Your Ultimate Fishing Terms Glossary

Understanding the Basics: A Linguistic Cast into Fishing

Before we dive into the fishing terms glossary, it’s crucial to grasp the significance of these terms in the context of fishing. Fishing terms are more than mere jargon; they encapsulate centuries of tradition, technique, and the evolution of the sport itself. These phrases and words serve as the foundation of communication among anglers, enabling them to share tactics, experiences, and stories with precision and clarity.

Fishing, with its rich history and global appeal, transcends being merely a pastime. It’s a world filled with its own language, a collection of terms that can seem esoteric to the uninitiated. This guide is your compass through the vast sea of fishing lingo, designed to equip you with the knowledge to not only understand but also engage in the angler’s conversation. Let’s embark on a journey through the alphabetized glossary of fishing terms, ensuring you’re well-prepared for your next aquatic adventure.


Fishing Terms: The Angler’s Alphabet

  • Action: Refers to the responsiveness of a fishing rod, its ability to bend and flex under pressure, and how it returns to its neutral position.
  • Aft: Directional heading of behind when facing the bow.
  • Anadromous: A fish that lives primarily in saltwater, but travels up freshwater rivers to spawn.
  • Angler: Gender-neutral term for a person participating in the activity of fishing, typically for recreational purposes.
  • Artificial Lure: An artificial bait designed to trigger a strike from predatory fish, constructed from materials like wood, plastic, metal, or foam.
  • Backlash: A tangling of the line on baitcasting reels, also known as a bird’s nest.
  • Bag Limit: The maximum number of fish an angler is allowed to keep on any given day.
  • Bail: A metal mechanism on spinning reels that holds and guides the line.
  • Bait: Organic or live material used to entice a fish into biting, such as worms, small fish, or other items.
  • Baitcasting: A casting technique using a baitcasting reel, where the weight of the lure or bait is used to propel the line out.
  • Bay: An area of a larger body of water that is surrounded by land except for a small area that leads out into the larger body of water.
  • Bead: Used against a weight to create sound for attraction, or as an artificial lure resembling an egg in trout and salmon fishing.
  • Beam: The width of a boat measured at its widest point.
  • Bobber: A floating device, also known as a float, used to suspend bait in the water and indicate bites.
  • Bow: Front part of the boat when a vessel is under power/moving.
  • Brackish Water: A mix of fresh and saltwater, found in coastal areas where seawater mixes with freshwater.
  • Bronzeback: Smallmouth bass.
  • Bucketmouth: A big bass, namely a big largemouth bass.
  • Carolina Rig: Features a sliding weight above a swivel connected to a leader and hook, allowing the bait to be picked up without resistance.
  • Catadromous: A fish that primarily lives in freshwater, but travels out into the ocean to spawn.
  • Channel Bass: Red Drum or redfish.
  • Chicken: Mahi Mahi or Dolphin.
  • Chromer: Steelhead trout, an anadromous form of the rainbow trout.
  • Chum: Ground-up baitfish used to attract game fish by scent and oils.
  • Chumming: The practice of throwing fish parts, blood, or other material into the water to attract fish.
  • Creek: A small, often not navigable body of water branching from rivers, also known as a brook or stream in some regions.
  • Cut Bank: A cliff-like bank on a creek or river indicating a deep hole beneath, typically found where the river bends.
  • Dink: Small fish.
  • Ditch Pickle: Largemouth bass.
  • Downrigger: A trolling device for setting baits at desired depths, attached to the boat with a weight and reel system.
  • Drag: An adjustable reel feature controlling the tension needed to pull the line out.
  • Drop Off: A sudden change from shallow to deep water.
  • Drop Shot: A rig with a hook suspended above a bottom weight.
  • Dry Fly: A fly fishing lure that imitates insects floating on the water surface.
  • Eddie: A slow-moving, deep area of a river adjacent to fast-moving water.
