Ultimate Guide • Updated Tue, Jan 16, 2024
Fishing has a language of its own. For a first-time angler, this may prove a daunting point of entry into the world of fishing. However, with time, these words will naturally become a part of how you understand and describe your craft. The best way to learn is to do, so seek time on the water with veteran guides and anglers. In the meantime, AnyCreek has compiled a list to provide a crash course in fishing terminology. This guide will look at the different aspects of fishing and then dive into the fishing lingo specific to that field.
Florida sunset with Guide William Cochran. Courtesy of Amelia on Fly.
This article covers:
With almost all fishing, you’ll find yourself with a rod and a reel in your hands. Providing you with the ability to cast your bait wherever you like, they put the power in your hands. As such fundamental parts of fishing, the rod and the reel have evolved much over time, and have gained quite a variety of terms describing them. With these terms in your toolkit, you’ll be able to confidently describe what you're wielding, and build on this foundation of your fishing understanding.
Reel style where a fixed spool that is mounted to the top of the rod, allowing for a revolving handle to wind the line onto the spool.
Reel style that goes on top of the rod, making the spool parallel to the rod, allowing for greater accuracy with casts, cast distance, and line sensitivity.
Also known as a bird's nest, it refers to the tangled line on baitcasting reels when pressure is not regulated properly when casting.
A round metal mechanism in spinning reels holding and guiding the line onto the spool.
The reel adjustment determining the amount of resistance required to pull the line without opening the spool, crucial for landing bigger fish.
The style of reel paired with a fly rod in fly fishing that allows for freer spooling to accommodate the flicks and motions of fly fishing.
Rod type used specifically in fly fishing along with a fly reel, very lightweight relative other rods.
When the spool is able to revolve without any tension or drag on the line — the line comes out freely; often achieved using a device which reduces tension on the line allowing it to freely spin.
A setting in low-profile baitcasting reels regulating spool speed to prevent backlashes.
The component turning the spool or bail to reel in the line.
The part of the rod securing and mounting the reel.
The rod's resistance to bending under a given weight, indicating its casting capabilities.
The amount of bend at the rod tip, categorized as fast, medium, or slow.
The cylindrical component in a fishing reel holding the fishing line.
The best way to put these terms to use is through practice, so make sure to work on your technique and cast before your next time on the water. Whenever you’re ready to get out there, AnyCreek’s lineup of experienced guides is ready to help you fish like a pro.
Gear and tackle make up an angler’s arsenal. These essential components of the craft come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with each element having a name of its own. Knowing what you’re using helps in understanding when and why you used it, and when to use it in the future. When you have the vocabulary to describe what you’re using, you gain the ability to help other anglers hone in on what might work for them by sharing what is successful for you. In learning the tools of the trade, you’ll often find yourself getting just as much out of it as you’ll get when others share their experiences.
A meticulously crafted bait designed to trigger predatory fish strikes through vibration, flash, and color mimicry.
The maximum number of fish an angler can legally catch and retain in a single outing.
Natural or organic material used to entice fish, ranging from live worms to unconventional choices like hot dogs.
Used in fishing rigs, beads create sound, enhancing the allure of the setup.
A buoyant object keeping bait suspended and indicating fish bites.
A versatile fishing setup allowing fish to take the bait without feeling resistance.
Ground-up baitfish scattered in the water to attract game fish.
A device enabling controlled depth fishing by lowering the bait to desired levels.
A rig with a hook suspended above a weight at the bottom, perfect for finesse fishing.
A lifelike artificial fly designed to imitate insects floating on the water surface.
A technique employing specialized weighted lines to cast lightweight artificial flies, commonly practiced in rivers for trout.
Colored, wide-diameter line crucial for casting flies effectively.
A precisely shaped metal piece with a sharp point and barb, essential for catching fish.
The length of line or wire between your main line and hook, tied together to ensure greater strength and protection when your line’s in the water.
Cordage tying lures or rigs to the angler's setup, available in an array of materials, including monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided nylon.
A sub-surface fly fishing lure imitating underwater insects, a favorite among trout anglers.
A device extending from a boat to prevent tangles when trolling multiple lines.
A hardbody lure mimicking the movements of wounded baitfish, a must-have in saltwater fishing.
Lures designed to trigger instinctual responses from predatory gamefish, including spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, and chatterbaits.
The technique of reeling in the bait or lure, with variations like slow and steady or fast with intermittent pauses.
A configuration of hooks, weights, lines, and floats, aimed at catching fish.
A weight attached to a rig to help it sink, often made of lead or tungsten.
Thin rubber strands tied around a jig head, adding action and enhancing the lure's profile.
Thin metal blades found on spinnerbaits, creating underwater reflection and attracting fish.
All the essential bits and pieces of fishing gear, including hooks, sinkers, swivels, and other rigging essentials.
A setup comprising a bullet weight, glass or plastic bead, and a hook, commonly used with soft plastic baits like worms or craws.
A soft plastic lure mimicking baitfish, added to a jig head or reaction bait to enhance the lure's appearance.
The technique of pulling one or more rigs or lures through the water from a moving boat.
A system of wires, blades, hooks, and swimbaits designed to imitate a school of baitfish, popular among bass and striper anglers.
