Fishing Terms

Table of Contents

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1. Characteristics of rod flexibility. 2. Characteristics of lure movement when retrieved.


A very productive and world famous all-purpose dry fly pattern.

Adult Insect:

Imago, the final phase of an insect’s life cycle, most often occurring above water for aquatic insects.

Alphabet lures:

Wide-body crankbaits that were originally fashioned from wood. Modern examples include Bomber Model A and the Cotton Cordell Big O.


Fisherman who is less experienced than his partner. Normally a term used in Pro/Am style tournaments. Also describes angler who does not earn his living fishing.

Anchor buoy:

Usually a red plastic ball of at least 24 inches in diameter, with a large ring attached. Hook the ring on the anchor rope and heave the buoy overboard. Drive the boat upwind or upcurrent. Presto! The anchor is pulled up quickly to the buoy using horsepower instead of human power.


The “bottom” of a reel’s spool (what you tie the line onto). A spool with a small diameter arbor holds more line than the same size spool with a larger diameter arbor.

Artificial Reef:

Any material sunk offshore for the express purpose of attracting fish. Old boats, concrete culverts, metal pipe, the list is endless. Most states now require a permit before dumping because non-practical material was being used, objects that rusted quickly, polluted or were a hazard to shrimpnets.

Attractor patterns:

Bright, bold flies that do not imitate any insect in particular, but many insects in general. Attractor patterns often provoke a trout’s tendency to strike.



Small diameter braided line loaded onto a fly reel underneath/behind the actual fly line. It serves to fill the reel and add line capacity when fighting long-running fish.

Backing down:

Driving the boat backwards (in reverse) while pursuing a fish.


A small, widely occurring mayfly also referred to as a Blue Winged Olive.

Bait seine:

A large, rectangular shaped net for gathering baitfish from a rearing pond. One person is stationed at each end, and each person holds the net taught as they move from one end of the pond to the other.


Most common style of reel used in bass fishing, typically round or oval shaped and somewhat open construction. Also known as level wind reels.


Pronounced “bally-hoo,” this is the popular offshore bait used for trolling, most often for billfish. The bait of choice for sailfish for many years. A pricey bait when used for other saltwater species.

Ball bearings:

Small metal balls added to the mechanical mechanism of high-quality reels to make the retrieve smoother. Normally the more ball bearings a reel has the higher quality.


Type of wood several lures are manufactured from. This wood is very light, yet highly buoyant. Gives the lure great action. Examples include Bagley’s Balsa B, and Rapala Minnows.


Glass, or plastic beads added to a Carolina Rig to enhance the noise, and protect the knot.


Circular areas in the lake bottom that bass clear out in which to lay their eggs during the spawn. “The bass are on the beds” refers to the fish actively spawning.

Bell sinker:

Rounded conical shaped weight with a tie-on loop at the top. Also referred to as a Dipsy sinker.


The ‘fat’ section of a tapered fly line.

Belly strip:

A strip of belly meat from a baitfish. Cut and trimmed in a streamlined fashion, it can be trolled behind the boat, where it flutters in a fashion enticing to gamefish.


Any of several species of pelagic fish, including sailfish, spearfish, blue, black or white marlin, and swordfish.

Blood knot:

A common knot used to join two pieces of leader together. Most often used in hand-tied fly-fishing leaders.

Bottom fish:

Fish that spend most of their lives on bottom, such as cod, snapper, and grouper.


Water that is mostly fresh, with some salt. The far ends of tidal creeks are mostly brackish, supporting sometimes fresh and saltwater fish.

Braided channel:

Usually found on freestone rivers, braided channels are ever-changing smaller channels that together constitute the course of the entire river.


A metal alloy mainly composed of copper and zinc. Used in low-friction gears on fishing reels because of it’s corrosion resistance and on bass fishing sinkers in conjunction with glass beads to create noise.

Brook trout:

A member of the char family. Native to Northeastern North America. Requires cooler, purer waters than most “trout.”

Bullet Sinker:

A bullet-shaped sliding sinker popular for rigging plastic worms.


Keeping a trolled bait mostly in one spot, by pointing the boat into the current/wind and “bumping” the engines in and out of gear, to hold position.

Butt seat:

A seat that is shaped in a sort of half moon design, which anglers often use to lean against while fishing. Also known as “Bike” seats.


Non-targeted sea life caught by commercial fishermen. Tuna longlines have a bycatch of turtles or mahi-mahi, for instance. Shrimp nets have a bycatch of at least a hundred species of fish and crab, discarded overboard.



A general name for the dozens of subspecies of caddis flies found in trout streams all over the world. Also known as a “sedge,” they are characterized by a tent-like wing. Caddis have four stages of development, from egg to larva to pupa to adult.


Also referred to as a “neck,” the cape consists of skin from a chicken’s head and neck that yields “hackles.” Dry fly hackle comes from a rooster cape; wet fly hackle from a hen cape.

Carolina rig:

A rigging method designed to present a soft plastic lure along the contour of the bottom. This rig consists of a main line with a heavy sinker, bead, then swivel. The swivel has a leader (1-6ft) to which a plastic lure is tied. Best lures include lizards, centipedes and French fries.

Cast net:

A circular net thrown by hand. The outer perimeter is lined with lead weights. Great for catching shrimp and baitfish.


Term that refers to releasing the fish you catch so that they can live to fight another day, and thus insuring a productive fishery.


Four-inch straight plastic worm used for Carolina rigs.

Certificate of Inspection:

(a) Issuance of certificates. Upon completion of the inspection of a United States vessel, and on condition that the vessel and its equipment are approved by the inspector, a certificate of one or more of the following Coast Guard forms is issued by the Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection:

(1) CG-841 – Certificate of Inspection.

(2) CG-854 – Temporary Certificate of Inspection.

(b) Description of certificates. The certificates of inspection issued to United States vessels describe the vessel, the route the vessel may travel, the minimum manning requirements, the safety equipment and appliances required to be on board, the total number of persons that may be carried, and the names of the owners and operators. The period of validity is stated on the certificate. The certificate may be renewed by applying for inspection under § 2.01-1.

