Hello everyone! I had originally posted this in the Dec/99 issue of the Reel Angler Magazine and had forgot about it for awhile. Still pertinent info to this day!
Everyday someone will come into the shop with a reel that has the gears stripped out of it; and the common complaint that goes with it is "I was hooked onto a 30 pound spring and tried to stop it with the drag!"
Well, if the line or the rod doesn't break, something else has to! There seems to be a lot of reels with 30+ pound line on them, when that particular reel is only rated for 20 pound MAXIMUM!
If your having trouble stopping a fish, use your thumb 'til it gets too hot, then start runnin'!
Another common problem we see is that reels are washed, rinsed, dropped or thrown into the river "just to clean it". As this may seem like a good idea at the time, believe me, it isn't! The ball bearings in these reels only have a light oil in them, and is easily washed out with some water, and unfortunately this water also carries with it, sand, dirt, etc..
After a reel has been either submerged in water or fished in heavy rains, the drag will not work properly (just as the breaks in you car slip when they are wet). The only way to get rid of this water is to disassemble, clean, and replace (most of the time) the drag washers. A good indication that the drag is shot, is if the line is not stripping off the spool smoothly under load, or it just won't pull in the stick you snagged for the third time!
When you are done fishing for the day, be sure to back off on the drag tension star. Over time, the pressure on the drag washers will tend to squish them flat, sometimes even pushing them outside of the gear, which in turn will shed into little pieces, jamming up the gearing in general chaos, then you're back to square one and replacing the drag.
Common drag washer materials include cork, leather, Teflon, cloth, or a hard composite. When these get worn, there will be a shine to the washers, denoting that they need replacing. The drag plates are the flat steel washers that put pressure onto the drag washers. If these plates have a blue tinge to them, it's a sure sign that some large fish have been hooked, and they should be replaced as well. Sometimes if the reel has not been dried out, these plates can become rusty, which will make for very poor drag performance!
Hopefully this will shed some light on why the drag won't work anymore, and why you reel's makin' some funny noises after a hard day's fishing. See you out there!