Mike Jones - KEEPING UP

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Thursday, September 06, 2018
Do or do not?
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Trailer Park

Do you believe in magic?
If you had a magic switch that could make life better, would you use it? And just so you don’t think it’s a trick question, there is no downside to using the magic switch. It is, as the saying goes, all good. Oh yeah, one other thing — it’s free. There’s no upcharge, no fine print, no hidden fees. In fact, it comes as standard equipment. Better yet, if you don’t want to use it, simply flip the switch. But, why would you not want magic?

There is, however, one small requirement. You have to spend a few, very critical minutes learning how to operate it. Nothing difficult or dangerous, just a brief tutorial on a basic motion most any seven-year-old could master. That’s it.

“Why?” you might ask would anyone in their right mind not use the magic switch?

It’s a good question, which is why I’m asking it of you. If for some phenomenal stroke of good fortune, you happen to be the one-in-ten fisherman who actually uses the anti-reverse switch on your spinning reels, I apologize. For the rest of you, please read on, because I will tell you something the manufacturers and most professional anglers will not, specifically that backreeling will make you a better fisherman. It will put you in command and save you fish, especially the very largest ones.

If backreeling sounds simple, that’s because it is. If you feel a little indignant that your favorite manufacturer, sponsored pro or television angler hasn’t told you about the value of the magic switch, you should.

While I’m only speculating as to their reasons, I’m relatively sure it has something to do with marketing. Reel companies generally tout their drag components as being key to your buying decision. So, instead of hunky angler models putting the hurt on a big fish and high-tech, exploded reel diagrams, what if their ads said, “Don’t worry about the drag, just reel backwards. It’s better!”

Routinely lost in any discussion of backreeling is that, ideally, the better the drag system, the more confidence you can have in the technique. Contrary to popular opinion, experienced backreelers don’t hammer down their drags. Yes, the drag is set stronger than normal in order to maintain control during the fight but, by all means, the drag system is still in play.

Should the need arise to dally up and hold a fish at bay — perhaps the result of structure or cover considerations that would put an end to the contest — the perfect drag setting would give just enough to avoid a breakoff. The rest of the time, you should be using the best and most sensitive drag components ever invented — your hands.

For those who still resist backreeling, the physics in­volved will make your decision look even worse. Even with quality components, proper maintenance and correct settings, there comes a point in an overwhelming percentage of man vs. fish squabbles when your drag system ceases oper­ation or, at best, is severely compromised. Adding insult to injury, it happens at the very worst time.

The closer you are to the fish and the higher your rod tip, the more severe the angle of the line. The more acute the angle, the less effective your drag. At some point, the drag setting is hammered down by the laws of geometry, something which occurs precisely when you are feet or inches away from the trophy of a lifetime. It happens when your line has been weakened, when the rod is maxed out and when any last spurt, final lunge or desperate head shake is the only thing separating you from a great day and the other kind.

Over the years, I have heard the argument for simply loosening the drag as a fish gets closer. My initial reaction is to shout out an expletive and then bemoan the precious minutes lost in life by arguing with someone who ignores the obvious.

Rather, I most often suggest they take a spinning rig outside, tie the line to something a few feet in front of them, raise the rod as if landing a fish and slowly start backing off the drag. When the drag starts working, lower the rod and check how light the setting. Without much resistance, what happens now if that big fish takes another run?

Apparently, fishermen who don’t backreel (some of whom proudly proclaim their ignorance of the technique in online chatrooms) can quickly and accurately retighten the drag under severe duress. Who knew? What could go possibly go wrong there?

Still, all of this begs the question: Why? Why jump through all these hoops? Why spend money on the best and not make the best of it? Why not take advantage of an advantage handed to you? Why not flip the magic switch?

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