Fishing Reel Drag Significance

 

By Live to Fish Team Member: Josh Stewart

Every fisherman can relate to that moment when a fish makes that first strike.  It’s completely and utterly exhilarating and easily one of the most intensely exciting moments.  The strike is one of the best experiences anyone can have in life, period.  For the fishing enthusiast, simply reading those few sentences likely caused memories of strikes in the past.  Perhaps your pulse rate quickened a bit.  Memories of large snook, trout, or redfish, exploding to the surface to smash your topwater!  Perhaps thinking of the first strike invoked memories of occasions when a live bait was out and your rod suddenly doubled over; the drag screaming.  The level of excitement is one element that brings us back to the water with rod in hand, time and time again. It’s what keeps us throwing cast after cast.  Sometimes late into the night, hoping for that strike.  It’s what gets you out of bed at ungodly hours like 3:30 or 4:00 AM in preparation to be on the water before sunrise.  The passion is what can result in having more fishing gear than some of the tackle shops you go to.  Personally, I just bought a new tackle bag to fit my gear in.  I went from a normal, respectably sized soft tackle box, to a duffel bag large enough to pack a year’s worth of clothes in.  What’s worse?  I think nothing of it.   The desire is what can actually cause thoughts such as, “if I just eat just spaghetti for a week, I’ll be able to afford that reel…,” and not have the least bit of concern over whether you’re thinking is rational.

Once the fish takes your bait, the tug of war begins.  Fighting your fish gives rise to the moment of truth.  You’ll find out whether you tied your knots correctly.  Whether you used heavy enough line and leader.  Whether you chose the right rod.  You’ll also discover quite a lot about a very important component of your fishing reel –  the drag.   The drag is simply a pair of friction plates inside of fishing reels. Drag systems are a mechanical means of applying pressure to to act as a friction brake. Drags supply resistance to your line after hook-up to aid in landing the fish without the line breaking. When you take your rod’s ability to flex, the technique applied, and your drag, and combine them together, it’s possible to land a fish that weighs more than the pound test line you’re using.

If your fish pulls hard enough, your fishing reel’s drag will be engaged.  If the drag is overpowered, your spool will begin to rotate backwards.  By rotating backwards, your spool is turning in the opposite direction it would be if you were reeling in.  Essentially, your reel’s drag system is letting line out.  On a baitcaster, your spool is spinning in the same direction it would be if you were casting.  On a spinning reel, the only time your spool will rotate is when line is pulled off by a fish overpowering your drag.  A degree of resistance to use against a large and strong fish  is a benefit.  If your reel did not have a drag system, or if you cranked your drag down so tightly that you effectively cancelled out your drag system, the most likely result would be a broken line.  The exception would be if you were fishing with a pound test fishing line far above the weight of the fish you caught.  A common practice among bass fisherman is to tighter their reel’s drag down all the way, then yank the bass out of the weeds and other vegetation as quickly as possible.  One way to think of your drag is like a bungee cord.  When you see people jump from great heights strapped to a bungee cord, they don’t suddenly stop when the length of the bungee cord is reached.  There’s a stretch that occurs; resulting in the person bouncing up and down for a while.  Your fishing reel drag is not a bungee cord, but it will let line out when a fish is making a run for it.

What are those, “friction plates,” mentioned above made of?  Today, discs used in a reel’s drag system can be made from a number of different materials.  Fishing reel manufacturers have taken it upon themselves to mix varied materials together in a proprietary blend.  There are also aftermarket drag washers.  Carbon fiber is a popular material.  It’s not uncommon for people to change out their drag washers.  I recently purchased a Shimano Stradic 5000FJ.  The reel was used and did not look like it had received the best treatment.  I unscrewed the drag tension knob on the front of the spinning reel.  I removed the odd shaped retaining pin that holds the drag washers in place.  Turning the spool upside down, I shook the drag washers out.  What didn’t fall out was later removed with a small screw driver.  The reel’s drag system was pretty much shot.  The felt washers that were installed were essentially rotted to nothing.  I purchased carbon fiber drag washers for that model reel.  Replacing drag washers is probably one of the easiest repairs or maintenance duties you can do yourself.  It’s also relatively inexpensive.  Most carbon fiber drag washers can be purchased for less than $10.00.  Pay attention to the sequence in which the metal plates separate each drag washer if you’re going to replace what’s in your reel now.  You’ll also want to determine whether you need to apply drag grease to the washers to ensure it functions properly.  If you have a rather popular spinning reel, there’s likely to be a video on YouTube showing you how to do it.

