A Fishing Glossary for Beginners

Improve your fishing terminology with our break down of the most useful fishing terms and fishing slang on the water!

fishing tackle on dock

New to the fishing scene? You’re in for a real adventure young angler. Oh, you don’t know what an angler is? That’s you – and you should probably learn other common fishing terminology here.

Don’t make a fool of yourself in the local tackle shop or on the water with our handy guide covering all the fishing slang, fishing lingo, and key fishing terms.

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Fishing Terms You Need to Know!

Albright knot: A reliable knot for joining lines of different diameters and different materials like monofilament to braided line.

Angling: Angle was the Old English term for a hook and has developed into angler, the name given to someone who enjoys fishing.

Anal fin: The fin closest to the tail on the fish’s belly – or something else that we need not point out.

Artificial bait: Also known as synthetic bait, this fishing bait may be identical to real bait and even smell like it, but it is not.

Artificial lures: Contraptions that are designed to act like something that a fish would try and eat. They may jiggle, turn or spin.

Backlash: Backlash is when a loop of your line is stuck under coils because the spool was allowed to overrun. It’s sometimes known as a Bird’s Nest too.

Bait Ball: A pack of baitfish densely stacked together that is likely to attract predators quickly. 

Baitcasting: This is when you cast a lure using a multiple reel – not when using a spinning reel – also known as fixed spool reel.

Man holding fish

Baitcasting reel: A smaller multiplier reel made specifically to cast lures.

Bait Clip: To stop the bait blowing around, a clip is used to hold the bait in place. This is known as a bait clip and it also maintains the aerodynamics of a rig, enabling you to have longer casts. 

Baitfish: Baitfish is any type of fish that is frequently used as bait to catch large fish. Usual types of baitfish include flying fish, mackerel, herring, sprats, and ballyhoo. Squid is also a type of baitfish even though not regarded as a fish to most people.

Bait Well: Good luck!

Beachcasting: As the name suggests, beachcasting is when a fisherman casts their lure or a baited hook into the water from the beach.

Bird: Working as a type of teaser, this is a special device made to splash on the water’s surface, imitating the movements that are usually made by baitfish.

Birds nest: A bird nest and an expletive usually go together like mornings and coffee. It means a big tangle of your line on the reel. It occurs because of overrunning.

Bivalves: Bivalves is a mollusk that has a dual hinged shell. Examples include oysters, scallops, mussels and clams.

Bobber: This is fishing slang for a fishing float, although, you are much more likely to hear the term bobber in the States and not so much in the UK.

fishing reel on dock

Bottom fishing: One way of fishing with a baited hook is to place it on the bottom of the seabed. This is achieved using a weight, often made of lead. This is known as bottom fishing. 

Brit: Brits are not just British people, but they are also a type of small fry which accumulate with mackerel and bass in the UK’s warmer months.

Bucktail: This is a wriggling lure made up of a fixed hook and a metal head. They are often added with hairs from a buck, but dears will be happy that synthetic strands get used more often today.

Butt Pad: The butt pad is a type of plastic cup that is added to a waist belt. It is used to reduce the load from the rod when catching large fish. It is work at the front of the waist – not at the back.

Catch and Release Scheme: This is when equipment is used to catch fish in a way that does not harm them. The fish are then released back into the water. This is usually part of research purposes and some recreational fishing. An example of the equipment used is circle hooks.

Caudal fin: The fish’s tail.

Cephalopod: Marine creatures which have tentacles. Examples of Cephalopod include octopus, cuttlefish, and squid. Many more examples exist.

Charter Boat: A type of boat that can be hired by a bunch of friends planning a fishing trip. The sea-angling boat comes with a captain too.

Chartplotter: A type of GPS system for your boat with some additional charts and important info

Chum: Also termed as a rubby dubby (in the UK), a Chum is a concoction of chopped up bait and fish guts, providing a smell to lure in fish to your bait/hook.

Ciguatera toxin: Inconvenient or fatal – take your pick – this is a toxin often found in predatory reef fish. If eaten, the affected fish will be poisonous to humans!

Cocktail: Two types of bait combined on a single hook – delicious!

Continental shelf: A continental shelf is an area of shallow water near landmass. The UK has a lot of these while the US has fewer. Anglers need to be aware of them for their safety. 

