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NPS MEMBER Question:
My spinning reel has good drag system. Why should I be “back-reeling” when fighting a fish?
Abu Garcia and Berkley Pro Staff Member Michael Snook of Halfmoon Bay, BC, offers the following answer:
Back-reeling is a useful skill to add to your angler's bag of tricks. It gives you complete control over the fight, since you can control the amount of resistance to a running fish by either back-reeling to limit the run, or you can hold the reel handle tight, stop it from spinning, and let the drag take over. When you don't back reel, you hand control over to the drag mechanism. Many of these are now very good. None of them are perfect. And setting them properly is a bit of an art. More on that in a minute.
The problem with even a properly set drag on a spinning reel is that when a fish runs, it pulls line off the spinning spool in spirals. You get line twist as a result. It drives me nuts when I see anglers pulling out a little more line against the drag instead of opening the bail and spooling out a few extra meters instead. Line twist is never good. IF you back reel on a fish, you don't get line twist. Note that this is not true when you use a baitcasting reel.
To back-reel well you have to have a good feel for what the fish is doing, how heavy and strong it is. The downside of back-reeling is losing control of the handle when a fish runs. The reel will free spool in reverse and you'll almost always end up with a tangled birds-nest of line. Practice makes perfect. When you back reel you decide exactly how much leeway you want to give a fighting fish. You control the pressure on the fish, and therefore the fight. On a big fish, something like a walleye in the ten pound range, this can be very effective in shortening the fight and the stress on the fish. Less stress equals a greater likelihood of successful release.
Now about setting drag. It isn't about the size or species of fish you're catching. It's about the rod, the reel, and the breaking strength of your line. Here's a universal trick for setting drag. Once you've chosen and spooled on your line, pull off about 30 feet, with the bail open, and then close the bail. Tie the loose end of the line around a fence post or something solid. With your drag engaged, pull back gradually on the rod until you have a full bend in it. Feel for the rod to start "quivering” and the line to be tight enough to twang like a guitar string. Do this gradually and gently - you don't want to break anything. When you feel you're at the max stress you're comfortable with on line and rod, your drag should release and let line slip. If it doesn't, your drag is set too tight - loosen it a bit at a time till it slips. If it slips early, the drag is set too loose and needs tightening a couple of clicks. This works for any fishing conditions or species, and has to be redone each time you change line or shift your reel to a different rod. Drag is there to put maximum pressure on the fish, but also to protect your line and rod from breakage.
If you're not going to be fishing for a while, don't store your rig with the drag on - loosen it off - the mechanism will last a lot longer.
Learning how to back-reel gives you the best of both worlds - you can control the run of a fish yourself, or hand it over to the drag mechanism, or do both. And once you get the hang of it, it's a fun way to fight fish.
The Pure Fishing Team is made up of experienced and knowledgeable anglers from across the country that fish for just about anything that swims. Is there something fishing related that you're unsure of or would like to have someone else’s perspective? If so, please forward your question(s) to myself and someone from the Pure Fishing Team will answer the question(s) here on NPS and no names will be used, you'll remain anonymous. Keep the questions coming! There's no such thing as a ridiculous question if you don't know the answer! Concernant notre projet Q et R, S.V.P. noter que vous pouvez également soumettre des questions et recevoir des réponses en français.
See You On The Water,
The Pure Fishing Team