(c) Amending certificates. When, because of a change in the character of the vessel or vessel’s route, equipment, etc., the vessel does not comply with the requirements of the Certificate of Inspection previously issued, an amended certificate may be issued at the discretion of the Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection, to whom a request is made.


Abbreviation for “cubic feet per second,” the term is a means of measuring the flow of a stream. A small stream might carry 40 cfs and offer good trout fishing, while a large river like the Colorado might reach 30,000 cfs in the Grand Canyon during flood stage.


A trout-like species of fish whose subspecies include brook trout, Dolly Vardens, and arctic char, among others.


Device used to charge the boaters trolling motor batteries.


The “running edge” of a boat. The chine is the edge made by the joining of the bottom and the sides of a boat.


A general term for any number of floating lipless topwater lures that “push” water. Some have cupped faces, while other are rounded.


Chopped up fish, shellfish or even animal parts (for sharks), dropped overboard to attract gamefish.

Chum bag:

A mesh bag left hanging overboard, filled with chum. Trollers sometimes drag the bag alongside the boat. Smaller bags can be trolled deep while attached to downrigger balls.


Plastic or pork trailer commonly used on jigs.

Cigar minnows:

A yellow-tailed member of the scad family, sold most often as frozen bait in five-pound boxes, caught along the Florida Panhandle. Widely regarded for their firm texture and appeal to offshore fish. Cigar minnows can also be caught on tiny fly hooks, called Sabiki Rigs.

Circle hook:

Hook with a decreasing radius bend design, originally used by commercial fishermen because it requires no hookset. If a fish swallows the bait and swims away, increasing tension will pull the hook back out through the throat without sticking until it lodges in the corner of the jaw. Many sport fishermen now use this hook because bait-caught fish may be safely released with almost zero mortality.


A metal device added to certain brand buzzbait in order to make additional noise.


Better known as The BASS Masters Classic, the year-end championship of bass fishing. This is where the top 45 anglers meet to crown a world champion angler.

Clicker cork:

A thin Styrofoam cork, 3 inches long, mounted on an 8-inch wire. Yanking on it produces a clicking sound that imitates shrimp snapping their tails underwater. These corks are great for suspending a plastic shrimptail jig above a grass bottom, and below troublesome floating grass.

Clinch knot:

Very popular knot for tying directly to lures, flies or bait hooks.

Clouser minnow:

A very popular all-species streamer design. It utilizes metal barbell eyes to cause the fly to ride with the hook point on top, reducing hang-ups.


Now a wide range a lure colors, the original clown color sported red, pink and blue airbrushed spots over a white and yellow background and was employed by steelhead anglers.

Coastal pelagic:

An offshore fish that migrates along the coastline, but isn’t a true, ocean-going pelagic. Examples are kingfish, Spanish mackerel, cobia.

Colorado Blade:

Lobe shaped spinner blade design.


General reference to physical features above and below the water surface that fish relate to. Boat docks, submerged timber, weedbeds, brushpiles and boulder fields are all examples of cover. Cover may provide relief from the view of predators, or from bright sunlight, or merely a hiding/resting place. In general, many fish such as bass prefer relating to cover or structure, over free-swimming in open water.


A plastic or wooden lure with a diving bill, that dives downward when retrieved or “cranked.”


Small fresh water crustaceans similar to lobsters only smaller. A favorite food of bass. Also describes a reddish color used in all sorts of lures.

Crimp sleeve:

Used rather than a knot to create a loop in larger monofilament or wire leaders. Sleeves are sold by size, according to the diameter of the leader material being crimped.

Cross chop:

Wind-driven waves and ocean swell colliding from two directions. Also caused by waves bouncing off a seawall and going back out, colliding with incoming waves.

Cul de Canard:

French for “butt of the duck.” These downy feathers come from around the oil gland of ducks and geese. When the oil is removed, these feathers resist absorbing water, making them useful for tying certain types of flies.


Refers to releasing a smaller fish when you have a limit and have now caught a larger fish that will weed out one of the smaller ones. “This big fish will cull that small one” is a phrase heard on The Bassmasters TV show often.

Culprit worm:

Although there are several similar worms, Culprit is the manufacturer of the original ribbon tail plastic worm, thus it is often referred to as a “Culprit” style worm.


A narrow body of water cutting through land. For instance, a boat cut gouged through a barrier island, for boater access.

Cut bait:

Fish cut into chunks to fit the hook.


a rainbow/cutthroat hybrid, the cuttbow has both the rainbow’s stripe and a cutthroat’s “slash” under its jaw.

Cutthroat trout:

A native to many Rocky Mountain rivers, the cutthroat has a crimson “slash” under its jaw and black spots concentrated near the tail.

Cutting board:

Plywood surrounded by a lip of wood, sealed and painted. Or just an old piece of plywood. Used for cutting bait, and preventing knife cuts on expensive boat gunnels.



Bottom fishing in deep water, from 500 to 1,100 feet and sometimes deeper. Usually, a sash (window) weight is required to reach bottom. Circle hooks are a necessity.


Sediment deposited at the mouth of a major river, pushing shallow water offshore, as in the Mississippi Delta.

Do-nothing rig:

Western, clear water technique generally applied in deep water and on light line. Consists of main line with a small brass sinker, then a bead, and light wire hook. Baits are usually small 4-inch worms. The rig is dropped to desired depth and then just slightly jiggled or left to “do nothing.”

Dock lines:

Ropes used to moor the boat.


Large flounder, roughly the length and weight of a doormat.

Double haul:

A casting technique where the angler pumps the fly line with the non-casting hand on the forward and backward segments of the cast. The pumping motion accelerates the line and gives the cast additional length. Double hauling is an essential technique for long casting.

Double Taper Fly Line:

A tapered fly line that has the belly in the middle and tapers down at both ends. When one end is worn out, the line can be “flipped,” and the other end used. Double taper lines have the advantages of being easier to roll cast at distance, easier to mend at distance, and easier to accurately do a “pickup and laydown” at distance than with a weight forward line.


Used to slow troll most commonly for kingfish and grouper. Standard equipment on the kingfish tournament boats.

Downrigger ball:

Cannonball-shaped device with a fin, used to keep a trolled bait far beneath the boat.

Downstream drift:

The act of allowing the fly to drift past the fisherman and rise to the surface on the river below him, particularly on a nymph drift.