Countdown lures: This is a type of lure that will sink at a set rate. An example may be one foot per second ut the exact rate will be stipulated on the box. An angler must count seconds as soon as the lure lands in the water.

fishing at sunset

Crankbait: UK anglers will be unfamiliar with this term as they class it as another type of plug. However, US anglers call plugs that have been made for casting as crankbait. Now you know!

Crimps: When a knot just won’t do or will be really impractical, a crimp is needed to make a connection in heavy strand cable or multi-strand cables. They are sometimes called swages or sleeves too.

Crimper: A crimper compresses crimps, the tool we just explained above. Don’t say you forgot already!

Crustaceans: Lobsters, crabs, shrimps, prawns and such…

Daisy chain: This is a line of decoy lures but only the final one includes a hook. All the others before are teasers acting a bit of a troll. 

Deep-runner: Crankbaits that have been made to dive up to 10-feet deep or further, and as the name suggests, run at this depth.

Demersal: Types of fish that eat creatures residing on the seabed. 

Depthfinder: Electrical device that can calculate the depth of water directly beneath your boat – important!

Dock: What the US anglers call a pontoon or jetty. You moor your boat to it.

Doggie: Any fish associated with the dogfish species. Often not a happy site to anglers and usually followed by “not another doggie”!

Downrigger: A fishing term that describes a cranelike device seen on sterns of some sport-fishing boats. It lowers the planer on a reliable wire to a pre-set depth. 

Drift fishing: This is when the angler is wetting his/her line when not underway or at an anchor. They are just drifting with the freedom of the wind and the current.

Dropper: A hook link which is attached just above a lure or weight.

Ebbtide: When the tide is falling. 

FAD: A FAD, or Fish Aggregation Device, is what is known as floating platforms where fish congregate underneath. Commercial fishermen will use these most often.

Fighting Belt: This is a belt that anglers wear. The belt includes the butt pad which was explained above – to make securing a big fish less problematic or painful. 

father and son fishing

Fishfinder: Savvy tech device that finds fish and shows them on a display. Fancy!

Flapper: This is a method used to prepare dead baitfish. The fish will be filleted on either side all the way up to its head. The backbone will also be removed. The purpose of them is to provide a scent trail and attract more fish.

Flapper Rig: A multi- or single-hooked bait rig including (short hook) snoods.  

Flattie: One of the flatfish family’s smallest members. 

Flattie bashing: Hoping to catch flatfish.

Floodtide: The rising tide.

Fluorocarbon line: An advanced monofilament line which is pretty much invisible once submerged.  

Fry: A fry can mean a cooking method or it can mean a young fish. You’ll work it out!

Gaff: This is an angler’s tool that looks like a sharp hook with a handle. It is used to get your catch on the boat. It may have a second meaning in some locations.

Game fish: Any type of fish that likes to fight back and is often wanted by sporting anglers to win fishing competitions.

Gastropods: Marine slugs and snails.

Gear ratio: A phrase to describe the ratio between the number of turns that the reel spool makes for each turn of the handle.

Gigging: The technique of killing flatfish with a pointy stick. Anglers stealthily sneak up behind them in shallow waters and stab them – how noble! Low-profile doesn’t work for these flatfish when crafty anglers are around.

Gill: The organ of the fish which intakes oxygen from water. It’s what lets them breathe underwater.

GPS: A navigation system just like you have in your car but on a boat.

Gunwhale: Gunwhale is not pronounced how it looks and sounds more like “gun-nel“. It is the outside upper edge of the hull – both sides included.

Handline: This is simple fishing. One line. One man. And one hook at either end. It does not include a reel or rod. 

Handlining: Handlining is a technique to get big fish on the boat on occasions when further line cannot be wound on the reel. This risks injury and the right gloves need to be worn at all times.

Head pin: This is the short piece of wire which gets pushed through the baitfish’s head in preparation for trolling.

Head spike: The spike that is used as part of the head pin.  

Hokkai lures: A peculiar word to describe a short string of shrimp-type lures added to short snoods. Most likely to be overheard in US angling clubs than UK ones.

IGFA: Acronym for The International Game Fishing Association.

Inshore fishing: If you are fishing and you can see land, you are probably doing inshore fishing. 

Invertebrate: Any type of animal that has no backbone, whether land-based or aquatic wildlife, such as worms and octopuses. 

Jellyworm: Also known as a ragworm, this is a soft plastic product which imitates marine worms.

Jerkbait: One lure type that resembles baitfish that are often fished through succession fast jerks. This is to resemble the actions of darting baitfish.