Drag Washers
Carbon Fishing Reel Drag Washers

Drags used to be made of one of two materials; either felt or cork.  Felt is a fibrous, seemingly resilient material.  Hence, it became a material used in fishing reel drags.  You will still find some reels today using felt or cork, but it’s rare.  Felt is not a particularly good choice as a drag material; especially with what other options exist.  How it used to work as a drag disc material was that it was kept oiled.  The oil prevented the felt washers from burning up inside the drag stack and allowed the system to ‘slip’ under pressure. The problem was, after a period of time, the oil would burn off.  That’s where the problems started.  When a fish runs, a great deal of heat is generated – that’s what a drag system does – develop friction and therefore heat; just like your car’s brakes. When the heat is prolonged with felt washers, it will actually melt the felt; turning it in a plastic dust and leaving you with a drag system that is metal on metal friction.  Not what you want to have happen.  The result would be seized up drag, followed by a lost fish, broken line, possibly a reel that is so badly damaged it’s time for a new one, and most certainly one upset angler.  If you have a reel with felt drag washers, the felt washers should be checked regularly.  They can become compromised because of all the pressure and heat. When compressed, felt drag washers can’t hold the oil they need to keep doing what they do.  If you’ve ever heard the tip, “don’t store your reels with the drag tight,” this is why.  In order to know where to look to determine if you have felt drag washers, unscrew the drag tightening knob at the top of the spool on your spinning reel.   Felt drag washers will appear as shown in the photos below.

dragpieces
Felt Drag System Removed from Reel

Spinning Reel Felt Drag Washers

Fishing reel drags have come a long way over the years.  Thinking back to what fishing must have been like before today’s engineering efforts have paid off in terms of fishing reel drag systems, Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea comes to mind.  Written in 1951 and published in 1952, it was Hemingway’s last full – length work published during his lifetime.  Though the tale is an extreme example of what fishing without a drag would be like, it does provide a basis upon which one can learn to appreciate the systems available now.


If you have questions about what fishing rod, fishing reel, line, leader, or any other gear is right for you, please contact us.  You can contact us through our website or email fishing questions directly to Josh Stewart at josh@buydmi.com.  Perhaps you’re trying to buy fishing gear as a gift.  Someone in your family loves fishing, but you don’t know what to get them because it seems that they either have everything, or you don’t know enough about fishing tackle to make a selection.  No problem!  We’ll walk you through ideas and provide you with some options to consider.  Visit: livetofish.com

Florida is the World’s Fishing Capital

By Live to Fish Team Member: Josh Stewart

A common concern expressed by parents and conservationists alike is that our youth is spending more time indoors and less time enjoying outdoor activities.  Most fears exist due to something being unknown.  In this case, the unknown is the actual number of people, both teenagers and adults, who participate in wildlife–related outdoor activities.
From 2006 through 2011, our country saw a dramatic increase in the number of individuals participating in outdoor activities. More than 90 million U.S. Residents, age 16 and older, took park some form of wildlife recreation in 2011.


