9 Weird Fishing Terms and What They Mean

You finally booked your first offshore charter fishing trip. Admittedly, you’re a little nervous and uncertain of what to expect, but are open to learning more about angling as well as the terminology that goes along with it. As you and your friends watch the mate rig the lines, he turns asks to you and asks, “So, have you ever tossed a live ballyhoo into the pelagic zone and experienced a bad backlash?”

The puzzled expression on your face is as clear as the waters of Caribbean. Half of these words sound totally weird to you and have no clue what they mean. Don’t worry, you’re not alone!

Veteran anglers often seem to speak a unique language that can be a challenge to understand at times. While there are many fishing terms that may sound odd to a newbie (or even those experienced anglers that focus on one particular type of fishing), we can demystify several of the terms that people ask about most often.

1. Backlash. When your fishing line gets seriously tangled on your reel. This is usually the result of an overrun of the reel spool.

2. Backing. Backing is the thin, strong braided line that connects the spool of the reel to the actual fly line.

3. Ballyhoo. A popular offshore baitfish used for trolling, usually when targeting sailfish. Ballyhoo are part of a group of baitfish commonly known as halfbeaks (due to their small, beaklike mouths).

4. Drop Shotting. Drop shotting is a finesse fishing technique that involves the use of lighter weights and small plastic baits. Many anglers use the drop shotting technique when fishing deeper water directly under the boat for lethargic or suspended fish.

5. Estuary. A term used to describe a partially enclosed body of brackish (ocean water mixed with freshwater) water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it and a connection to the open sea.

6. High Sticking. No, we are not referring to hockey. Although, the concept is somewhat the same. High sticking in a fishing situation means holding the rod too high when fighting a fish.

7. Pelagic. Pelagic fish live in the pelagic zone of ocean or lake waters. The pelagic zone is the area of the water column being neither close to the bottom nor near the shore. This is in contrast with demersal fish (which live on or near the bottom) and reef fish (fish that live in or near reefs).

8. Thermocline. A thermocline is a thin but distinct layer in a body of water (such as a lake or ocean) in which the temperature changes more rapidly with depth than it does in the layers above or below.

9.Tippet. A fly fishing term used for the part of the leader to which the fly is tied and is the last 24 or so inches of the leader.

Are there a few other strange fishing terms that you’ve been wondering about? Which ones? Several commonly used fishing terms are listed in our online fishing glossary. If not, post a question in the fishing community forum to see if another angler might know the definition.

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Debbie Hanson

Debbie Hanson

Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit shefishes2.com or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.