Set Reel Drags Dynamically on Lake Ontario

In this post we will discuss how to set reel drags dynamically when fishing on Lake Ontario. When done correctly, this is the most fool proof method we use to make the proper adjustments. It takes the guess work out of it!

On our charter boat, we have over fifty rod and reel set-ups that we may use on any given day. Some have lite line, some have heavier line, depending on the application and target species. Each class of reel requires different drag tension adjustment to be effective.

There will be differences in drag tension according to lb test line and where it is deployed. For instance, a lite line rigger rod with 15 lb test requires less drag tension than a 500 ft copper off a planer board. So how do you set reels dynamically for all of the different set-ups?

Set reel drags dynamically like these shown

Finding The Sweet Spot Drag Setting

Believe it or not, the method is exactly the same for all reels. The trick is to set the drags when the rods are in their perspective use and under load. We call it finding the “sweet spot“. Let’s start with setting a rigger rod!

Ideally, when a rigger rod fires, we want to be able to start reeling while its still in the rod holder. The drag needs to be tight enough to be able to gain line without having to increase drag pressure to set the hook. Too lite of a drag and you have to thumb the spool so it doesn’t slip. Too heavy of a drag, the fish can’t run and you’ll probably break off or pull the hook.

The way to set the drag dynamically is quite simple. While the rod is in the holder, reel down until there is a good load on the rod. The ideal drag setting will allow you to reel down even more while under load, but still be able to pull line out with two fingers. You either add or subtract drag tension checking each time to make sure its set correctly! With a little practice it becomes second nature.

Multi-functional Use

This same method of setting drags applies to every set-up that we use. On board coppers, when we set drags dynamically, drags are tight enough so that we can still reel in to clear a line, but also, pull line out with two fingers. We set our divers this way, too! Tight enough to reel but loose enough to pull with two fingers.

A couple of points to keep in mind. When ever you make a drag adjustment, always check it. The last thing you want is to be too tight on a drag with that last little tweak. Dry drags are the most forgiving in adjustments when dialing in that sweet spot and are much preferred over a wet drag system. A good drag system is a must when setting reel drags this way.

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