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Fishing Lingo and Fishing Terms |

Fishing Lingo and Fishing Terms-Learn The Language of Fishing

Spring is in the air, and with it comes the anticipation of the hunt. The hunt for fish. Now maybe it’s been a while since you were at the lake, or maybe you’ve never even dropped a line in the water (I have heard stories about people who don’t fish, but frankly I’ve never believed them). Either way, you may need a primer on the lingo.

Anglers have a language that is all their own, and if you don’t speak their language, you might be missing out. So I have compiled a list of words and phrases that you might hear on the lake, and are highly unlikely to hear anywhere else.

What Is Angling, And Why Do We Call It That?

Excellent Question! I’m so glad you asked. Just bear with me for a minute, as this is likely to be the most long winded and boring answer in this hub.

In modern usage, to angle for something generally refers to a subtle or devious means to an end. For example, one might say: “Rob is angling to make some money from his shiny new fishing hub.” Another example might be: “Jane was angling for compliments on her new dress.” In the second example, you might even say that Jane was fishing for compliments. Coincidence? Hmm, let’s dig a little deeper.

Since around the middle of the sixteenth century, the word “angler” has been used as a noun, in referring to anyone who uses a hook and line to catch fish. In verb form, angle/angling was derived from the noun, “angle”, which had been used since the fifteenth century to describe a fish hook. This latter has long since fallen from common usage, but we still use angling/angler to describe fishing, and those who love to fish.

Common Fishing Words And Phrases

There are a multitude of words that are unique to fishing. Although some words may sound familiar, the meanings are definitely not the same.
Some of the basics:


Fishing Reels With Rods

Fly Fishing Reel (top) and Spinning Reel

A fishing pole


A mechanism for casting your line, and reeling in fish


Usually made of rubber, plastic or wood, a lure is typically fashioned after a small fish or insect, and is used to entice a fish to bite.


Usually a live fish, worm or other critter that might be considered a tasty treat for fish.

Jig (noun)

A popular lure, usually with a flowing twisty tail or other enticing appendage.

Jig (verb)

A retrieval technique (used with the lure of the same name), that involves slowly reeling in the lure, while bumping it along the bottom. The up and down motion makes it irresistable to big bass.

Texas Rigged Rubber Worm

Texas Rigged Rubber Worm

Texas Rig

A specific method of attaching a lure or bait to your hook to make it resistant to snagging in the weeds.

Fishing Tackle

This has nothing to do with driving a person into the ground for taking your favorite fishing spot. I believe that is called assault and battery. Fishing tackle simply refers to your collection of fishing accessories and accouterments.

Some Tricky Fishing Terminology

Here Are A Few Fishing Terms That You May Only Think You Know:

Bird Nest

A comfy home for the cute little birdies? Nope. This is the bane of anglers who use the baitcasting reel. A bird nest is a particularly nasty backlash, usually caused by not applying enough thumb pressure to the spool when casting. You could spend hours picking one of these bad boys apart.


When an angler says “The bass are on the beds”, it has nothing to do with sleepy fish. “Bed” refers to circular indentations in the bottom that some species of fish make for the purpose of laying eggs. When they are spawning, they are said to be “on the beds.”


A cozy blanket for the fish beds, right? Wrong again! Cover is any structure such as weeds, lily pads, or docks that offers refuge from predators. It also makes for a handy spot for ambushing prey.

Are You A Fishing Widow?

Here are some words you should learn. Uttered at the right moment, these words will garner your spouse’s undivided attention.


A very large fish, usually a largemouth bass. If you shout “Check out this lunker!” your fish addicted significant other has no choice but to look. Really. It’s like a sickness. They know that there’s no way you caught a big bass right there in the family room. But what if they’re wrong? Oh, they can try not to look. But in the end, they just can’t help themselves.


Similar to a lunker. This one is often followed by exclamation points, the number of which are directly proportional to the size of the fish.

Fishing Lures And Baits

The selection of lures available is nearly endless. Knowing the how and when to use a particular lure can make the difference between success, and going home skunked (empty handed, sent packin’, ixnay on the ishfay). Below are a few of the most popular styles of lures.

The jig: This lure is one of the most enduring designs. It is a consistent producer of large fish. Since it’s typically used around thick weeds and tree branches, it’s also a consistent producer of curse words.

The rubber worm: Exactly what it sounds like. Fished in similar fashion to the jig.

Spinner Bait

Spinner Bait

The crankbait (also called a plug, or stick bait): Shaped like a minnow or other small fish, this lure has a small paddle below the head. This gives it a side to side, or wiggling action, to simulate an injured fish. They come in many sizes and colors, to emulate different varieties of baitfish.

Spinner bait: This is basically a hook with a bent wire. At the end of the wire is a spoonlike metal blade that spins as it is pulled through the water. I use it just below the surface, when the sun is high. The flash of the spinning blade often triggers a strike.

Swim Bait: Regardless of how it may sound, swim bait has nothing to do with swimming in shark infested water. A swim bait is usually shaped like a minnow or some other bait fish. They’re typically jointed, or have some feature that imparts a swimming action as they’re pulled through the water. The lunkers love this!

Top water lure: A floating lure that emulates any number of swiming creatures. Some are “popped” across the surface, others are retrieved smoothly, and some are jerked to simulate a frog.

Pork Bait

Frog Colored Pork "Chunk"

Chunk: A piece of pork fat, often preserved in a salt water solution, that is added to a lure. Most commonly used with a spinner, to add to it’s attractiveness.


The most sinister of all baits, the name does not do it justice. The smell can be absolutely horrific. I have seen stinkbait make grown men cry. Stinkbait is a doughy concoction of mostly dead things…or worse…parts of dead things. Historically, it has been used to perpetrate some truly unspeakable practical jokes, but mostly it’s used to catch catfish. If you really want to know more, I’ll add the recipes for a couple of stinkbaits that I have had some success with.

Heinous Stinkbait Recipes

I don’t want to send you away empty handed, so here are the stinkbait recipes I promised you. They’re pretty easy to make, and only use a handful of ingredients. The measurements do not really matter. The main goal is to form a dough.

Moderately Nasty Stinkbait Recipe


  • Expired liverwurst. Whatever you have left over is fine.
  • Expired bologna, chopped. Again, leftovers are good enough.
  • A couple tablespoons of Faygo Redpop. If you don’t have access to Faygo products, any strawberry cream soda will work.
  • A few slices of old bread.

The process is easy. Mash it all together, use enough bread to form a stiff dough, and leave it outside to ferment. A few hot days should do the trick. From there, it’s just a matter of putting it on a hook, and waiting for the hawg.

Tip! Dough bait keep falling off your hook? Try cutting on old pair of nylons into 2″-3″ squares. Then wrap a bit of bait in each square and hang it on your hook. No more lost bait!

An Even More Heinous Stinkbait Recipe

This one is extremely simple, but is both sinister and gag inducing. Buy about half a pound of chicken livers, add several drops of anise oil. If you don’t like your neighbors, leave the entire container out in your backyard to bake in the sun. If you do like your neighbors, bury the container in a shallow hole. After 4-5 hot sumer days, CAREFULLY retrieve the container and place in a cooler or some other vessel that has a tight fitting lid, and you’re good to go. Be sure to hold this container well away from your face when opening the lid!
Bon Apetit!



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  • Article by Rob Robillard

    avatar Rob Robillard is a freelance writer who lives and works in the Detroit area. When he's not busy writing winning website content for his clients, Rob can usually be found fishing, or writing about fishing and other fun and exciting topics. In addition to writing, Rob has experience in carpentry, hydraulics, machine repair and musical instrument sales and repair.
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