Jig: Don’t confuse this with drunken anglers’ dance moves. It is actually a term to describe artificial lures that are fished with vertically. This method is also termed jigging. 

Jigging: See above for details!

Joey: An adolescent and immature mackerel who is rude and unruly to their mother.

Lanyard: A short strap or rope used for securing items and preventing them from getting lost.

Leader: A leader is something on the end of a line that is of a different material, most often a hook or lure.

Leadhead: A leadhead is a type of lure made up of a fixed hook and metal head. Soft plastic bodies are attached to this type of lure. 

Ledger: Fishing slang to describe bottom fishing rigs that include sliding weights. 

Line guide: Rollers and rod rings which line will pass through.

Livewell: Livewell is key fishing terminology that describes an area on a boat designed to keep your catch alive. These compartments usually have a built-in device that provides recirculation of water.

Live Bait Well: See above for info!

Main Line: The line attached to your reel and that is tied to the leader. 

Mantle: The main body of squid which its tentacles and head stem out from.

Mollusks: Invertebrate animals such as mussels, clams, snails, slugs, squids, octopus, cuttlefish and oysters.

Monel: A corrosion-resistant and pliable wire.

Mono: A line made of nylon monofilament. 

Monofilament: A single synthetic and untwisted filament.

Multiplier reel: A type of reel including a transverse-axis spool that needs internal mechanisms to increase handle rotation above 1:1. Also check out baitcasting reels.

Muppet: An imitation squid made of soft plastic, or what you will call an angling friend who has acted a bit stupid (in the UK at least). Maybe one who did not brush up on their key angling terminology!

Natural bait: Dead or alive hook bait.

Offshore fishing: Inshore fishing was described as fishing when you can see land. So, it is logical that offshore fishing is a term to describe anyone fishing when they are unable to see land from their boat.

Operculum: The part of the fish that covers its own gills. 

Outrigger: Big-game fishing terms now! The outrigger is when long poles are mounted on either side of your boat so you can spread out trolling lines, and allow you to deploy several lures.

Paddle-tail: The endplate of a soft-plastic. This endplate is flat and is the part of the product that allows it to wriggle.

Paravane: So you can fish your lure at a deeper depth, a paravane is used. It is made of plastic. 

Party Boat: Not like a Charter boat (see above), this boat is full of large numbers of anglers allowing them to fish together at once. It’s a fishing party!

Paternoster:  This fishing term is used to describe rigs that have been made to be used close to the seabed. It includes lead weights, hook snoods and droppers. 

Pectoral fin: Most fish have a fin on both sides of their body. This is just after the gillcover (see above) and is called the pectoral fin. 

Pelagic: Fish species that can be found in lots of areas, i.e. they are not localized to one region.

Pelvic fin: The find that are situated between the anal fin and the pectoral fin. They are found on the ‘belly’ of the fish. 

Pennel Rig: A two-hook rig used for longer baits such as marine worms or large baits like whole squids.  

Pirk: A chrome-plated and heavy jig made to descend fast. Frequently used with success while fishing above deep-water wrecks.

PFD: Key fishing terminology, A Personal Floatation Device is something that every angler should own and wear when there is even a small chance that they could fall overboard.

Planer: A paravane taking steroids, normally made from robust stainless steel.  

Plug: A hard-molded casting lure made to imitate the movements and appearance of smaller baitfish.  

Surface (Popper): Topwater plug that makes a decent splash when pulled on sharply. It is used to imitate somewhat wounded baitfish that are on the water’s surface and struggling.

Predator: Fish preying on other fish.

Prey: Fish that need to watch out for the above!

Pulley Rig: A shore-casting rig made to decrease tackle losses while fishing above rough ground.

Pulpit: In fishing terminology, this is a name given to the rail circling the boat’s foredeck. It prevents passengers from falling into the drink!

Quick-Release Clip: A device made to primarily grip your line, but then to release the line under a quick load.

Rig Body Line: The length of the main section of your line that is used in a rig. It is where hook snoods get attached.

Roller Guide: A line guide added to a fishing rod. It includes a roller that reduces friction under high loads.

Rotten Bottom: Not just what happens after a night on the town followed by a curry. It is also a link that connects to a sacrificial sinker to reduce the loss of your tackle.

Sabikis: String of lures on single snoods that are used to help catch baitfish.

Sand spike: Rod holders which are pushed deep in the sand with the purpose of supporting a beachcasting rod (see above for beachcasting) or surf rod vertically.

