up Lactic Acid won’t cramp them up and kill them later.
So what’s the down side – Disk Drags that aren’t smooth? Yep, that’s the answer and how smooth a drag is can be hard to determine. Almost all of the reels today feel smooth in the shop. Heck, they’re brand new and bright – they’ve never seen sand and grit, never been dropped. They ought to be smooth. So how can you tell – well you really can’t. To my way of thinking there are few ways to know.
So if you want a good SMOOTH drag you can read reviews but usually the person doing the review has only used the reel they are reviewing for a few hours. You can buy from a reputable manufacturer – that’s pretty safe – putting out good product is how they earned their reputation.
There are other good ways to get a good smooth drag but my favorite is to ask someone that has been using a reel model for a couple of seasons. Chances are if someone has been using the reel for a season or two they have a good idea if the drag is smooth after use or only smooth right out of the case.
One feature that you can look for on a Disk Drag reel is an easy to adjust drag knob. There are reels out there that have good smooth drags but small drag knobs. Small knobs are hard to find and adjust in the heat of the battle. I don’t want to search for and then fumble with my drag knob. I want a drag knob that is easy to adjust without having to look for and at it. I don’t care how they make it easy. The can make them big, make them mid-size with indents for your fingertips – I don’t care how but the manufacture has to address ease of adjustment.
I guess I could sum this up by saying that I feel Disk Drags are good things if they are smooth AND easy to adjust. They are good because they allow me to play a fish hard and to apply pressure rather than letting the fish run over and over until it tires. I’d rather break a fish off than play it for 8 to 10 minutes because I didn’t play it hard and fast.
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