OUTDOORS: LeBlanc: Hard-learned tips concerning reel drags

I know many people are really getting excited about the upcoming hunting seasons and are waist deep in preparations. There is so much to do and so little time.

I believe the “so little time” is a symptom of our 21st century lifestyle, but for those not aware, dove season for the Central Zone opens Sept. 1.

Besides getting ready to go hunting, I am one of those folks that are still fishing. I will be fishing as long as the temperature stays 68 degrees or higher. When it dips below that, I revert back to the days of my youth. If the temperature was too cool to be comfortable in a long sleeve shirt and denim jeans, it was too cold for me to be on the water fishing. It was not, however, too cold to be in the marsh or woods hunting. I am not sure where, but there used to be some kind of logic in that.

I feel the need to share with you something I did on one occasion that caused me immense embarrassment. It undoubtedly raised my blood pressure beyond the boundaries of acceptability and allowed a trophy largemouth bass to get away. Even though it only rolled at the surface and the fish escaped, it was surly a trophy-size bass. Now that I think about it, every fish I ever lost was a trophy-size fish.

I will back up to the beginning events that led up to my misfortune.

Most anglers do not spend a lot of time reading the instructions that manufacturers of fishing reels include. All the instructions I have ever seen state specifically to loosen the drag when you are finished fishing, which eases the tension on the drag mechanism and thereby extends the life. Believing they probably know what they are talking about, I release the drag after fishing.

On this occasion, I was fishing with a friend of mine. We were out shortly after daylight, and everything was beautiful, quiet and peaceful. One of the things I really enjoy about fishing is the peace and solitude.

I could have just sat there and soaked up some of old Mother Nature instead of wetting a hook, but I was there to fish, so I decided I had better bait up.

I took the reel cover from one of my favorite outfits: an Ardent X1000 bait casting reel, spooled with 12-pound Stren Fluorocast line and mounted on a 6 ½-foot Castaway worm rod. Over the end of the line, I slipped a ¼-ounce worm weight and tied a 4/0 Daiichi, bleeding bait worm hook. I then selected a 6-inch soft plastic worm in the very popular color called Watermelon Red and mounted it in the fashion know as Texas rigged. I was into some serious fishing.

We were in an area that was about 6 feet deep and covered with underwater vegetation and logs. I slowly dragged that worm over the logs and stumps and, suddenly, a bass hit my lure like he had no intention of ever letting go and took off across the cove.

I whipped back the rod tip to set the hook and had virtually no resistance. I tried reeling in my line and setting the hook again with the same results. In the meantime, the line was peeling off my reel as the fish ran to only he knows where.

Finally, he spit out the worm and went about his business while I sat there in a mixed state of wonder at loosing the fish and trying to figure out what happened. Then, it hit me: I had not tightened my drag before I started fishing.

When I retrieved my lure, that expensive hook that usually sticks into my fingers at least a half a dozen times while tying it to the line, had not even penetrated the worm. I would have liked to blame the hook — or anything else, rather than the operator — but I could not.

I have room for one more drag experience. This one occurred when I was out crappie fishing with a friend of mine who was a fishing guide on Lake Conroe.

We came to a brush pile where we were to start fishing, and my friend told me to loosen my drag because hybrids sometimes came through the area. If the drag was set too tight, they would break the line. I loosened the drag knob a turn or so and dropped my minnow over the brush.

All of a sudden, my rod bent almost double, and then the line snapped. All was quiet. The next sound was my friend saying, “I told you to loosen your drag.” Under his close scrutiny, I loosened the drag until he said it was enough. He was right, and I landed a nice hybrid a little while later.

Share this Post