The State of Fishing

Florida Fishing at Sunset
Fishing Florida’s Waters

While that statistic is positive for the country as a whole, the State of Florida alone brings more than its fair share to the table.  Florida has an enviable reputation for a number of outdoor sports.  Above all, our most noteworthy outdoor recreational activity is fishing.  Florida is known as the fishing capital of the world.  Florida has more fishing world records than any other state or country.  With 1,197 statute miles of coastline, 2,276 miles of tidal shoreline, 663 miles of beaches, and more than 11,000 miles of rivers, streams, and waterways, Florida provides ample opportunity for vacationers and residents to fish. In 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau did a National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Recreation.  In 2006, there were 2.6 million anglers in Florida.  In 2013, the number of anglers in Florida rose to 3.1 million.

Economically, Florida has one of the top producing fisheries in the country.  We rank #1 in the number of saltwater anglers OUT OF THE ENTIRE COUNTRY.  Florida saltwater fishing licenses generated $37,555,602.00 as reported in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s 2015-2016 fiscal year.  The recreational fishing industry in Florida is a reported $7.6 billion dollar per year industry that supports 109,300 jobs; according to 2014 NOAA data.


Florida’s Underwater Ecosystem

Florida Turtle Grass - Thalassia Testudinum
Florida Turtle Grass

It’s not just Florida’s numerous fishing opportunities that make the State number one.  It’s the quality of the various fisheries themselves.  All the coastline and lakes in the world wouldn’t make any difference if Florida’s fisheries weren’t inhabited by beautiful, healthy, and plentiful fish.  Personally, I’m grateful every time I leave land for the water.  Whether I’m drifting or motoring over a flat, paddling through a narrow mangrove lined creek, or walking along one of Florida’s uninhabited white sand beaches, I can’t help but to be in awe of the beauty before me.  Florida’s healthy turtle sea grass is most abundant from Tarpon Springs northward to Apalachee Bay in the Gulf of Mexico.  Turtle Grass (Thalassia testudinum) is the largest in Florida.  The approximate 2.2 million of acres of seagrass provides benefits to our marine habitat in that it helps to improve water clarity by collecting sediment, provides a refuge for fish, shrimp, and other shellfish, and helps to solidify the bottom with its root structure.


Prefishing Tactics

Snook on the Florida Coast
Photo Credit – @ferrociousfishing

When fishing the flats, look for seagrass; especially turtle grass.  The better you know the area where you’re planning to fish, the more likely you are to be successful.  Fisherman that participate in saltwater fishing tournaments, particularly the IFA Redfish Tour, engage in all manner of tactics in order to win significant amounts of money.  One of the tactics used by both saltwater and freshwater fisherman alike is to “prefish,” an area.  Prefishing is the process of going out and fishing the area in which the tournament will take place, as many times as possible, under the same tidal conditions that will exist on the day of the tournament, before the actual competition.  For your average fisherman with an actual job, prefishing is simply not realistic.  Most of us can’t just say to ourselves, “well, it’s Tuesday… and the tide is going to be high at 10:00 AM… the tournament I’m fishing in a few months from now will also have a high tide that day at 10:00 AM… so, I’d better just not do anything other than get out on the water, see what’s biting, where, and on what kind of lure.”  Though that would indeed be an enviable schedule to have, it’s not going to play out for the majority of fisherman.  Nevertheless, if you’re going to tournament fish, prefishing pays off.  On March 4, 2017, in Punta Gorda, Captain Brandon Buckner and partner Mark Sepe won $29,530.00.


Plan Ahead for Success

Use Florida’s healthy fisheries and the advantages provided by all the money Google spent to develop Google Earth, to your benefit.  Use Google Earth to scout out potential spots by looking for areas where there might be a deep hole, a sandy area surrounded by seagrass, rocks, oyster bars, and other fish holding structures.  The more time you can devote to learning about where you plan to fish, BEFORE you get on the water, the less time you’ll spend determining whether you’re in a spot likely to hold fish.  Less time spent scouting for spots means more time with your rods in the water and hopefully with fish on the end of your hook.  You’ll also save fuel.  If you have the financial resources, you may want to consider hiring a fishing guide for a half day, and preferably, a full day of fishing.  The cost varies per guide, area, and season.  It’s worth your while to find the best guide you can for the area you plan to fish the most.  You can ask for recommendations at tackle shops.  You’re welcome to contact us for any references on fishing guides.  You will learn more in that one day from a guide than you’re likely to learn in months on your own.


