Decoded: A Fascinating Lexicon for the Fishing Enthusiast

Whether you’re an experienced fisherman or a beginner trying your hand at casting for the first time, our in-depth exploration reveals the language and terminology used the world of fishing.

Contents of this dictionary:



Referring to the flexibility or stiffness of a fishing rod when pressure is applied, action determines how far down the rod will flex when under strain from fighting fish. Actions can vary from slow (bends throughout its length) to fast (only bends near the tip), with different actions being suitable for different fishing techniques.


An individual who engages in fishing as a recreational or professional activity. The angler is responsible for employing various techniques to lure fish, such as using bait, lures, or flies.


The central part of a fishing reel where the line is wound around. It plays a critical role in maintaining proper line tension during casting and retrieval.

Artificial Fly

A type of lure primarily used in fly-fishing, consisting typically of feathers, fur, thread, and other synthetic materials tied together on a hook to resemble an insect or other small organisms found in an aquatic environment.

Artificial Lure

A man-made device designed to mimic natural prey and entice fish to strike. These lures can be made from various materials like plastic, metal, or wood and come in a wide range of shapes and sizes.



Any substance used to attract fish. It can be living or artificial, with examples ranging from worms and minnows to artificial lures like crankbaits or soft plastics. The choice of bait depends on various factors such as species targeted, fishing location, and personal preference.


The extra length of line attached directly onto a fishing reel before tying on your mainline or leader material. Typically made from braided Dacron or nylon material, backing serves two purposes: filling up spool space and providing extra line capacity for fighting larger fish.

Bag Limit

The number of fish that an angler is allowed to keep on any given day.


The protruding part of the hook near its point, which prevents it from backing out of and falling from a fish’s mouth

Barbless (hooks)

Hooks that lack the small protrusion near their tip that traditional hooks possess. This design facilitates easier hook removal and reduces potential harm to caught fish during catch-and-release practices.


A species of largemouth (Micropterus salmoides) and smallmouth (Micropterus dolomieu) fish popular amongst anglers due to their widespread distribution, availability in various habitats, and the sheer thrill they offer when caught.


A type of reel used for many types of fishing, which has a revolving spool.


The metal ring which rotates around the fixed spool of a spinning reel, to bring inline.


Also known as a float or cork, a bobber is a buoyant device attached to the fishing line that serves as an indicator when a fish bites.

Bottom Fishing

The tactic of dropping a bait to the bottom


Lures with propeller-like spinners designed to churn the water which creates a bussing like sound. 


Carolina Rig

This rig features a sliding weight tied above a swivel which is tied to a leader with a hook tied at the end.


The act of swinging a fishing rod and releasing the line, to propel a bait or lure through the air.

Catch and Release

This practice involves anglers catching fish for purely recreational purposes and then releasing them back into the water unharmed. It not only promotes conservation but also ensures that fish populations remain stable for future generations of anglers to enjoy.

Catch limit

Regulations established by fisheries management authorities that specify the maximum number of fish an angler can legally catch and keep within a designated time frame. These limits are designed to prevent overfishing and ensure sustainability of fish populations.


Chumming involves dispersing small pieces of bait or food substances into the water to attract fish. This technique can be particularly effective when targeting species that feed near the surface or in large groups.

Circle Hook 

A hook with a circular shape, intended to hook a fish in the corner of the jaw.


A type of lure that has a swimming action of its own as it’s retrieved through the water.


Double Haul

The double haul is an essential casting technique used primarily in fly-fishing to generate more line speed and distance. It involves using both the rod hand and line hand in a synchronized manner to increase the velocity of the fly line during the casting stroke.


The drag on a fishing reel is a mechanism that controls the resistance exerted on the fishing line when a fish pulls on it. It is an essential feature of any fishing reel as it allows anglers to adjust the tension according to the size and strength of their target species.


A drop-off refers to a sudden change in depth along an underwater structure such as shorelines, riverbeds, or submerged features like humps, ledges, or channels. These depth transitions can occur gradually or abruptly and are often prime locations for fish to congregate

Drop Shot

The drop shot is a popular finesse technique used in freshwater fishing, particularly for targeting bass. It involves attaching a weight below the hook instead of above it, allowing for a subtle presentation and enticing slow-moving fish in pressured waters.