1. The mechanism in a fishing reel that produces friction when a fish is pulling line from the reel. 2. An unnatural drift of a dry fly, due to current acting on a taut leader.


Retrieving a crankbait so that it continually digs or dredges up the bottom. This causes reflex strikes from fish.

Drift anchor:

Used most commonly in windy areas, by fishermen who drift all day. This anchor is more of an underwater kite that slows the boat’s drift in order to thoroughly fish a productive area.

Drift boat:

Also known as a Mackenzie river dory, it’s a river fishing craft ranging between 14 and 18 feet long with a flat bottom, upswept prow and rigid hull.

Drift fishing:

Taking advantage of current or wind to move a boat through a targeted fishing area with minimum use of motor power.

Drift sock:

A large sock shaped like airport wind socks. This is dropped over the side of the boat to help control the boat in rough water.

Drip bag:

Very similar to an IV drip bag used by doctors, this device releases a constant drip of pogey oil over the side, attracting fish.

Drop shot rig:

Japanese designed technique in which the main line is tied to a sinker. The lure is tied to a leader which is tied above the sinker. This allows the lure to sit a the exact depth of suspended fish.


The secondary fly tied on the leader somewhere between the lead fly and the fly line.

Dry fly:

A pattern designed to imitate an adult insect, floating on top of the water.


A fly-tying technique that involves creating a yarn by applying a raw material directly onto the fly tying thread. Animal furs and various synthetics can be employed.



A place adjacent to the main current where water “stacks” up, slows and reverses direction. Eddies provide excellent places for fish to hold with very little effort, while insects and other food items are swept in as if on a conveyor belt.

Egg Sinker:

A sliding sinker shaped like an egg. Generally, the main line is threaded though the hole in the sinker, then a barrel swivel attached below it. A leader is tied below the swivel. When fished with a slack line, the fish can move off with the bait without feeling the sinker dragging along.


Commonly refers to the depth finders, and fish locaters used by anglers.


The stage of an aquatic insect’s life cycle when it rises to the surface, sheds its nymphal shuck, and “emerges” as a winged insect.


The transitional area in a river’s delta where the flow is dissipated and tidal surge becomes an influence. These nutrient rich areas support diverse ecosystems and provide habit and nursery grounds for fish and a wide range of other organisms.

Evening hatch:

When many insects choose to emerge from under the water.



Fish Attracting Devices were first used centuries ago. Any large, floating object like a tree that attracts pelagic fish. Some are anchored; others are allowed to drift.

False casting:

The act of aerializing fly line in preparation for delivering the actual cast.

Fan Casting:

Systematically covering the water by visualizing numbers on a clock, making casts to each number in a fan like pattern.


Six feet of depth. Many nautical charts are marked in fathoms, not feet.

Felt soles:

Most wading shoes for flyfishing are soled with thick felt for good traction on slick rocks.


The joint where different sections of a rod fit together.


A material made from extremely fine fibers of glass. When woven into a cloth, it can be used to fabricate boat hulls and fishing rods. Fiberglass has been surpassed in popularity by graphite for rod manufacturing; however, it is still employed in big game saltwater rods for strength and in crankbait rods for its flexibility.


Commonly refers to slowing down and using smaller lures, line, and rods. Also a style of small lures used for this technique.


The wasteful, immoral practice of removing sharks’ fins, dumping the carcass (often while still alive), and selling the dried product for Asian soup.

Fire tiger:

Color scheme that involves a lure with green back, chartreuse sides, orange belly and black vertical lines on the sides.

Fish pass:

A cut dredged through a barrier island, created to allow better fish traffic and tidal flushing.


Very shallow water, easy to wade, usually with a sand bottom. This water is so thin, anglers equipped with polarized glasses can visually spot and cast to various fish, such as bonefish, redfish and tarpon.


Artificial imitations of the aquatic and terrestrial insects found in and near trout streams. Flies are tied of many and various materials, such as feathers, fur, thread, tinsel, and even space-age materials. Patterns imitating minnows, baitfish and other fish and crustacean species are also called “flies.”


A short line bass fishing technique developed for penetrating heavy cover. A fixed length of line is managed by the rod and by the off hand. An underhand swing delivers the jig or worm quietly and much more accurately than a conventional cast.

Flipping stick:

A heavy-action casting rod, between seven- and eight-feet long, employed specifically in the technique of flipping.

Float tube:

A one-man fishing floatation device for lake and slow river fishing that looks like an inner tube covered with a cloth mesh liner, seat, and back rest.


Substance applied to a dry fly to resist water absorbsion.


Style of lure that floats rather than sinks at rest. Example wooden crankbaits.

Floating worm:

Plastic worm used to catch spawning bass that actually floats on top of the water. Common colors include pink, yellow, and sherbert.

Florida rig:

A worm sinker that has a metal cork screw in the base so that the angler can screw in the worm. This keeps the sinker and worm together and reduces tangles.


A material composed of a bond between fluorine and carbon atoms. Fishing line manufactured of this material can take a lot of damage without losing strength, as opposed to monofilament, which is compromised by even the smallest nick. In addition, it has a faster sink rate for it’s diameter than mono. The raw material has a lower light refraction index than water. This has lead manufacturers to claim that fluorocarbon is less visible than monofilament.

Fly pattern:

Generic term for “version” or “variation” when referring to artificial flies.

Flying bridge:

A permanent raised steering platform on an offshore sportfishing boat. From this elevated platform, the captain has a better view of everything, including the trolling baits and any approaching fish.

Flying gaff:

A long handled gaff with a detachable head tied to a rope.

Football head:

Design refers to the shape of certain jigs that resemble a football mounted side ways. Normally used in very rocky locations.

Freestone river:

A natural river with an undammed channel that allows free movement of stones rolling down the river course over time.

French fry:

Soft-plastic worm about 4 inches long. Resembles a crinkle-cut French fry. Used often on Carolina Rigs.


Soft, tough plastic lure that swims on top of the water. Often used in thick, scummy areas.



A steel hook on a handle used for landing fish.

Gear ratio:

The number of times a reel spool (conventional) or rotor (spinning) revolves for every full turn of the handle.

German brown trout:

A native of the European continent, the brown trout has a golden sheen and black and orange speckles with white rings around them.