  • Eddy: A circular movement of water, often found downstream from an obstacle, creating a spot where fish may gather.
  • Fathom: The unit of measurement for water depth. One fathom is equal to six feet.
  • Fish of 10,000 Casts: Muskellunge or Muskie.
  • Flat: A large, shallow area in a body of water with minimal structure, common habitat for various sportfish.
  • Fluorocarbon: A type of fishing line known for its invisibility underwater and resistance to abrasion.
  • Fly Fishing: A technique using weighted line to cast lightweight lures or flies, typically in rivers.
  • Fly Line: The heavy, usually colored line used in fly fishing to cast flies.
  • Football: Large smallmouth bass.
  • Fore: Directional heading of forward when facing the bow.
  • Gaff: A pole with a sharp hook on the end, used to land large fish.
  • Googan: Unlicensed and/or lackadaisical angler.
  • Graph: Fish finder/sonar.
  • Gravel Lizard: Walleye.
  • Gunwale: The side or upper edge of a boat.
  • Honey Hole: A prized fishing spot known for consistent catches, closely guarded by the angler.
  • Hook: A bent piece of metal with a sharp point for catching fish, available in various shapes and sizes.
  • Hookset: The act of setting the hook into a fish’s mouth when it bites the bait.
  • Ichthyology: The branch of zoology that deals with fish.
  • Jetty: A man-made structure extending from the coast to create a shipping channel, often used as a fishing spot.
  • Jigging: A fishing technique that involves moving the rod up and down to make the lure move in a jerky manner.
  • Knots: The various methods of tying fishing lines to hooks, lures, or other tackle.
  • Lake: An inland freshwater body of water, typically naturally occurring and of a larger size.
  • Leeward: Direction of facing away from the wind.
  • Line: The cordage attached to lures or rigs, made from materials like monofilament, fluorocarbon, or braided nylon.
  • Logs: A large barracuda.
  • Lure: An artificial bait designed to attract fish, mimicking the appearance or movement of their prey.
  • Magnetic Brake: A baitcasting reel adjustment that controls spool movement, preventing backlashes.
  • Main Lake Point: A peninsula in a lake with shallow water extending from the point and deeper water on each side.
  • Monofilament: A single-strand fishing line, popular for its versatility and ease of use.
  • Nautical: Immediately after undocking of vessel. On the Water day drinking at family cabin.
  • Nymph: A sub-surface fly fishing lure designed to imitate insects.
  • Outrigger: Used in offshore fishing to extend lines away from the boat, made from fiberglass or aluminum.
  • Oxbow: A crescent-shaped body of water adjacent to a river, created by river flooding and receding.
  • PB: Personal best.
  • Paper Mouth: Crappie.
  • Pier: A man-made platform extending into a body of water, used for fishing and recreation.
  • Pig, Toad, Monster, Mondo, Tank, Slab, Hog, Lunker, Donkey, Hog (or Hawg), Fatty, Bull: Terms used to describe a big fish.
  • Planer Board: A floating device used in trolling to spread lines wider from the boat.
  • Plug: Hardbody lures for mimicking wounded baitfish, used in both freshwater and saltwater.
  • Plugging: Using a plug, a type of lure designed to mimic the behavior of a baitfish, in casting.
  • Pond: A small, usually man-made body of fresh water, with fish present through manual stocking.
  • Port: Left side of the boat when facing the bow.
  • Quiver tip: The sensitive tip of a fishing rod, designed to detect the slightest bites.
  • Rapids: Fast-moving water on a river, also known as a ripple or run in some regions.
  • Rattle Trap: A brand of lipless crankbait (branded as Rat-L-Trap), but can refer to similar lures from various brands.
  • Reaction Bait: Lures designed to elicit instinctual strikes from predatory fish, such as spinnerbaits or chatterbaits.
  • Reel Handle: The part of a reel turned to reel in line, also known as a crank.
  • Reel Seat: The section of the rod where the reel is mounted.
  • Release: The act of letting a caught fish go back into the water.
  • Reservoir: A large, man-made body of water created by damming a creek or river, used for various purposes including recreation.
