The title of most powerful drag found on a readily available, ‘small size’ spinning reel belongs to the Kastking Sharky III which offers 33lb of drag on a 1000 size reel that weighs just 7.6oz.
While the Sharky III has a powerful drag. It is not a reel I usually recommend. It is slightly larger than most 1000 sizes, more a 2000 or even 2500 size. It is designed to fish 6 to 8lb line.
It should go without saying, that 33lb of drag is an insane amount on such a small reel, there are very real reasons why more established brands usually max out at 11lb on similar size reels. Such heavy drag pressures simply put too much strain on the lightweight frame and gearing.
I am in no doubt that the Sharky III will break or bend if the full drag pressure was applied. This reeI is a perfect example of what happens when the marketing department choices the specs rather than the engineers.
Bigger numbers are not always better. But if you want a small fishing reel, with the most drag possible the Sharky III seems to be the answer.
Mainstream ultralight spinning reels with massive drags?
I checked my ultralight spinning reel database to find the mainstream reels which advertise the most drag. Two brands claim to offer 14lb of drag pressure.
First up we have the Abu Garcia Elite Max which seems like a fairly decent reel. It does weigh in at 7.9oz making it quite heavy for its line capacity but that should mean it is built solidly enough to actually handle the full drag pressure. So it could be a good small spinning reel for skull dragging fish out from cover.
The Mitchell 300 is another lightweight reel that claims to offer 14lb of drag. It actually weighs in at 6.8oz which is the lightest of the three, but also with the lowest capacity. It has been a while, since I have tried a Mitchell reel I personally would buy, and the 300 is not an exception. If you must have 14lb of drag, I feel the Abu is better.
Good ultralight reels with powerful drags?
There are many reels that offer 11lb of drag including the Daiwa Regal LT which is one of my favorite trout reels.
These are true ultralight reels and are very well made. They are built lightweight and feel very refined when fished with 3 or 4lb of drag pressure. I do fear the frame will start to flex if the full 11lb of drag pressure was directly applied.
This might be why Daiwa also makes the Laguna LT series of reels. They are heavier, but also much stronger. So if you have a real need, to force a lot of drag pressure on a tiny reel they will be one of my top choices. The Laguna retails for under $40 which is cheaper than any of the above.
Now, virtually all Daiwa reels in the ultralight size range offer the same 11lb of drag pressure.
It also could be worth looking at the Penn line-up of reels. Penn reels are known to be built tough and can be trusted to handle powerful fighting fish. The Penn Battle lineup of reels offers full metal construction and costs around $100 while offering 9lbs of smooth, powerful carbon drag.
For additional information and full reviews of many of the above reels I suggest checking my ultralight spinning reel buyers guide. In it, I have discussed and reviewed the 12 ultralight spinning reels which I feel offer the best value.