Golden rule:

Gold color aluminum measuring device used in tournaments to measure bass in order to easily determine the length of the fish.


Global Positioning Satellite, device used to accurately determine your location with in feet. Handy for finding your way on unfamiliar lakes.

Grand slam:

Some notable angling achievement, usually three popular species of fish from a certain area. A flats grand slam would be a tarpon, permit and bonefish. A billfish grand slam would be a sailfish, blue marlin and white marlin.


A carbon material produced as a by-product of oil refinement. Popular in the production of fishing rods because of its strength to weight ratio and density, which results in enhanced sensitivity.


Vegetation catch-all phrase. Refers to green plants growing in the water. Bass are attracted to the grass, which is home to prey.

Green Drake:

A large, green-bodied mayfly found in many trout streams, a particular favorite food for trout.


A device used to grind chum before tossing it overboard.


Small curl tail lure made of soft plastic.


Professional anglers who are paid to help other angler locate and catch fish.



Feathers from around the head and neck of a bird and used to tie fishing flies.

Hair jig:

A type of jig dressed with any number of types of animal or synthetic hair.

Head boat:

A government fisheries term for charter. Basically a fishing boat for hire that carries more than six people. The average is more like 30 anglers, and sometimes more than 100. With that many lines, you mostly fish straight down with heavy tackle for bottom fish.

High sticking:

1. In general angling, a term for holding the rod too high when fighting a fish. The rod butt rod should never be at a narrower angle than 90 degrees in relation to the line direction when lifting on a fish. It’s inefficient, and it shifts pressure from the butt to the tip, resulting in the majority of rod breakage. 2. In fly fishing, a nymphing technique in which the rod is held high during the drift to reduce drag and maintain maximum contact with the fly.


To sharpen hooks or knives with a stone.


A good-sized live shrimp sold at the marinas, usually a white shrimp.

Hula grub:

Soft plastic curly-tailed grub, with a soft skirt type feature at the head of the grub.


Section of the lake bottom that rises vertically toward the surface, or is shallower than the area around it. A submerged island would be considered a hump.


Improved clinch knot:

The suggested knot for tying a fly to the leader or tippet.


Commonly refers to in-line spinners where the blade, body, and hook are all in a straight line. Example is a typical Mepp’s spinner.

Incoming tide:

Water pushing inshore, generally caused by the moon’s gravity pull. A strong wind blowing out to sea can somewhat negate an incoming tide, however.

Indiana blade:

Refers to a teardrop shaped blade used on spinnerbaits.

Indicator species:

A species of plants or animals that suffers when pollution or environmental stress begins, thus indicating environmental degradation.


A natural pass between ocean and bay. Unjettied inlets are more hazardous to boat traffic, because of shifting sandbars that can be a hazard. Most inlets are now jettied with granite rocks, to protect against erosion and to save dredging costs.


A nebulous term that means perhaps within sight of land. “Let’s head inshore” means moving the boat from offshore back towards land.


Jack plate:

Device attached to the transom of a bass boat that allows the outboard motor to be mounted farther back and higher that originally. Improves performance. Example, Rite Hite Jackplate. Also used for shallow-running flats boats. This device jacks the motor straight up and down, without tilting the lower unit, even while running.

Jacobson downdrift:

Feeding slack into the line as the fly emerges downstream to imitate an emerging insect.


There are two types: soft and hard. The soft style is similar to a baitfish profile and rigged with a large worm hook. Example: Slug-Go. Hard jerkbaits resemble more of a minnow baitfish. Examples are a Rapala or Smithwick Rogue. Both style lures are fished by twitching or jerking the lure forward, hence the name.


A manmade peninsula constructed of large chunk rock or chunked concrete. Jetties are built as a shield to protect harbors from wave action and wind. An incidental benefit is jetties provide habitat for many marine organisms, including fish.


A vertical presentation where a lure is worked up and down (rather than laterally) through the water column.


Old wooden-body topwater lure with large metal lip. Makes a gurgle-type commotion when retrieved.


Keel guard:

Handy device that is glued to the keel of a bass boat, so that it can be beached without damage to the bottom of the boat.


Legal size bass. Example: In Missouri bass must be 15 inches long in order to be a keeper.


Larger, heavier bass that really helps out the total weight of a tournament angler’s catch. Example; “I had a limit of 2-pounders, but was lucky and caught a 5 pound kicker.”

Kite rig:

Fishing a bait with a kite. Fishing kites are different from land kites, usually flat and square. The live bait skips around on the surface, without the telltale line being visible. Used mostly on sailfish, but effective on other species.



Found mostly in the Pacific, lagoons are shallow, protected areas usually ringed by coral reef.


The second, or “worm” phase of an insect’s life cycle.

Lead fly:

The primary fly tied on the end of a fly line.


1. In conventional fishing, the very terminal end of your line, where the fish does business. It can be wire where needed for toothy critters, or a mere gossamer thread when fooling wary trout. 2. In fly fishing, the clear tapered monofilament leader distances your highly visible fly line from the fish, and also dissipates the energy at the end of cast.


Slang term for a lead head jig.


(pronounced “leeding”) The act of keeping the rod tip and strike indicator downstream of the drifting nymph.


A bloodsucking worm that trout love to eat.

Lever drag:

A mechanism that actuates drag adjustment through a lever on top of the reel, rather than by a rotating a drag star on the handle main shaft (star drag). Lever drags were first introduced on big game reels and have recently been added to lighter application reels.


Legal limit of bass, or other fish. Tournament normally use five-bass limits per angler.

Line memory:

The characteristic of fishing line to have coils in it when it comes off the reel, due to being coiled up while on the spool of the reel. Braided lines have less memory than extruded lines like monofilament.

Line weight:

Fly lines are assigned a “weight” number according to how much the front thirty feet of line weighs in grains. Between certain bracketed grain weights, numbers are assigned. If your rod says “6 weight” or “#6” you will need a 6 weight line, or your outfit will not cast properly. This weight assignment does not refer to pound test.

Lipless crankbait:

Shad-shaped crankbait that has no visible diving lip. The line attaches to the top of the lure. Example; Rat-L-Trap.

