How to Set Your Drag the Easy Way

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When it comes to ultralight fishing, having your drag set to the proper tension is extremely important if you want to land more fish. Obviously, every (sane) angler wants to hook and land more fish. Since you’re using only 2-6 pound line, with UL tackle it’s easier to break your line and loose the fish. This happens most often with the larger fish, the ones you really want to land. With your drag set properly, you will greatly reduce the amount of lost fish due to line breakage.

I’ve read about of the “right way” of setting drag. This method requires you use a scale to set your drag to about 1/4 of the line strength. If you have 6 pound line, you set your drag to 1-1/2 pounds. If you’re using 4 pound line, you set it to 1 pound. Get it? The thing is, I have never used this method. I don’t even own a fishing scale. I will show you how I do it the easy way. It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. This method has never failed me before.

Before Setting the Drag

First make sure your drag mechanism is working right. Do this by simply pulling the line directly from your ultra light reel to make sure it comes off smoothly, with an even tension.

Then make sure your line is in decent shape. This means it’s not too old and has no nicks or rough spots. I prefer to change my line about every 10 fishing trips or so. This helps keep my line fresh.

Setting the Drag

First I test the breaking strength of my line. I do this by tying the tip of the fishing line to something solid like a post or tree. Use no more than 10 feet of line from your rod tip. With the drag fully tightened, I pull the rod back until the line breaks (easy with ultra light line). This helps me experience exactly how much tension the line can handle. I know what it feels like. This helps me determine what to set my drag to.

Second I tie my line to a tree again, this time loosening the drag. With the breaking strength in mind, I pull the rod again while adjusting the drag to the perfect tension. When I think my drag is set, I do a few tests to make sure it’s right.

Testing the Drag

Test 1: I imitate setting the hook. The drag might slip a little but should still have enough tension to hook the fish. Test 2: I pull the rod back fast, in a long sweeping motion to imitate a large running fish. The drag should come off the ultra light reel smoothly but have the maximum tension possible.

Now cut off and discard the length of line that you used for setting and testing the drag. There is a chance that your line could have been damaged from all the stretching. *Note: I don’t mean re-spool your reel, just remove the 10 foot tip that was off your reel while testing. You don’t want to risk losing a fish.

You’re done. This method is as easy as it gets and doesn’t require anything but the basic ultra light fishing gear and a head on your shoulders. Your drag is now set. It’s time to hit the water to hook some fish and really test your drag.

More great how to guides on the blog

How to Properly Fish with Spinners
How to Estimate the Weight of a Fish
How to Attach Fishing Line to a Reel
How to Fight a Large Fish on Ultralight Tackle
How To Free Snags On Ultralight Tackle
How to Correctly Fillet Fish

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4 thoughts on “How to Set Your Drag the Easy Way”

  1. Hey William, great post. Very important to test your gear before you hook into that monster fish and it snaps you off. Remember “it’s always fun until someone loses a fish”

    Looking forward to more great tips,




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