Seamounts: Think of a seamount like an island that was so close to actually becoming an island. These mountains rising from the seabed do not come above the surface. 

Secondary Port: any port that is not classed as a standard port.

Shad: A soft-plastic and small lure in the shape of a fish.  

Sink and draw: When the fishing rod is raised up and down to give the lure the aesthetic of a dying fish and to entice other fish to check it out.

Sinker: Lead weights that are used to send a line much deeper.

SINK: Referring to the design of kayaks used to fish in- Sit IN Kayak.

SOT: The other fishing kayak type – Sit OTop.

Skirted lure: A lure that is made to act like an octopus or squid. 

Slack water: The area of the tide with little strength. This is the top and bottom sections. 

Sleeves: Refer to crimps

Snap Links: A swivel that has a clip added and is used to secure rig components like casting weights.

Snelled Hook: A line which is attached to a hook’s shank (long straight edge) rather than the orthodox attachment point, the hook’s eye.

Snood: This is a hook link. Also refer to dropper.

Snubber: Shock-absorbers added to trolling handlines.

Spinner: A rotating lure made of metal and often small.  

Spinnerbait: Artificial bait that consists of some rotating blades, a skirt-dressed and a leadhead.

Spinning: When you cast a lure using a fixed spool – or spinning – reel. Instead of a baitcasting reel or a multiplier.

Spinning reel: Refer to fixed spool reels. They are the same.

Split shot: Small weights squashed on the line, predominantly used with a lighter float tackle.

Spoon: Metal lure made to flutter and wobble, instead of rotating as a spinner does.  

Sportfishing Boat: A type of fishing boat usually around eight meters or more that is used for offshore fishing. See above to uncover offshore fishing terminology. 

Spreader bar: Types of skirted lures and soft-plastic attached to a purposeful metal bar, designed to be a decoy by imitating a shoal of fish.  

Standard Port: Ports dotted around the coast which records and publishes tidal data. See above for secondary port. 

Standing part: An important knot-tying fishing term, that refers to part of your line which remains above your knot.

Stinger: A secondary hook there with the purpose to catch those short-striking fish which don’t quite get the rules of the angling game!

Stromboid toxin: A type of poisoning that occurs when you eat a fish that has gone bad or gone off.

Surfcasting: Alternative fishing slang for beachcasting. 

Swages: As defined by crimps. See above!

Swim Bladder: This organ is inside a fish and is what allows it to stay still at any required depth it can muster.

Swimming lures: Plugs that sink and are manufactured to look like swimming baitfish. These plugs wobble and vibrate during the retrieve, with some even having rattles built inside them. Also known as lipless crankbaits.

Swimbaits: Soft-plastic, or just lures, normally including a paddle-type tail.  

Swivel: Small metal spinning device added to fishing rigs to enable the unwinding of line twists.

Tackle: An inclusive fishing word used to describe any equipment that makes up part of your fishing attire.

Taff Rail: The rail spanning around the boat’s stern.

Tag end: A knot fishing term, that means the short length remains after the knot is tied – which is understandably snipped off.

Teaser: Devices designed to attract any fish to your lures.

Terminal Tackle: The end of your rig that means business, hooks, and everything! 

Topwater lures: Hard baits and plugs that make a disturbance on the surface of the water in the process of a retrieve. They are made to copy the behavior of wounded batfish.

Trace: The part of the where you attach the hook.

Transom: The upper outer edge of the hull that goes across the stern. Also, refer to Gunwhale above. 

Trolling: Dragging your lure, or a number of them.  

Trolling ball: A ball-like lead weight used to get a trolling line much deeper. It is often used within a downrigger setup. 

Up-and-down rig: Fishing terminology to describe any rig that is intended to be deployed vertically in a water plane.

Waypoint: The GPS location which is marked on a chart, often used to direct into a new route, or as a marker of an event.

Wishbone Rig: The two hook bait rig used for when you go bottom fishing.  

Working End: The end of the line where you have tied your knot.

Zander: A type of freshwater fish that has no right to be included in this awesome breakdown of fishing terminology – but a great way to include a Z and a fantastic way to mark the end of your fishing terms crash course.

Was it like studying a new language? Don’t worry with these fishing terms under your belt you can talk like a pro angler, even if you are not one just yet.

Remembering these terms can be tough but worry not because most anglers will pick them up as they coast along. If you are ever unsure or too embarrassed to ask their definitions in the angling club, head back here and rely on us to help!

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