Lit up:

Pelagic fish such as the marlins, sailfish and wahoo have a tendency to “light up” with neon, powder blue colors when excited or hooked.

Live bottom:

Rocky bottom, sometimes very flat, where sponges and corals can find something solid to grow on. This attracts various bottom fish, such as grouper.


Soft plastic lures similar to a salamder. Used for Carolina Rigs, and fishing shallow water in the spring.


Common nickname for depthfinders since they will often display images of fish as they pass over them.


As seen in the movie, The Perfect Storm, longliners are commercial fishing boats with a huge spool of heavy monofilament line on their back deck, up to 40 miles long. Used mostly for targeting tuna and swordfish.


Reference to the “U shape” in a fly line as it unrolls at the end of the cast. A narrow “U shape” is referred to as a “tight loop, while a fat “U shape” is referred to as an open loop.


Big or large-size bass. Also known as Hawg or monster.

Lunker Lure:

Original designer of the buzzbait. Many anglers still refer to all buzzbaits as “Lunker Lures.”

Lure retrievers:

Heavy devices designed to knock loose or retrieve snagged fishing lures.



The only trees that grow in salt water. Mangroves protect tropical coastlines from storm surges, and their extensive root system attracts a variety of shallow water gamefish.

Matching the hatch:

Choosing the fly pattern that imitates the insects that are hatching nearby.


The most beautiful of aquatic insects, the mayfly is characterized by an upswept wing and long, delicate two- or three-stranded tail. The mayfly goes through three stages — egg, nymph, and adult — then metamorphoses once again from a sub-imago adult to a spinner.


Various techniques of managing the fly line to control the presentation of the fly. Most mends are imparted while the line is on the water, which involves adding or removing slack. Slack is added at key points to enable a “dead drift.” Other mends remove slack at key points to control the “swing” of a fly in the current.

Merging currents:

A dead spot of calm water created where two currents come together.


A very small species of aquatic insects found in trout streams. Many species of midges hatch into adults in the middle of winter. They have four stages of development, from egg to larva to pupa to adult.

Mojo rig:

Technique similar to a Carolina Rig except that it is rigged on a spinning rod. Thus it is a finesse-type method. The sinkers are cylindrical or pencil-shaped to come through rocks without snagging.

Mono leader:

Leader made of monofilament. Mono leaders are of course heavier grade than the line on your reel. Standard mono leader for huge marlin, for instance, is 300-pound test, while line on the reel seldom exceeds 80-pound test.


Common reference to a synthetic polymer fishing line extruded as a single filament.

Motor fish:

When fishing over a tiny spot that is deep, it is more practical to keep the engine running, attempting to “hover” the boat over the spot. For instance, the tiny rocks in the Gulf of Mexico, no bigger than a car, are often 200 feet deep. Anchoring here is impractical and time-consuming. Instead, you motor over the boat, while a couple of anglers drop their baits down.


Created by a bottom-grubbing school of fish. For instance, a school of bonefish rooting on the bottom will gradually muddy the water in a large patch, easily visible on a sunny day.


A family of small freshwater shrimp found in cold, clean mountain lakes, reservoirs and their tailwaters. Because of their abundance and protein content, fish that key on them as a food source record phenomenal growth. Mysis are an indicator of clean, healthy water conditions.


Nail knot:

A “grip” knot most commonly used to tie a leader or backing to a fly line.

Natural reproduction:

As opposed to hatchery-raised fish, this term refers to fish that are hatched and mature in a wild environment.


The material that divers’ wetsuits is made of. It is also a popular material for cold-weather waders.


Cloth or rubber device used to land fish.

Nymph phase:

The immature phase of an aquatic insect’s life cycle that occurs underwater.


Old salt:

Some crusty old fisherman who has survived many storms offshore, and seen many fish.


Clear plastic tackle boxes that can be taken out or added to a boat or tackle bag. Example; Plano Stowaway boxes.

Outgoing tide:

Water flowing back out, often a good time to fish the inlets that drain the bays into the Gulf or Ocean.


Long metal or fiberglass poles, used for trolling baits far to the sides of a boat.

Overhand cast:

Reference to a cast made with the rod moving through a vertical plane.

Oyster bar:

Not a dockside eating establishment! A real oyster bar is a shallow reef, often exposed at low tide, made up of countless oysters. Good for fishing, though easy to snag bottom. Hazardous to bare skin, fiberglass boats and propellers.



Charter vessel carrying more than six fishermen. The norm is 30 to 100 people.


Same as an inlet, a natural water passage between the bays and ocean.

Patch reef:

A patch of coral reef inshore of the main reef line. For instance, most of the Florida Keys’ main reef is a half-dozen miles offshore. But the patch reefs are small, isolated, and scattered anywhere between dry land and the deeper water.


A generic name for the recipe to tie a fly.


Part of a mechanism in fishing reels. Basically, it is a ratchet part that engages the notch between the teeth of a gear. Pawl systems are used in anti-reverse and clicker systems of some reels.


Method of worm fishing where the slip sinker has an object like a toothpick stuck into it to keep the sinker from sliding up the line.


True, ocean-going fish that roam the deep water.


Macroscopic “buglike” creatures, smaller than the head of a pin, that are found in rivers and lakes.

Piano wire:

Single-strand fishing leader that closely resembles the wire inside your piano.

Pier rats:

Crusty fishermen who spend many hours and days on the big surf piers, waiting (and often sleeping out there) until the fish begin biting. These people have the art of pier fishing down to a science, with their own customs.

Pinfish trap:

A small wire box designed to be left at the marina or under a moored boat, and baited with fish scraps. Live pinfish make an excellent bait.

Pistol grip:

Rod featuring a short rubber or cork handle similar to that of a pistol. These type rods are good for close range, accurate casting.


Method of longer-range flipping, where the lure is tossed in an underhand motion very close to the water’s surface.


Term describing when a boat gets onto the surface of the lake, rather than being in the water the boat in planning on top of the water.

Planer boards:

Devices used in trolling to run lines out to lateral positions away from each side of the boat. Planers keep multiple trolling lines separated to avoid tangles and to cover a wider area.


A general term for microscopic organisms at the base of the food chain. This can include everything from adult one-celled organisms to juvenile stages of various fish and mollusks. Because they are subject to wind and current, they are often concentrated in huge clouds, making them forage for everything from minnows to large filter-feeding animals like whales.


