How to Maintain the Drag on a Spinning Reel

The last thing an angler wants is for the line to snap when reeling a fish in which is why drag maintenance is a must!

Fish on! You’re in the middle of a fight with a bonafide monster! Zap! Snap! Broken line! Your drag just locked up! Maintaining a fishing spinning reel drag is one of the simplest tasks out there but one that many people fail to do. While disassembling the drag is an easy task even for the novice, there are a few tricks to doing this correctly.

First, understand the type of drag on your spinning reel. The two most common drag types used today are oiled-felt, and carbon fiber. Regardless of the type of material in the drag, disassembly is the same. Stop! Is there WD-40 on the table in front of you? If so, put it someplace else where you will not accidentally use it. Do not use WD-40 as a solvent. Unscrew the drag knob by turning it clockwise. Stop again! Is your drag waterproof? The Cadence Fishing spinning reels have a rubber gasket to keep water out of the drag and use a thick layer of grease to protect the underlying drag discs. If all looks good at this point (no water or grit penetration) and you have not experienced any jerks when fighting a fish, no need to go any farther. If you do, take a small screwdriver to release the spring clip holding the various washers and discs underneath. Carefully turn the spool over to drop the drag assembly into the palm of your hand. Lay out the different components of the drag in sequence so you can put them back together correctly. Now that you have disassembled the drag, here’s how to maintain the different types of drag systems:

Oiled-Felt

The most common problem with a felt spinning reel drag is the angler leaves the drag tightly set 100% of the time. That compresses the felt out of shape. Therefore, the first step to maintain a felt based drag system is to always unwind it a few turns after using the spinning reel. If you discover the felt discs are squished and mangled, replace them.

If the felt is still serviceable, brush the discs with a soft bristle brush and apply a good reel cleaning solvent like Reelx to remove any caked-on grit (no WD-40!). Gently work the solution into the felt with your fingers. Once done, grab a soft and dry cloth (microfiber is always good) to soak up the solvent. Do this for each felt component. The metal washers are easy to clean – merely wipe them off with a clean rag. If rusted, remove it with steel wool or fine sandpaper. Once the felt is dry, work a few drops of reel oil into each. Be careful not to apply too much and never apply grease! Felt is only lubricated with oil.

A carbon fiber drag system consists of carbon and metal washers.

Carbon Fiber

Scrutinize each carbon fiber disc for wear. The outside edge should be smooth, and the disc should have a constant thickness. If you find anything unusual, replace the disc. Just like you did with the felt washers, brush the dirt off with a soft brush, apply a good spinning reel solvent and clean the surface by gently rubbing with a soft rag. Check the metal washers to ensure they are not warped or rusty. Dry off all the components to remove the solvent.

Now, here is where you must be careful. The manufacturer may have used either oil or grease with the carbon fiber drag system. Do not mix-and-match. If the drag was packed in grease, use grease when you put it back together. Look at the reel’s diagram from the manufacturer to see what type of lubrication you should use. It will tell you where to apply grease and where to apply oil.  “Cal’s” is a good option for grease if you don’t already have some on hand.

Don’t forget!

Regardless of the type of drag system, do not forget to clean the spool. Apply some solvent, wipe clean and dry. You may as well lubricate the line roller bearing and handle knob while you are at it. However, resist the temptation to open the spinning reel and mess with the gears or bearings. If the spinning reel cranks smoothly, everything is fine. Many anglers get into trouble when they try to take apart the gears/bearings – so leave that for another day when the performance of the reel indicates it is required. That said, it won’t hurt to put a drop of oil or two on the shaft before you put the spool back on.

Captain Chris Myers with a nice catch after cleaning the drag on one of his Cadence spinning reels!

If you would like to see a video demonstration, Captain Chris Myers of Longwood, Florida does a nice job of showing how he cleans the drag systems in his Cadence spinning reel. You can see his video here.

What if you find some of the components have worn out? Depending on the cost of the replacement, this may be the time to assess the overall condition of the spinning reel and decide whether it has seen better days. If the gears are binding and not cranking smoothly, or the replacement discs are expensive (don’t forget the shipping charge!), put it out to pasture. If so, Cadence has many inexpensive, high-quality replacement options – be sure to check them out.

Once the drag is back together, adjust it appropriately. To reduce the chance of line breakage, set the drag to about 25% to 35% of the breaking strength of the line.

 

Now, go fishing!

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