Don Allphin

The code for type “F” (fluorocarbon) line, 16 (strength), and “19” the age of the line is shown.

Last Saturday, while jigging for lake trout on Flaming Gorge, I hooked a huge lake trout that took a five-inch white tube jig tipped with sucker meat in 65 feet of water. Even before lowering my lure to the bottom and hooking the fish, I knew exactly how I needed to handle the behemoth because I knew exactly what line was on the reel.

Here is a tip that will help you know exactly what line is on each of your reels, so when that fish of a lifetime chooses to bite, you will improve the odds of landing the fish based on knowing the type, strength, and age of that line.

My father took pride in rarely replacing the line on any of his fishing reels. I remember listening to him talk about line that had been on one of his reels for over a decade. He also had many stories about, “the one that got away.”

Children learn from their parents, and when it comes to changing lines there is no question my dad’s influence is front and center. Now, I change lines at least yearly (or more often), and with 15 rods and reels in my bass boat at any one time, that’s a lot of line to change.

To avoid any confusion as to what type, strength, and age is spooled on each reel, I write with a Sharpie (in code) the line information on the side of each reel. For example, if I were to have 14-pound-test monofilament line that I spooled on this year, I would write “M1419” on the reel (for fluorocarbon, “F1419”).

Most of my reels are white, but with dark ones, I write the code on tiny stickers and place one on each reel so I can see it at a glance.

Why would you go to so much trouble?

You need different lines for different fishing techniques. For example, monofilament line floats so when fishing topwater lures, that’s the line I choose. Whereas, fluorocarbon line sinks so when I am fishing weighted lures such as tube jigs, spoons, or other lures that need to be on or near the bottom, that’s the line I choose.

The other parts of the codes are just as important as the type of line. The strength of the line is crucial to match the size for the fish you plan to catch. If I were to be fishing in heavy cover (trees, brush, or rocks) I would want a stronger line than if I were fishing in open water with a sandy bottom.

Finally, the last part of the code is for the year the line went on your reel. All line deteriorates over time, and you may be able to get away with the same line for a couple of years if you don’t fish very often, but line really should be changed once a year.

If you wonder how I change the codes each year, I just take a cleaning product that will remove the permanent marker ink and change whatever needs to be updated. Or, I just put a new sticker on the reel.

As for my huge lake trout last Saturday, it started in 65 feet of water and I knew 10-pound-test line (M1019) was on the reel so I needed to be careful and loosen the drag so the fish could take line and get tired. From 65 feet, it stripped line for five minutes, eventually ending at 159 feet (according to my fish finder).

I played the fish well, followed it with my trolling motor and when it stopped diving, I began slowing bringing it up from the depths. Then, after a series of slow-motion head shakes, the fish threw my lure, the line went limp, and it was gone.

The moral of the story is short and sweet. Sometimes fish simply shake the hook, regardless of whether or not you know the type, strength, and age of the line on your reel.

Don Allphin can be reached at

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