Dry Fly

A dry fly imitates a fly or insect floating on the surface of the water.



A float, also known as a bobber or cork, is a small buoyant object attached to the fishing line that helps indicate when a fish has taken the bait. The float sits on the surface of the water and moves when there is activity beneath it.


A type of fishing line made from a polymer material that has excellent light refraction properties underwater. This characteristic makes fluorocarbon nearly invisible in the water and provides anglers with an advantage when targeting skittish or wary fish species.

Fly Fishing

An angling method that utilizes an artificial fly as bait to attract fish. Unlike conventional fishing methods where weighty lures or live baits are used, fly fishing relies on casting lightweight flies made from feathers, fur, and other materials onto the water’s surface.


Bodies of water that have a low salt content, primarily rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams.



The respiratory organ of fish, responsible for extracting oxygen from the water.


A fishing technique that involves the use of vertical nets suspended in water to catch fish by entangling them in their gills or other body parts.


The grip refers to a fisherman’s technique for holding the fishing rod while casting, retrieving, or fighting a fish. Proper grip is essential for maintaining control over the rod’s movement and transmitting energy efficiently during casting.

Grip (Overhead)

The most common grip style where the angler holds the rod above the reel with one hand placed at the butt of the rod and the other gripping higher up on the handle.

Grip (Pistol)

A grip style similar to how one grips a handgun, where the angler holds both hands close together near the reel seat.

Grip (Split)

A grip style where there is a significant gap between two handholds on the rod handle.


A mixture of various ingredients used by anglers to attract fish to their fishing spot.


A grub refers to a type of bait used in fishing, typically made from soft plastic or rubber material molded into a worm-like shape.

Guide (Rod)

A small ring-shaped component attached along a fishing rod’s shaft that guides the fishing line during casting and retrieval.



A bent piece of metal with a sharp point, typically having a barb that keeps a fish on the hook.


Jerking the rod tip back vigorously when a fish bites, to set the hook firmly into its mouth or jaw. 


Ice Auger 

A large drill used to make holes in the ice for ice fishing.

Ice Fishing

Fishing that involves the cutting or drilling holes through the ice on a frozen river, lake, or bay, and fishing through the ice.


Fishing anything inside of the Continental Shelf as “inshore” waters or protected waters.

Iridescent Fish

Remarkable creatures, with their shimmering scales and vibrant hues, captivate both anglers and scientists alike. Iridescent fish possess a unique ability to reflect and refract light, creating a dazzling display that adds to their mystique.



One of the most commonly used types of fishing hooks due to its simplicity and effectiveness across different fishing styles and target species. As its name suggests, it features a hook bend shaped like the letter “J.”


An artificial lure that imitates wounded baitfish by producing erratic movements when retrieved through the water column.


A popular fishing technique that involves using a weighted lure called a jig. This method entails dropping the jig into the water and then jerking it upward in a quick, erratic motion to simulate the movement of prey.

Jigging Spoon

A metal spoon lure that resembles a spoon in shape and is specially designed for vertical jigging techniques.

These lures are typically made of durable materials like stainless steel or nickel-plated brass to withstand the demands of aggressive strikes and heavy use.


A weighted hook used in combination with soft plastic baits—commonly referred to as “jigs.”


Keep Net

An essential tool for match anglers who participate in competitive fishing tournaments. It is a long cylindrical mesh bag designed to temporarily hold caught fish in the water during a match.


Fastening technique for securing hooks, lures, and swivels to your fishing line.

Knotless Netting

The construction method used for fishing nets wherein no knots are present in the netting material itself, resulting in smoother mesh surfaces compared to traditional knotted nets.



A length of heavier line than the main line, used to connect the lure or hook to the main line. 


A critical component of any fishing setup as it connects the angler to their catch. Fishing lines are available in various materials such as monofilament (nylon), fluorocarbon (invisible underwater), and braided (strongest).

