Musky are an unforgiving adversary that will exploit any weak link in you fishing signal chain.
So it is critical to be constantly vigilant in the maintenance of your tackle.
Pulled crimps, busted split rings and straightened hooks are just a few of the equipment failures muskie fisherman encounter on the water. But in most cases these failures are preventable through the proper maintenance and understanding of your muskie reels drag system.
A poorly set or maintained drag can quickly turn that catch of a lifetime into just another fishing tale.
Understanding, Maintaining and Setting your Muskie Reels Drag System
The drag system inside of a bait casting reel is a series of friction plates comprised of metal discs and carbon fiber washers that create the "stopping power" needed when a muskie attempts to run or take line. This simple friction based system can over time become worn and require servicing. The constant pressure and friction exerted on a reels drag components can lead to binding and break offs or slippage and missed hook sets.
How to service a drag system varies with each brand of muskie reel but in general this entails simple cleaning and lubrication. Extreme wear of a musky reels drag washers may call for a complete replacement of these components. Servicing a reels drag system is an often overlooked but regular lubrication and cleaning will keep things working smoothly and prevent the drag plates from binding when they are under stress.
Setting your Muskie Reels Drag
One of the most common mistakes musky fisherman make is having their drag improperly set.
Most crank their drag down to the tightest setting possible thinking this will help them "bury the hooks" when a muskie decides to strike. But in general this drag setting is not only over kill for hook setting but is a recipe for disaster if a muskie hits boat side.
When a large muskie strikes with just the leader past the rod tip having some give in your reels drag is the only thing that will prevent break offs and heart ache.
Getting the right setting dialed in on your muskie takes a little experimentation but can and should be done before you hit the water. If your reels drag system is clean and lubricated you should be able to pull line off the spool smoothly at any setting. I start by cranking the drag adjustment down to about the mid way mark and pull some line at the rod tip to make sure things are moving smoothly. This is when you should pay special attention for any "binding" as the drag should pull very smoothly on a medium setting. If you experience "binding" or the drag feels "jumpy" it may require maintenance. If things are nice and smooth at a medium setting continue to crank the drag down until it begins to take "considerable" effort to pull line.
As mentioned before I pull line at the rod tip as a muskie would, not at the reel seat.
Many anglers incorrectly test their drag by pulling line near the reel. I do not recommend checking your drag settings in this manner as the force exerted at the rod tip is a closer representation of a drags setting during a strike.
The setting I am looking for is one in which line can be pulled in a direct manner but the reel will not slip if given a hard tug. So to test for this I set the drag to the point that I can pull line off the spool with a smooth pull but the reel doesn't budge with a hard sharp pull representative of a strike.
I can not stress how important it is to periodically check your reels drag settings during the course of a muskie fishing day. Drag adjustments can move from vibration, handle turning, temperature and can even tighten due to moisture reaching the drag plates.
Super Reels and Too Much Drag
The new breed of muskie reels on the market boast drags up to 25 and 30lbs.
One paper this may sound great but this is absolutely overkill and more often than not a recipe for disaster. For decades I have personally fished with Abu Garcia 6501's that come stock with 12lbs of drag that have been more than enough to get the job done.
Recently I have made the switch to Diawa Lexa reels and have found the 25lbs of stock drag to be far to extreme and at times hard to dial in. This situation was easily remedied by removing one of the reels larger carbon fiber drag plates, thus cutting the reels over all drag weight down considerably. This simple modification eliminated many of my concerns like the potential of a break off from the drag being set to tightly. If you have experienced boat side break offs or other drag failures with modern "Musky Super Reels" it may be time to lessen the overall drag potential in your reel.
Musky fishing should always be a fun experience so don't let your reels drag be a drag on your day.
Keep it clean, lubricated and set for success.
Tennessee Musky Fishing
Tennessee Musky Fishing
Melton Hill Musky