Drag washers in fishing reels including spinning, round conventional baitcasting , or low profile baitcasting reels produce friction (drag) to slow down a fish after it is hooked.
Different materials are used by fishing reel manufacturers to create the fish-slowing drag. Some, such as carbon fiber, are more efficient than others. Friction creates heat. The bigger the fish, and the longer the battle, the more the potential exists to generate and store heat within the drag components, usually a stack of several flat washer-type metal disks with fiber disks in between them. Heat adversely affects the performance of reels and the smooth pay-out of line to prevent fishing line breakage.
The increasing popularity of braided fishing line, which allows an angler to load a reel with a much heavier line due to its comparative thinner diameter to monofilament fishing line, also allows for the application (cranking down on the drag) of more drag pressure. To prevent a line from snapping when it’s, “Fish on!” 25- 30% of the breaking strength is the usual drag setting for monofilament fishing line, braided lines, or copolymer fishing lines. A fishing reel loaded with 60 lb. test braided line should be set to handle 20 lbs. of drag or pulling resistance.
For many years felt washers impregnated with oil were used as the fiber component. Also cork, and leather, were and still are, used in some cases as drag washers. They did an okay job until technology took a step forward and brought along the aforementioned braid super lines. In addition, many anglers are tech-hungry and are always anxious for new products that can outmatch their prey.
The arrival of space age technology found its way into fishing tackle. Carbon fiber materials used in aerospace manufacturing for high-heat areas such as aircraft and racecar brakes, offered the perfect material for fishing reel drag washers. Carbon fiber does not generate heat, it does not swell or change shape when used to control friction, and it is unaffected by water. It is pretty much bulletproof as drag washer material.
Some spinning reel builders equip their reels with carbon fiber drag washers. They are typically alittle bit more expensive than those with felt-fiber washers, but the extreme improvement in performance is well worth the few extra dollars. Take the time to look around for brands that include carbon fiber drag washers as original equipment.