Lip Grippers

A tool used by anglers to safely handle and control a caught fish without causing harm to either the angler or the fish. These devices typically feature a spring-loaded mechanism with rubberized jaws that can securely hold onto a fish’s lip or jaw.

Live Bait

Natural organisms like minnows, worms, crickets or insects that are used as bait for attracting fish by their scent or movement. Using live bait can be highly effective since it closely resembles the fish’s natural prey.


An essential tools in fishing, a lure is an artificial bait designed to attract and entice fish to bite.



Marlin is a highly sought-after game fish that inhabits warm oceanic waters around the world. It belongs to the billfish family and has a distinctive long bill or rostrum that it uses as a weapon while hunting prey.


Small, baitfish species that serve as a primary food source for larger predatory fish.


A type of fishing line that is made from a single strand of nylon or other synthetic materials.

It is known for its high strength-to-diameter ratio and excellent knot strength.



Fishing anything beyond the Continental Shelf or in the Ocean.


Occurs when fish stocks are harvested at an unsustainable rate beyond their capacity for replenishment through natural reproduction cycles


Overfishing refers to the unsustainable harvesting of fish from a particular area that exceeds the natural reproduction rate, leading to a decline in fish stocks.

Overhand Cast

A casting technique in angling that involves making a high trajectory cast with the rod hand moving in downward motion from back to front as a throwing motion towards the desired target area on the water’s surface.



A free-swimming oceanic fish, such as Herring, Mackerel, and tuna.


A predatory freshwater fish known for its elongated body, sharp teeth, and aggressive behavior.


A type of fishing lure that creates surface disturbance when retrieved through the water. It is designed to imitate the sound and movement of prey at the water’s surface, attracting predatory fish such as bass or panfish.


A popular brand of scented synthetic bait used primarily for trout fishing but can be effective for other species as well. It comes in various colors and forms such as dough balls, paste, worms, or nuggets infused with potent scents that appeal to fish’s senses.

Pulling Hook

A specialized tool used to extract deeply embedded hooks from fish, particularly when catch-and-release fishing is practiced.



A vital component of any fishing setup, designed to hold and control the fishing line. It consists of a spool on which the line is wound, a handle for retrieving the line, and a mechanism that allows for drag adjustment.


After successfully landing a fish and admiring its beauty, many anglers opt to practice catch-and-release. This conservation-minded approach involves carefully returning the fish back into the water unharmed, allowing it to continue its life cycle and potentially be caught again in the future.


This term refers to the action of bringing in or retrieving the fishing line by turning the reel handle. The retrieve technique can vary depending on the type of reel being used and the desired action.


Anything that is tied with a fishing knot onto a main line with hooks in order to catch fish.


An essential tool used in fishing that provides leverage and flexibility for casting and controlling fish during fights. Fishing rods come in various lengths and actions to suit different fishing styles and target species.


When a fish takes off with great speed after taking the bait or lure, it is said to make a run.



An essential component in fishing that help in sinking the bait to the desired depth.


Having no tension on the fishing line.


A snag refers to a submerged object or structure that can entangle or hook onto the fishing line when casting or retrieving. Snags can be natural formations like submerged logs or rocks, or man-made objects such as sunken boats or piers.


Spawn refers to the reproductive process of fish where they release eggs (females) and fertilize them with sperm (males).

Split Shot

A small round lead weight which is split most of the way through.

Spincast Reel

A beginner, push-button style reel which is usually inexpensive, simple to use, but not the most reliable.

Spinning Reel

A reel which uses a bail to take up the line and lay it on the reel’s spool, instead of the spool itself revolving.


A metal lure shaped like a spoon, which is used as a fishing lure.


A device consisting of a thin rope or metal clips used to hold fish for harvest


A structure refers to any physical feature in the water that can provide hiding places or shelter for fish.

Surf Fishing

Fishing in the ocean while standing on the beach.


A lure which mimics swimming on its own when pulled steadily through the water.


Terminal tackle with an eye at either end, which can rotate in the middle.



