Spinning-reel back-reeling vs relying on a drag for fighting and landing fish.

Posted on February 27th, 2020

I had a very interesting call a while back from a gentleman by the name of Ralph Kryder who called me from Texas, USA. The main topic of our conversation had to do with what I call an “old-school” way of fighting fish when using a spinning reel. It’s called “back-reeling” without using the drag on the reel. As a fish swims towards you the angler reels forward to pick-up line. As the fish takes runs and fights the anglers reels back-wards to allow the fish to take like. I’m an avid steelheader and when I use a center-pin reel that has a 1:1 gear ratio with not drag, I either use my hand to add pressure to the spools “rim”, or I back-reel to let the fish take line.

While you may think this is primitive, I can assure that if you know what you are doing, you have much better control when letting it take like out.

What are the benefits of using the “back-reeling” technique to fight fish?

  1. Your line will never get twisted as it can from reeling in against a fish taking drag.
  2. Some reels don’t have good drag-systems, they are either too loose, or when you increase tension, they are two strong.
  3. When you are fighting a fish you often need to adjust the drag to either loosen it or tighten it. This in itself can cause you to loose a fish if you don’t do things just right.
  4. You can use a much lighter main line and often leader since you have much better “manual” drag control.

The other topic we discussed was the advantages of using smaller hooks and lighter leaders which in many cases when the water is clear and you target fish with good eyesight, it produces more fish.

  1. The smaller hook is less visible.
  2. The lighter leader is less visible, and it gives you a better presentation when using live bait or smaller lures.

Here is a great tip to teach kids how to properly fight a fish using the “back-reeling” technique. In Ralph Kryder words, “I have taught my grandchildren and several of my fishing friends automatic back-reeling by, tying a paper clip on the line to represent the hook, give them the rod with the spinning reel anti-reverse off, have them close their eyes, and react to my pulling on the line simulating the fish running, being retrieved and running again, since for the most part they don’t often see the fish running, this is a good drill for them to learn to trust this method, big thing is to keep always a slight tension on fish so that the rod is slightly bent, you have to be ready for sudden runs especially when fish get close to boat.”

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