A finesse presentation involving a soft plastic worm rigged through the center, creating a tantalizing action.
With this newfound knowledge of what exactly you’re using, go the extra mile and learn how to properly care for each part of your gear. Additionally, pursue your gear further by investing time in learning various knots and set-ups. The time and effort you put in off the water will only help to make your fishing experience as smooth as possible.
There are countless terms used to describe the variety of fish available for you to catch. These terms carry local flavor, shared experience, and connect modern anglers to fishers of old and their antique terms. There’s additionally a great deal of fishing slang that’s evolved over the years, aiming to convey some core aspect of the fish in a colorful way. Knowing these terms is in no way mandatory to fish, but knowing them helps to round out your experience by connecting you to the shared vocabulary of anglers.
Terms denoting large or impressive fish.
A term for someone participating in recreational fishing.
A large largemouth bass.
Red Drum or redfish.
Mahi Mahi or Dolphin.
Muskellunge or Muskie.
Large smallmouth bass.
Unlicensed or lackadaisical angler.
Fishfinder or sonar device.
An angler's treasured fishing spot.
Another term for steelhead.
Failing to catch any fish on a trip.
An area where many fish are concentrated.
Angler's record catch.
A lipless crankbait brand, occasionally used generically for similar lures.
When a big fish pulls out all the line from the reel.
Another name for Walleye.
Hybrid striped bass, a cross between striped and white bass.
Friendly reminder to those focusing on what someone else is doing more than what it is they’re doing.
Juvenile bullhead catfish.
Additionally, if you were looking to learn more about how to describe the fish you’ve caught, we’ve compiled a list of a fish’s anatomical features. Knowing these terms may help you gain a deeper appreciation for the fish, and understand fish across species through how they allow you to compare one another.
The bone forming the upper jaw of a fish.
A bony plate covering the gill chamber in fish.
A protective covering up over the gills.
Fins on each side of the fish, aiding in steering and balance.
Pair of fins on the lower side, contributing to stability.
The fin located on the underside near the tail.
The tail fin, propelling the fish through the water.
A small, fleshy fin found on some fish species.
The fin located on the back of the fish.
A sensory organ detecting vibrations in the water.
The body of water makes a critical difference when it comes to fishing. Certain fish inhabit certain waterways, and being able to tell one from the other increases your odds of being in the right place. Whether you’re fishing inshore or inland, this knowledge will help you understand what fish to target where. If you’re on a guided trip, your guide will know exactly the right spot to take you. When you’re on your own, you can develop this knowledge by being able to differentiate between which body of water is which.
A smaller body of water partially enclosed by land, common in coastal and freshwater areas.
A mix of fresh and saltwater, often found in coastal regions.
A smaller version of a river, navigable by canoes or kayaks.
A cliff-like feature on a river or creek, often indicating deeper water beneath it.
A sudden transition from shallow to deep water.
A slow-moving, deep area of a river near fast-moving water, favored by fish.
A large, shallow area in a body of water, abundant in aquatic vegetation and fish.
The area where a stream flows into its original river or source; where a tributary connects to the larger body of water it flowed from.
A man-made structure extending into the sea, commonly used to create shipping channels and popular fishing spots.
An inland freshwater body, naturally occurring and typically large in size.
A peninsula extending into a lake, often featuring shallower water around it.
A crescent-shaped body of water formed when a river changes course, often adjacent to the original river.
A raised platform extending into a body of water, constructed from wood or concrete, offering a strategic fishing location.
A small, man-made freshwater body, often stocked with fish.
Fast-flowing water caused by bends in the river's shape, also known as a ripple or run.
A large, man-made body of water created by damming a river or creek, serving various purposes, including recreation and water supply.
A man-made bank or shore made of rocks or boulders, preventing overflow and erosion.
A natural, narrow body of moving water, categorized as major (principal) or tributaries.
Water directly below, downstream, or resulting from a dam or hydraulic structure upstream or above the body of water.
A specific depth in water where the temperature drastically changes, influencing fish behavior.
Boats open up fishing to a whole range of new destinations. At some point in your fishing career, you’ll find yourself on a boat, and you’ll find these terms coming in handy. Knowing your starboards from your ports will not only make you feel like a pirate but will allow you to walk confidently onto any boat with the same applicable knowledge.
The direction behind the boat when facing the bow.
The width of a boat measured at its widest point.
The front part of the boat when in motion.
A unit of measurement for water depth, equivalent to six feet.
The direction forward when facing the bow.
The side or upper edge of a boat.
The direction away from the wind.
The left side of the boat when facing the bow.
The right side of the boat when facing the bow.
The back part of the boat when in motion.
The flat surface on the stern of a boat where an outboard motor is mounted.
The direction facing the wind.
The best way to learn fishing terms is by fishing. The more time you spend on the water, the more you’ll pick up without even realizing it. If you’re looking for a place to start, AnyCreek’s dedicated guides are the best place to begin your journey. Committed to the quality of your experience, our guides apply their wealth of knowledge and experience to take you further outdoors.
AnyCreek is the leading online resource and marketplace for outdoor guided experiences. Trusted by world-class guides, AnyCreek streamlines their back office to help them focus on their craft. Discover and book your next adventure with confidence.