Q Jim’s question is a long one and space here is limited. To summarize, he wonders why offshore reel handles rotate when the fish runs and whether anglers should palm the rim during a fight.
During a fish fight you should be recovering line or the fish should be taking line. Rarely should you find yourself in a Mexican standoff. When you crank a direct drive, you recover line. When you crank an antireverse, you may recover line, or the fish may strip line from the spool while you crank. This is wasted effort that can tire the angler, and it is the major reason why most top fly-fishermen prefer a direct drive.
Referred to as knuckle busters, direct-drive reel handles spin when the fish escapes; antireverse handles remain stationary. But knuckles get busted because people crank incorrectly with a direct drive. You don’t wind in large fish. Instead, you pump the rod to draw the fish near, and as the rod is lowered you wind in line. Realizing this, if you hold the handle by the tips of your thumb and first two fingers, you can easily recover line as the rod is lowered. If the fish bolts, the finger tips slip from the handle, and no injury results. That is why most direct-drive reels have a handle that is round and tapers – so the fingers can easily slip off.
As for the rim control, you will find that the more experienced anglers who fight big fish have a lightly set mechanical drag. If additional drag is necessary, they use a glove on the line hand so they can palm the reel spool, trap line against the rod and in other ways add additional drag. The advantage is that if the fish surges away, the hand can be instantly removed, no shock is transferred to the tippet and the fish will be free to run on a light drag.