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updated: 10/24/2012 12:09 PM

Helpful terminology for the fishing soul

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I enjoy most of the email I receive every week.

Notice that I said "most," which acknowledges a couple cookies who have laid claim to the muskie population on the northern end of the Fox Chain O' Lakes and are not open to having the public share the pursuit.

There's one maven in particular that jumped all over me while I was lure shopping at one of the big box stores. This chap didn't like the way I heralded the presence of big muskies in one of the lakes. And he used words and terminology that confused me.

I've brought this incident to life again (for a third time) because another reader asked me to define some of the terms and phrases I use in this column.

Of course, I cannot please everyone who reads this column every week, and I have plenty of emails from disgruntled souls to back me up.

With that said, I now offer you the Jackson Encyclopedia of outdoor terms.

Short strike. This is not a labor issue. This simply means that a fish takes a swipe at the lure or live bait, holds on for a microsecond, and then decides to leave the scene for perhaps a half-caff, chocolate latte. It could also mean that fish "swipes" at a lure without even touching the hooks.

Circle hook. This is a sharp, rounded-shank hook often used for a quick release. Many fish are either unable or willing to swallow it, and therefore wind up with the hook in a corner of a fish's mouth.

Fish-finder. Old-timers (me included) like to refer to this electronic gadget as a sonar unit. This is a signal unit that generates sound waves aimed at the bottom of a lake or river. If by chance a fish happens to swim within the cone-like signal pattern, the device's screen will indicate that fish may be nearby.

Crank bait. This term is a little confusing. A crank bait is also called a plug, a stick bait, minnow bait, a deep-diver, a shallow diver, and just about anything else inventive fishermen can decide. There are hundreds of these lures on the market, with each brand claiming it does the best job in attracting and catching fish.

Break line. This word is often used in old disco clubs and in more modern dance joints. In fishology, it also means a change in water depth coupled with the starting and ending point of a weed line, or a drop-off separating shallow from deeper water. Break line is often connected to the word "structure," a term coined by the late Buck Perry.

Structure can be any change in the makeup of the bottom, such as hard-to-soft-bottom, a change in water temperature, a change in grass or weed concentrations, or submerged trees, boulders, gravel, etc.

Leader. This can be a section of varied length of either ultra-strong or ultra-fine monofilament, braided line or lengths of wire used to attach the hook or lure to the fish line.

Super line. Any of the brands of superstrong, multi-layer, coated line. Tough to break and ultra-strong when it comes to fighting abrasion.

Bait casting. This antiquated term was dreamed up by some reel manufacturers when they started marketing their casting gear to the public. It's different from the easier applied spinning in that bait casting line comes off a reel from a horizontal spool while the line often turns itself into a mass of snarled coils.

Trolling. This does not mean going to a bar and searching for a new girlfriend. It is a technique whereby a lure is tossed behind the boat while letting line strip off the reel. Its purpose is to allow the lure to dig down to deeper water thereby hopefully attracting fish to strike.

Working the surface. Also known as top-water, this kind of angling is one of the more fascinating and exciting methods in teasing fish to chase a lure. Some would call this chugging or popping because the lures used often have carved-out fronts which cause extreme noise when retrieved.

I know I haven't covered all of the fishing-specific terms and words, but if you are unable to absorb what's been written here, you might try taking up bowling.

•Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at

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