Live In The Present

As a closing piece of advice, work to ensure you never take the beauty Florida has for granted.  When you’re fishing, think about how many people in the world would love to trade places with you.  Think about how many people pay thousands of dollars for a Florida vacation.  Whether you live here or you’re just visiting, you’re in a unique and amazing state; that just happens to be the fishing capital of the world. To help ensure you’re getting the most out of your time spent on the water, feel free to contact us with any questions.

 

 

Effectively Fish Far and Wide

Inevitably, every fishing trip ends.  What happens in between separates the good trips from the bad.  The memorable moments from the mundane.  One of our goals at Live to Fish is to ensure your fishing experiences that would otherwise be ordinary or dull are a thing of the past.  We’re happy to share our knowledge and resources.  With the benefit of our expertise, you stand a much better chance of creating some of the best  fishing memories you’ll have.  Though we can’t improve relations with your in – laws, we can help ensure you end up with more fish on the end of your line.

 

Common knowledge provides that our planet is mostly covered in water.  For fishing purposes, that means you’ve got a lot of ground… er, I mean water to cover.  For most of us, fishing trips don’t happen every day.  When they do, the duration is limited.  In order to make the most of that limited time, some suggestions are provided for you to consider.

Backwater estuary 2015Your fishing trip plan (float plan) should involve hitting several very specific spots.  Sure, you can just drift a flat and see what hits.  You can also enter an airport and buy a ticket to a location based on nothing other than how soon the next plane is taking off.  The point is, most people invest some degree of pre-planning.  If one of  your proposed spots is particularly expansive, you’re going to want to find out if fish are there as quickly as possible.  Yes, fishing is about relaxing, slowing down, and simply spending time on the water.  An article about finding fish quickly seems inconsistent with establishing the leisurely pace most associate with fishing.   A pace some believe should be the rule, rather than the exception, when on the water.   At Live to Fish, we understand and encourage adopting a laid-back attitude on the water.  We recognize the importance of reconnecting with friends and family.

Backwater creek 2015

Now, with that issue put to rest, who said, “reconnecting,” or, “leisure time,” doesn’t involve putting as many fish in the boat as possible?  No one!  Certainly no one at Live to Fish.  We’re out on the water for comradery.  We’re out there for the opportunity to teach a young son, daughter, or grandchild the benefits of fishing.  In case you’re wondering, as a matter of fact, yes… we have been aboard when the fishing slows down, and inevitably heard someone make the hackneyed, thoughtless remark, “that’s why they call it fishing and not catching.”  Ugh….That’s a pet peeve around here.  Call it what you want.  We leave the dock to catch.

So, the question becomes: what’s the fastest way to explore a large body of water to confirm the presence of fish?

If you’re offshore, high speed trolling is one option.  High speed trolling would be dragging your baits while your boat is going between 14 and 20 knots.  Such speeds result in covering more distance than proceeding at traditional trolling speeds.  Keep in mind that those high speeds are only going to attract certain predators.  Specifically, those predatory game fish willing and capable of attacking a bait moving that fast.  One such predatory gamefish is a wahoo.  Wahoo swim at speeds that exceed 60 mph.  So, trolling at 14, 16 and even 20 knots has become commonplace through using techniques developed by Capt. Ron Schatman, winner of a dozen major Bahamas wahoo tournaments over five years.  High speed trolling is not only limited to targeting certain species, it’s also a method of fishing limited by weather conditions.  No one aboard will be too thrilled about proceeding at 18 knots in windy weather and a sea state consisting of a 6’ foot chop.

