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Wet Vs Dry Drags

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reproduced with the kind permission of Alantani

wet versus dry. seems like i've been fighting this battle for the last 10 years. what's the big deal? i still get asked once in a while, so i'd like to go through some points that i think are important and then i think you'll have a better idea of where i'm coming from.

just so we're all on the same page, i'd like to define a few terms i use. the first is "start up." when you first pull on the line, some drags tend to stick a little, so you have to pull a little harder. once the line starts moving, it may take, say, 5 pounds of drag to keep the line moving. that initial pull may take 6 pounds to get it started. that extra pound (or 20%) is what i refer to as "start up." with a horribly sticky drag, the start up might be as high as 100%. my personal preference is zero.

the next is your drag setting. simple enough. it's the number of pounds needed to keep the line peeling off the spool once it starts moving. that number will increase as the spool height decreases. it actually doubles when the spool height decreases by half. for spinning, star and lever drag reels, i will quote a drag setting but always add "at the top of the spool, " even if i do not.

then there is "accelleration" or "high speed runout." this is the nasty tendency for a greased drag to become more slippery. a gentleman named cal sheets has done work some on this. imagine a situation with a large shimano tiagra 80, a 50# drag setting, and a 500# tuna. such a fish might take a 100 yard run in 10 seconds. cal sheets had found that the functional drag would decrease as much as 40% during these hard runs. it was not necessarily a function of temperature, it was interestingly more a function of speed.

the shimano star drag grease is a pure teflon product that has a melting temperature of 300 degrees farenheit. when applied in excess, this problem with accelleration was noted. when the excess was removed, it became less of a problem, but i do not know how much less. cal sheets also now sells a pure teflon grease. it has a melting temperature of 500 degrees farenheit. it is applied liberally to the drag washer of a large lever drag reel, then the excess is vigorously wiped off. cal sheets says that this has eliminated the problem of accelleration. i have no reason do doubt his work, but i have not seen the data.

and lastly, my definition of a properly functioning drag system. try this with your own rod and reel. spool the reel with a desired line weight. let's say 20 pound monofilament, just to pick a number. place the reel on the rod. run the line through the guides. tie with line off to a 5 pound weight, which is 25% of your line weight. clamp down on the drag star. reel down to the weight. lift the rod up until the grip is at a 45 degree angle. now adjust the drag until the weight drops one foot every 5 seconds. if your reel can perform to this level, then you have near zero start up. this is my definition of a properly functioning drag system.

regarding greased carbon fiber drag upgrades in top drag spinning reels, bait casters and small to medium conventional star drag reels, i simply find a carbon fiber drag washer that gives me a "best fit." i can cut them down to size pretty easily if needed. i slap a thick coat of grease on the drag washers, install them and let the grease squeeze out the sides. when i first started doing this, my friends were amazed at the smoothness and level of performance and reliability. many tackle pros, shop owners, repair personel and industry were adament that i was totally wrong. sometimes, it got personal. so what i did was to slap in more grease, and then take pictures. i just used the excess grease in non-lever drag reels just to annoy the non-believers. and one fisherman, after another, after another, would say "yes, i own this reel," and "yes, it is as smooth as he says." oh, and "yes, these drags last forever!" and for the most part, the harassment stopped. it is true that you get no respect on the internet without pictures.

what about lever drag reels? i always wipe off the excess, but that is because it allows me to get a higher strike drag setting before losing freespool. i am also concerned about accelleration, but i believe it will only be an issue with one fisherman out of 10,000. the start up remains zero and that's my main concern. the grease also prevents water damage to the drag washer and aluminum underneath. and when i say that i've almost won, here's what i mean. shimano started out with greased carbon fiber. they get credit for that original innovation. you will now see greased carbon fiber drag washer in all of the flagship two speed lever drag reels, including penn, daiwa, okuma, accurate and tiburon. only avet and alutecnos have dry systems. someday, that too may change. and then i will call my victory complete.

why no grease star drag reels from the major manufacturers? only progear has a greased carbon fiber drag system. i can only guess, but perhaps other manufacturers consider this system to be too expensive. and why make a reel with a drag system that will last forever, when they would rather have you buy another reel. as for spinners? they WANT you to buy a new one each year. otherwise, why would they introduce a new model every year? basically, start up is the main issue here. accelleration will never be. but this is a battle i know i will never win. it is simple frustration on my part, but i wonder somtimes if companies deliberatly make a reel that they know will fail, just so that they can sell another one.

Alan Tani

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