In general, lures manufactured from flexible vinyl and polycarbonate derivatives.

Pocket water:

Where fast current rushes around boulders and other obstructions, creating pockets of calmer water.


Menhaden shad. Famous for their oil content, they make the best saltwater chum. Also a must for live-trolling in Atlantic kingfish tournaments. Frequently caught with castnets. Their dense schools underwater are frequently betrayed along the beachfront by dive-bombing pelicans.

Pogey Oil:

Rich, golden oil from menhaden, also called pogey, makes the ideal chum in salt water for many gamefish. It makes a slick on the water. Available in coastal tackle stores.

Polarized glasses:

A very necessary part of a fly fisherman’s kit. By virtue of a “grille” of tiny bars sandwiched between two layers of glass, polarized glasses eliminate glare reflected from water and allow a fisherman to see into the water.


Topwater lure that makes a popping, or spitting commotion when retrieved. Example; Rebel Pop-R.

Popping cork:

A Styrofoam cork with the top shaped to make it gurgle when yanked. The noise is supposed to imitate sounds of fish feeding on top, thereby attracting the attention of gamefish.

Pork chunk:

Trailer for jigs or spinnerbaits made originally from pork rinds.


The act of delivering a fly to a fish.


A short, wooden club used for subduing wild fish thrashing in the boat.


Angler who makes his/her living from fishing tournaments.

Professional overrun:

Fancy nickname for backlash or bird’s nest in baitcasting reels.


Common term for the propeller of a trolling or outboard motor.

Prop bait:

Topwater lure with a metal propeller on one or both ends. Example; Luhr-Jensen Wood Chopper.


Light brownish color used often in soft plastic lures. Very natural hue.


The third phase of an insect’s life cycle, when wings are beginning to grow.

Push pole:

A long, 20-foot pole made of wood or graphite, used for silently pushing the boat across the flats, easing within casting ranger of various fish, such as bonefish.



One or series of tournaments that must be fished in order to make it to a fish-off. Example; B.A.S.S. Invitational tournaments are qualifiers for the BASS Masters Classic.


Rainbow trout:

A beautiful trout species characterized by a brilliant pink stripe running lengthways down its side. The rainbow is a silvery fish and has black spots.


Original type of lipless crankbait. Thus, most anglers refer to all similar lures by this name.


Glass or metal noisemakers added to lures in order to help bass find the lure easier.


To replace the old line on a reel with new line.

Reach cast:

A cast with a built-in mend accomplished by extending the arm and placing the line upstream of where it would have landed with a normal cast.


Soft plastic lure that resembles a leach. Popular on the west coast.

Red reel:

The common baitcasting reel used back in the 1960s was the red Ambassadeur reel. The reel has changed colors and owners since then, but was the basic model that jumped countless saltwater anglers into serious fishing.


A spawning bed for trout, identifiable by a hollow of clean gravel in a mild current.


No, the Russians aren’t coming. Red is simply short for redfish.

Reflex strikes:

Drawing a bite from fish that have no intention of feeding. Example; by bumping the crankbait into the stump (where the bass was hiding) the angler triggered the fish into a reflex strike even though it had just eaten a crawfish.


The act of bringing in slack line (also called “stripping” by many fly fishermen.)

Reverse cast:

The nymphing cast made by casting across the body on the “off” hand side of the stream. (For a right-handed fisherman, the right side of the stream. For a left-handed fisherman, the left bank.) Also called the “Western roll cast.”

Ribbon tail:

Style of plastic worm that has a long ribbon type tail that ripples when the worm is retrieved.


A long, flat, silvery fish many people mistake for an eel, easily three feet long and sometimes up to five feet long. Long, sharp teeth are wicked, and they’ll chomp through a 40-pound mono leader. Highly esteemed bait in the kingfish tournaments, ribbonfish must be rigged with multiple hooks because of their length.


Where the current rolls over a rocky bar and then slows down.

Rig hook:

A steel pipe, eight feet long, one inch in diameter, shaped like a candy cane. The curved end is about two feet across, and slips over various protrusions on offshore production platforms. The hook is attached to a 30-foot rope, which is attached to the boat. The rope can be stuffed through the pipe, and knotted at the end. A shock cord should be added.

Ring worm:

Brand of plastic worm that features rings or ribs over the outside of the body. The texture is believed to feel soft and lifelike to fish.

Rip tide:

On the beach, this is the water that flows back offshore, after the waves have piled so much water next to the sand. Unfortunate swimmers have found themselves in this narrow but strong flow. Savvy surf fishermen drop their baits in these same spots, where gamefish like pompano and redfish congregate.

Rocket launcher:

A rack of tubes designed to hold five or six fishing rods in a boat, easily accessible and protective from damage in rough seas — though not from corrosive salt spray.

Rod belt:

A leather or (in more modern times) a plastic belt that fits around an angler’s waist while fighting a fish. The belt socket keeps the rod butt snug, and saves weary arm muscles and that lower back during a long fight.


Undesired and often nuisance fish that have no gamefish qualities. Examples; Carp, gar.


A smooth, deep glide of water that usually follows a riffle.

Run & Gun:

Method of fishing where the angler is only attempting to catch those aggressive fish that will quickly strike the lures cast. Then the angler “runs” or motors to the next spot and quickly fishes it, repeating the process numerous times.


Sabiki rig:

Multi-fly rig used to catch live bait.

Salt marsh:

Often made up of spartina grass, a salt marsh is just that, filled with crabs, shrimp and juvenile saltwater fish. These are fish factories, certainly worth protecting.

Sargassum weed:

A species of offshore seaweed, yellow in color, with tiny float bladders. This stuff provides the only cover offshore for small fish, who seek its shelter from bigger predators.


Liquid attractant added to lures to increase strikes or to allow the fish to smell a natural odor thus hold onto the lure longer.


a fly fisher’s term for a freshwater shrimp, usually found in spring creeks and clean ponds and rivers, sizes 8-18, green, gray, black and sometimes orange in color.


A large family of bottom-dwelling fishes found in both fresh and saltwater. The most common reference is to smaller varieties inhabiting freshwater streams, which are important forage for gamefish.