If you’re inshore, consider using search baits.  A search bait refers to a type of lure you can work quickly and effectively over a large body of water.  Three of the most effective are: crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and topwater lures.  Certain jerk baits also fall into the search bait category.  When prospecting with search baits, you’ve got a good chance of getting the fish to show themselves.  Once you’ve nailed down a location, you can switch to more finesse style baits. deep-diver-crankbait

To help you paint a mental picture, imagine the following scenario:   You’ve just motored behind a mangrove wall.  This living wall of mangroves is high, thick, and about a half mile long.  A thing of beauty in and of itself, behind the wall exists a superb grass flat.  The mangroves do an excellent job of hiding this gem of a fishing spot.  You found it by accident one day about two years ago.  Since then, you’ve disclosed it to no more than one other fishing buddy.  Though you can’t imagine being the only one that knows about this spot; thus far you’ve never seen another boat here during any of your visits.

You’re careful with your approach.  At just over 100 yards away, you cut your engine.  You cover the remaining distance with your trolling motor.  You don’t dare run your trolling motor at a speed above a 2 or 3.  Particularly wary redfish will spook from the sound of trolling motor being run at high speed.  Perched on the bow with your rod in one hand, you’re panning from left to right; thanking god some optometrist figured out that polarized lenses in sunglasses would benefit fisherman.

It’s been a beautiful morning.  The seas are flat clam.  The run from the dock to this spot was like crossing glass.   The tide has been coming in for the past few hours.  High tide is only about a half hour away.  From experience, you know this spot is most productive right when the tide changes.  There’s something deeply satisfying about knowing you’re in the right place at the right time.  That sensation is what you’re experiencing now.

When the tide shFlatsifts to outgoing, baitfish are flushed from the estuaries that surround this flat.  Snook and Trout await these baitfish.  You watch the ever-changing imagery beneath your boat slowly pass by.   It’s mesmerizing.  The water is crystal clear.  Kind of like floating on air; and only about 4 feet deep.  Rich, thick turtle grass covers the bottom with intermittent patches of white sand.  A small sea turtle just swam off and away from your boat.

Just like a golfer doesn’t play a round of golf with just one club, you don’t go out on the water with just one rod.  Your favorite rod and reel combos are aboard.  Rigged up and ready in your rod holders.

Your mind begins to drift… You want one of those Minn Kota® iPilot trolling motors; or at least one you can steer with a remote control that hangs around your neck.  Barely audible, a sigh escapes as you think about the latest saltwater fishing technology. . . Then you snap out of that ungrateful reverie.  Fortunately, you’re quick to realize you have more to be grateful for than you’re acknowledging.  You laugh to yourself, knowing you’ll never believe you have enough fishing gear.  You continue your approach while remaining as stealthy as possible.

You’re not certain where the fish are.  You just know they’re in the general vicinity.  You unhook your lure from the hook keeper.  It hangs free at the end of the leader, slowly swinging back and forth about two to three feet from your rod tip.  Yep.  You’re ready to start making casts.

The scenario described above is one in which use of a search bait would be beneficial.  Whether you’re making casts from the bow of your boat, or casting from land, the best way to work a lure while using it as a search bait is to, “fan cast,” the area.  This simply means to cast from one side to the other, throwing your lure in a spot slightly farther away from the last place you threw it out each time.   Once you reach the other side, you move and fan cast another area.  When you’re where fish the fish are, using this method will result in your lure meeting up with one of their mouths soon enough.

At Live to Fish, we’re passionate about much more than just the sport of fishing.  We admit to being obsessive over how our business is run.  We want to ensure that each and every customer finds dealing with us to be easy, enjoyable, and productive.  If our showroom in Hudson, Florida is too far, check out our website at www.livetofish.com   You can contact us through the website.  We’ll gladly answer any questions you have.  Should you want an item you don’t see on our webpage, LET US KNOW!  We take pride in being able to find the products our customers want at competitive prices.  Although we can’t guarantee we’ll find anything you may ask, we can guarantee that if anyone can find your product, it’s us.  What do you have to lose?  Looking forward to hearing from you – Live to Fish

Stilt House Photo