Some reader discussion over a bizarre reel-drag test I described in a blog last week titled “That’s Such A Drag” reminded me of the following tip on how to test your own reel drags simply and cheaply. No, you don’t need to tie your line to the back of a speeding pickup truck. Just do the following in a few minutes at home.

Holding the line from your reel in one hand, allow the reel to hang freely. At a very light drag setting, the reel should descend slowly and evenly to the floor. If the reel won’t drop slowly of its own weight against the drag, loosen the drag a little more. The reel’s descent should be slow and even without any hesitation or unevenness. If the reel hesitates or descends jerkily, your drag needs work. In that case, you can either ignore the problem (which I confess to doing sometimes) or fix it.

In the event of a jerky drag, the most likely problem is that one or more of the metal washers in the drag stack isn’t perfectly flat. Take the drag apart and rub each side of each metal washer on a flat sharpening stone. You should be able to see any high spots almost immediately. Work the washers on the stone until the surface of each cleans up completely. Wipe the washers off with a soft cloth and reassemble the drag, which should now work perfectly.