  • Retrieve: The method of moving bait or lure through water via reel cranking.
  • Rig: Any setup tied onto the main line for catching fish, ranging from simple to complex configurations.
  • Rip Rap: A man-made bank/shore made of rocks or boulders to prevent overflow and erosion.
  • River: A naturally occurring body of moving water, categorized as major or tributary.
  • Rod Action: Describes the bend of a rod, with faster action rods bending more at the tip.
  • Rod Power: Indicates a rod’s resistance to bending, affecting casting weight and sensitivity.
  • Shovelhead: Flathead catfish.
  • Sinker: A weight to help rigs sink, often made of lead or tungsten.
  • Skam: Another name for a steelhead.
  • Skirt: Rubber strands tied around a jig head for added action and profile.
  • Skunked: Failing to catch any fish on a particular outing/trip.
  • Spawn: The time of year when fish deposit sperm and eggs in order to reproduce. The exact time and ideal conditions for spawning vary by location and species.
  • Spinner Blades: Metal blades on spinnerbaits that rotate underwater, reflecting light to attract fish.
  • Spinning: A casting technique using a spinning reel, suitable for lighter baits and lures.
  • Spool: The part of the reel that holds the fishing line.
  • Spooled: When a big fish takes out all of the line from the spool of the reel due to its pull.
  • Stacked: An area/location where fish are abundantly found during an outing/trip.
  • Starboard: Right side of the boat when facing the bow.
  • Stern: Back part of the boat when a vessel is under power/moving.
  • Tackle: The various gear items like hooks, sinkers, and swivels used for fishing.
  • Texas Rig: A rig with a bullet weight, bead, and hook for soft plastic baits, used commonly with worms or craw baits.
  • Thermocline: A layer in a body of water where the temperature drastically changes to colder.
  • Trailer: A soft plastic lure added to jigs or reaction baits to mimic baitfish.
  • Transom: Flat surface on the stern of a boat where an outboard motor is typically mounted.
  • Trolling: Pulling a lure or rig through water by boat to mimic moving prey.
  • Ultralight: Refers to fishing with very light equipment, lures, and line, enhancing the challenge and sport of catching fish.
  • Umbrella Rig: A setup mimicking a school of baitfish, used for bass and striper fishing.
  • Vest: A garment worn by anglers, equipped with multiple pockets for storing gear and tackle.
  • Wacky Rig: A finesse bass fishing presentation with a soft plastic worm rigged through its center.
  • Waders: Waterproof garments allowing anglers to enter water without getting wet, used in fly fishing.
  • Walter: Another name for a Walleye.
  • Windward: Direction of facing the wind.
  • Wiper: Hybrid striped bass (a cross between a striped and white bass).
  • X-rap: A type of lure known for its versatility and effectiveness in various water conditions.
  • Yellowbelly: Juvenile bullhead catfish.
  • Yield: The amount of fish caught during a particular fishing trip or period.
  • Zooplankton: Small, often microscopic animals found in water, serving as food for many fish species.

***This is an ongoing fishing terms glossary and is periodically updated.


Fishing Terms Video in 4 Minutes

The Art of Angling: Beyond the Fishing Terms

Once familiar with the foundational terms, anglers often explore more sophisticated techniques and strategies. Advanced fishing involves not only a deeper understanding of these terms but also an appreciation of the nuances of different fishing environments and species behaviors.

Fishing Terms: A Shared Language for a Universal Passion

The world of fishing is rich and diverse, offering endless opportunities for learning and growth. By familiarizing yourself with these essential fishing terms, you’re not just expanding your vocabulary; you’re deepening your connection to a tradition that spans cultures and centuries. Whether you’re casting a line into a serene lake at dawn or engaging in a spirited discussion with fellow enthusiasts, the language of fishing enriches your experience, bridging the gap between novice and expert, and between human and nature.

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