A transitional zone between a faster main current and slower current in a stream. Important as a holding area for feeding fish.


Another name for caddis flies.


Natural baitfish prey of bass. Common throughout the U.S.

Shock leader:

A short but heavy piece of monofilament, attached to the hook, designed to take the shock of a hard strike. And the resulting abrasion from sharp teeth or bottom scraping.

Short strike:

Term referring to a fish hitting a bait or lure short of where the hook is positioned resulting in a missed hookset.

Sight fishing:

Method of angling, where fishermen can actually see the fish they are attempting to catch. Requires clear water.

Silver eels:

Slang for ribbonfish, which are not really eels.

Single haul:

The act of pulling on the flyline with the off hand to increase line speed during either the front cast or backcast. A “double haul” is the same thing applied on both the front cast and backcast.

Sinking tips:

Fly lines that are weighted in the tips to sink the fly in deep water.


Silicone, rubber, or plastic material fashioned around a spinnerbait or similar lure to create the body.


To catch zero fish or keepers. A bad day on the water.

Slack tide:

No tidal movement, usually that period between incoming and outgoing tides. Not a good time to fish.


Caused by digested fish products or fish oil. Caused by gamefish regurgitating or cutting up baitfish below, a slick may betray the location of a feeding school of bluefish or trout, for instance.


A fast strike from a bigger fish, that “smokes” the reel while pulling out a quantity of line. Smoker kings are the big ones that can “smoke” a reel, taking line at high speed.

Snapper weight:

Your standard lead weight of 16 ounces, used for many years on the Gulf Coast, especially on partyboats, for offshore bottom fishing.

Snelled flies:

Old-fashioned flies that came attached with a short, thick leader with a loop knot.


A large protected bay, usually on the Atlantic coast.

Spank equals Spook:

Disturbing the water with an overly aggressive cast will spook the fish you hope to catch.


The period when fish are reproducing.


Slang for saltwater seatrout, a spotted fish found from Virginia to Texas.

Speed trolling:

Trolling plastic billfish baits up to 20 miles an hour.

Spider jig:

Soft-plastic grub with tentacles or skirt at forward end.

Spider weight:

Lead weight used by surf fishermen to anchor their baits in a strong current. This weight has copper wire legs on it, that dig into the sand.


Liquid lure dye available in several colors. Simply dip plastic lure into jar, remove, and lure now has chartreuse or other color tail.

Spincast reel:

Reel featuring push button spool release. Example; Zebco 33.


The last phase of a mayfly’s life, the spinner dances above the water until it mates and the female lays eggs, whereupon the spinners die.

Spinner fall:

When mayfly spinners, after having successfully mated and laid their eggs, die en masse.


Lure that consists of a wire attached to a lead head type body. This lure normally has a rubber skirt, and one or more type of metal blades on the non-hook arm. These resemble baitfish when retrieved.

Spinning (reel):

Style of reel that allows easy casting of small lures. Best described as the type of reel that mounts under the rod for best balance.

Split cane rod:

An old-fashioned bamboo fly rod made by gluing together long strips of cane in hexagonal fashion. The cross-section of a split cane rod would look like a pie cut into six slices, though the periphery is six-sided or eight-sided.


Another method of finesse fishing. This technique involves pinching a small lead split shot sinker a foot or more above a small worm, then slowly dragging this on the bottom.


Topwater lure formally known as a Zara Spook. Resembles a cigar.


A flat, curved or concave metal lure that planes or wobbles while retrieved or trolled. Some spoon designs also lend themselves to a vertical jigging presentation.

Spring creek:

A creek whose flow comes from underground springs. Spring creeks are typically small, clear, and challenging to fish.

Spring runoff:

The time of year when the snow melts and runs into the rivers, swelling the trout streams with a great volume of water.

Spring tide:

High tides caused by seasonal lunar influence.

Square bill:

Style of crankbait known for their small square diving bills. Excellent lures to retrieve through trees, stumps, rocks. Example; Bagley B-III or Luhr-Jensen Speed Trap.

Standing End (or Standing Line)

Term used for knot tying, representing the section of line leading up to your reel. It is opposite of the Tag End.

Standing waves:

Waves that hardly move, racing against an oncoming current. For instance, waves from offshore that encounter a strong, outgoing tide at the jetties, with their speeds matched.

Standup tackle:

Short rod and stout reel, hooked up to a harness that the angler wears. The harness offers good back support and helps support the heavy tackle.

Star drag:

Reference to the star-shaped drag tension adjustment mechanism conveniently located beneath the handle on a conventional reel.

Stick bait:

Hard-plastic lure that imitates an injured minnow. Lures may float or suspend depending on construction. Example; Rapala Husky Jerk.

Stinger hook:

A trailing hook designed to catch short-striking fish. For instance, a slow-trolled live bait would have a stinger hook back near its tail. The nose hook tows the bait, while the stinger hook guards against short-strikes.

Stingray leggings:

Design borrows from snake leggings. Popularized by gulf coast wade fishermen to turn aside strikes from stingrays.


One of the major species of aquatic insects found in a trout stream. Stoneflies have three phases of development, from egg to nymph to adult, and may live underwater as long as four years before hatching to an adult winged insect. Stonefly nymphs often crawl out of the river to hatch out of their nymphal shucks on rocks.


A fly tied to resemble a leech, minnow or sculpin.

Strike indicators:

Little “bobbers” made of foam, cork or yarn that indicate when a fish has eaten the fly tied on the line below it by a change in movement and the drift.


Method of retaining fish catch, whereby fish are stored on a length of cord or chains with snaps. Fish remain in the water, in theory keeping the catch fresher. Not popular where snapping turtles, crabs, sharks or alligators are common.


Act of retrieving fly line by hand.


Reference to bottom contours and submerged natural and manmade features, such as old road beds and dropoffs. These features serve as travel routes and habitat for fish.


Strong braided-type lines made from modern materials. Example; Berkley Fireline.

Surf rod:

Long rods designed to cast and manage line while fishing in surf.

Surgeon’s knot:

A double overhand knot designed to join two pieces of line or leader together. Most commonly used by fly anglers to connect leader and tippet.