The equipment used in fishing, including rods, reels, lines, hooks, baits, lures, and other essential accessories. The choice of tackle depends on various factors such as target species, fishing technique, and personal preference.

Tackle Box

A box or bag with special compartments to hold terminal tackle, lures, hooks, and other fishing gear.

Tandem Rig

A rig consisting of  two lures instead of just one.

Terminal Tackle

All components attached directly to the end of a fishing line before bait or lure presentation. This includes swivels, snaps, leaders (wire or monofilament), split rings for attaching hooks/lures/baits securely while providing flexibility during retrieval action.


The periodic rising and falling of sea levels caused by gravitational forces exerted by celestial bodies such as the moon and sun on Earth’s oceans. Understanding tides is crucial for successful saltwater fishing as it affects feeding patterns of marine species which are known to be more active during specific tidal phases like incoming or outgoing tides.

Topwater (Surface Lure)

Type of bait or lure designed to float or skitter across the water’s surface rather than sinking beneath it. Anglers often use topwater lures for species that feed on prey near or on top of the water surface like bass or trout.

Treble Hook

Three hooks fashioned together into a single, triple-pronged unit.

Tube Bait

Bait made of soft plastic, special weighted hooks inserted into the hollow body.



Denoting equipment that is specifically designed for light and finesse fishing techniques.

Umbrella Rig

A popular fishing technique that involves using multiple lures or bait attached to a single rig.

Underwater Structure

Any physical feature beneath the water’s surface, such as rocks, submerged trees, drop-offs, and weed beds.

Underhand Cast

An essential casting technique in angling that involves making a low trajectory cast with the rod hand moving in an upward motion from below the waistline towards the desired target area on the water’s surface.


Using larger-sized lures or baits than what would typically be used for a specific fishing situation.



Waterproof garments worn by anglers to enter water bodies comfortably without getting wet.

Wading Staff

A tool for anglers who often fish in swift currents, slippery riverbeds, or uneven terrain. It acts as a walking stick and provides stability while wading, improving balance and preventing falls.


Lures or rigs specially designed to minimize snagging on underwater vegetation or structures such as weeds, grass, or branches. These lures often feature hooks that are recessed into the body of the bait or protected by a weed guard made of wire or plastic bristles.


Sinkers or weights attached to fishing lines. Weights serve various purposes, including helping the bait or lure sink to the desired depth and maintain stability in challenging conditions.

Wet Fly

A fly used for fly fishing which is intended to sink below the water’s surface.

Wind Knot

Tangles that occur when casting in windy conditions. When a line is thrown against a strong gust of wind, it can create loops and tangles as it uncoils from the reel mimicking knots; hence its name “wind knot.”


Understanding fishing terms and definitions is crucial for any angler, whether you are a novice or an experienced fisherman. By familiarizing yourself with these terms, you will not only enhance your fishing experience but also improve your overall knowledge of the sport. Throughout this article, we have covered a wide range of fishing terms and their definitions.

From “retrieval” and “strike indicator” to “waders” and “upstream,” we have explored the intricacies of the language used in the world of fishing. These terms serve as a common ground among anglers, creating a shared vocabulary that helps us communicate effectively and understand each other’s experiences on the water.

By delving into these definitions, you have gained insight into the various techniques, equipment, and tactics employed by anglers worldwide. You now understand how to properly position yourself when casting upstream or downstream and how to interpret subtle signs like strike indicators that signal fish activity.

With this knowledge at your disposal, you can approach your next fishing trip with increased confidence and skill. Fishing is not just about catching fish; it is about immersing oneself in nature’s beauty and finding solace in its tranquility. It is about connecting with fellow anglers who share our passion for this ancient sport. Understanding the language of fishing allows us to form deeper connections with others who share our enthusiasm.

So go forth with your newfound knowledge! Whether you embark on a solitary adventure or join a group of like-minded individuals on a charter boat excursion, remember that every cast brings new possibilities. Embrace the thrill of anticipation as you wait for that elusive bite on your line. Let us celebrate the rich tapestry of language that binds us together as anglers.

Tight lines, warm breezes, good friends, plenty of bait; it doesn’t get any better!