Putting the Heat On

How to properly set your drag to stop big fish.
John Ashley
Setting your drag pre-sets properly is one of the easiest yet most important tasks to stop big fish. Using a lever-drag reel the angler can set his or her drag pressure for the strike button on up to full drag to take the guess work out of how much pressure they're applying to the fish.
Pre-setting drag pressures is a very straight forward and easy task. One of the advantages of a lever-drag reel is the strike drag button. When the drag is pre-set correctly the lever can be pushed to the button in a hurry after hooking a marlin. The reel can also be marked in increments with a piece of tape so the angler can precisely adjust the drag pressure during the fight.
As the line diameter on the spool decreases, the drag pressure increases dramatically. Because the reel pictured here is nearly half empty the angler pulled the drag lever back to prevent the line from breaking.
When the fish is close to the boat the angler can push the drag back to the strike position. Here a beautiful 700-pounder made one last jump for freedom just off the transom. Make sure you don't put too much heat on the fish.
To catch blue marlin the captain uses the boat to chase the fish down and keep the blue from stripping all of the line off the reel. Once line is retrieved the angler can increase the drag.
Depending on the size of the fish or how much drag pressure the angler can handle, the fight can often be won without increasing the pressure much further than the strike position. Here Johanna Benazeth won a hectic 45-minute battle with a 700-pound blue using up to 45 pounds of drag.
It's a different story with huge black marlin. This solid 1,100-pounder did not run all that far before diving for the depths. Most experienced anglers fighting big black marlin keep a minimum of 45 pounds of drag on their 130 reels even in the early stages of the battle to win a quick fight.
Experienced angler Paul Caughlan fights a monster black marlin into the dark off the Great Barrier Reef, using up to 85 pounds of drag. Note the drag lever is pushed all the way to sunset, as far as the lever will go for maximum drag.
This Shimano 80W lost all of its line to a red-hot 900-pound blue marlin. We were fishing on an old 50-foot, single-screw vessel that couldn't back-up or turn quickly enough to keep up with the fish. The drag was eased back to almost free-spool during the fight but the line parted with just a few yards left on the spool. The side plate was so hot you couldn't touch it.

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