When bass are neither relating to the bottom of the lake, nor actively feeding near the surface. The fish are staging in the middle zone of water. This happens frequently in summer, when fish get inactive. Also describes lures that are made to stay in or at a certain depth when the retrieve is stopped.


Offshore waves that may be generated thousands of miles away. Usually easier to navigate than wave chop, which is steeper and much more frequent. Swells generally become a problem when they near land, as their height increases.

Swim bait:

Soft plastic lure that resembles a baitfish. Normally a life-size copy of a bluegill, shad, or trout. Example; Castaic lure.


A multi-piece metal connector that is able to rotate in order to prevent line twist.


Tag End:

A term used for knot tying, representing the end of your line (opposite the Standing Part of line leading up to your reel). This part is what you clip off after tying your knot.


Center console boats need shade, and the t-top is supported directly by the console itself. Anglers can fight fish from all quarters of the boat, without the top getting in their way.

Tailing fish:

In shallow water, fish often reveal their location when they tip down to feed from the bottom and their tail breaks the surface.

Tailing loop:

The result of a fly casting error, where the unrolling casting loop crosses itself, often resulting in a fouled cast.


A section of river that’s immediately below a dam.


The act of a fishing eating (taking) a bait or lure. Fly fisherman’s terminology for “getting a bite.”


Reference to the designed variation in diameter along the length of a fly line or fly leader; because the line (rather than the lure) is what is actually cast in fly fishing, the taper is important in how energy is stored and released during the cast. Examples include Double Taper or Weight Forward taper fly line.

Ten to Two:

The casting motion whereby the position of the rod tip is compared to the hands of a clock.


Insect species whose life cycle occurs on land, such as beetles and grasshoppers.


Depth of lake where the lowest level of useable oxygen and cooler water temperatures meet. Bass will rarely be found below this level.

Thirty second rule:

After 30 seconds out of the water, trout have little chance of surviving if released.


Reference to the chest part of an insect, where vital organs are stored and legs and wings emanate from. Also the same respective part of an artificial fly.

Three-way swivel:

An in-line swivel with a third station at 90 degrees, which allows attachment of a “dropper” line perpendicular to the main line.

Tide rip:

Two abutting currents running opposite directions as a result of tide flow and structure contour. These features concentrate organisms from every level of the food chain, including predatory gamefish.


Common reference to the very “tip” section of a fly leader or to the level leader material used to is re-built the thin tip of a fly leader. Fish are caught and flies re-tied to this section.


A corrosion-resistant metal alloy, featuring the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any metal. Often combined with steel by fishing tackle manufactures to manufacture rod guides or lure components.

Tourist trout:

Saltwater hardhead catfish get little respect, and they’ve been called this and much, much worse. Especially after poking one of their poisonous fins into some angler who has a limited vocabulary.


A fishing term referring to an attractor component added to the trailing hook of a lure. Most commonly familiar to bass fishermen who add soft plastic or pork rind trailers to spinnerbaits, jigs or spoons.


The surface that forms the stern (back) of a boat.

Trolling motor:

Smaller electric motor used for low speed trolling or boat positioning while fishing. Often secondary to a larger primary motor.

Trolling plug:

Saltwater trolling plugs have stout hooks and a big lip for deep diving. Designed for kingfish, wahoo, tuna and, on Florida’s Coastal Bend area on the Gulf, for gag grouper.

Tube lures:

Soft plastic lures that are hollow inside the body. The end of the lure is like a soft skirt with tentacles. Used on light lead head jigs and with a slip sinker.

Tuna tower:

Elevated driving platform that allows a better view of surrounding water in rolling seas. Also gives the captain a better view of the trolling spread to detect gamefish approaching a lure.


“1. Mixing of a lake’s water layers in early spring. 2. The unrolling of a fly line at the end of a cast.”


A brand of lead weight that comes in strips like a matchbook.


Utility boxes:

The clear plastic tackle boxes that have become popular recently. Example; Plano Stowaways.



Fishermen refer to any underwater plant as vegetation or “grass.”


Fishing vests are basically tackle storage systems designed to be worn rather than carried.


Stand clamp that holds the hook securely while tying materials to it. Although generally associated with tying flies, a vise serves equally well for tying jigs or attractor materials to trailer hooks or other lures.


Wacky worm:

Rigging method for straight body worm, where the hook goes through the middle of the worm and is left exposed. Looks stupid but works well on spawning fish.

Wade belt:

A wide plastic belt with various items attached, like a PVC rod holder, needlenose pliers in sheath, and a stringer attachment.

Wade fish:

To wade through the water after fish. The lack of boating mobility is made up for by the contemplative nature of being partially submerged in the elements. Catching one fish wading is worth 5 or more from a boat, because you’ve really earned it.

Walk the dog:

Retrieve method used for fishing topwater lures. Accomplished by twitching the rod tip downward several times. Used mostly with spook lures.


Refers to a hook with a large opening or gap between the shank and point. This enables the angler to hook a bigger percentage of fish.


A stiff plastic or metal wire that protects the jig or lure from becoming snagged.


In salt water, normally made up of floating yellow sargassum weed, created when two offshore currents flow together. A solid weedline is a unique environment, inhabited with all sorts of small of juvenile fish and the predators that feed on them.

Weight forward fly line:

A fly line with the thickest diameter in the first 20 or 30 feet of the line to give it weight for casting.

Wide-gap hook:

Refers to a hook with a large opening or gap between the shank and point. This enables the angler to hook a bigger percentage of fish.


A blade design used on spinnerbaits that resembles a half moon.

Wing case:

The structure on an aquatic insect or artificial nymph that holds the undeveloped wings on the back of the immature insect.

Wire leader:

Any of several kinds of leader with steel content.

Wreck fishing:

Fishing over sunken shipwrecks, usually for bottomfish but not always. Coastal pelagic fish often school above the wrecks at mid-depth or even at the surface.


Zebra mussel:

An exotic mussel that has infested U.S. water and threatens our fisheries. Looks like zebra stripe little clams, and they attach to boats, trailers, docks, etc. Use care when boating in areas with this creature. Inspect your boat and trailer prior to launching in another body of water.

Zipper worm:

New style of plastic worm that features a flat body with ridges that look similar to a zipper on clothing. Very popular on the west coast.