I am teaching my child to fish

-Put the bait on the hook

-Let down the fishing rod into the water (I am not sure "let down" is a right word here)

-When you feel a fish takes the bait, yank the fishing rod out of the water onto land (I decided to use "yank" because it is a hard quick sudden movement)

Do we say "yank the fishing rod out of the water onto land"?

  • 7
    You let the line down into the water, not the fishing rod. The fishing rod is the stiff part that holds the line.
    – stangdon
    Commented Jun 22, 2021 at 11:50
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    I would say "lower the line into the water" or even "lower the hook into the water"
    – TylerW
    Commented Jun 22, 2021 at 17:48
  • 2
    You can also "cast the rod" or "cast the line", which involves a certain throwing motion to get the bait & the hook farther from the shore. See this video for what's meant by this. Commented Jun 22, 2021 at 19:16
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    Since many sports/recreation activity terms diverge between AmE and BrE, probably you should mark your question with the british-english tag if you want answers that are specific for your country (I get from a comment that you're British). Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 8:51
  • 1
    A fishing line is cast into the water. If you are fishing without a rod, you can say let the line down into the water, but that is an exception, not the rule.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 13:55

5 Answers 5


When he gets a bite (he feels the line tightening, or sees the float bobbing), an angler strikes...

Striking is the process of sweeping the fishing rod backwards when a bite is detected in order to securely set the hook in the mouth of a fish. britishseafishing

In this context, to strike is almost always intransitive - you might occasionally encounter The fisherman struck his line, but we almost never use strike the rod with this meaning.

Votes and comments suggest that this sense of to strike may be primarily a British usage. I can't see any easy way to compare prevalence for this exact meaning, so I don't know how true that might be. But at least I can cite the relevant definition in the AmE-focused Merriam-Webster dictionary...

11a: to pull on a fishing rod in order to set the hook
11b (of a fish): to seize the bait

(I don't recall the second of those senses being used in my childhood angling days in the UK.)

  • 1
    It's from britishseafishing and I've never heard it in the US, not sure what audience the OP is targeting. Commented Jun 22, 2021 at 20:03
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    In angling terminology, you get a strike, meaning the fish goes for the bait and you lift the rod upward in one motion (snap) to set the hook.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 12:44
  • 4
    +1 But, Canada here, and "strike" to me has always meant a thing the fish does and not the person fishing (ie: def'n 11b above). Definitely there's an atlantic divide in the terminology.
    – J...
    Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 13:28
  • Yeah, to me, a "strike" usually means a "hit" (except in baseball where it means a "miss" - language is weird) This implies an outward force, where as pulling a fishing line is an inward force. So it makes sense for the fish to do it, but less so for the angler, but nautical terminology is like a whole other language sometimes... Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 15:32
  • @J...: Yes, I see from your linked page that BrE bite is listed as equivalent to AmE strike. Which accords with my own understanding, since I would never have said I've got a strike! with the meaning A fish has grabbed my baited hook and is trying to swim off with it. From my perspective, fish always bite and anglers always strike. I never did much "trolling" (the angling kind with spinners & spoons, not online stalking! :), but I doubt I'd have used "bite" in that context (a context where it might make sense to say the pike "struck", but I'd have just said I've got one!) Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 16:39

You can jerk the line. This is called

Setting the Hook
Pulling the rod in a jerking motion in order to lodge the hook in a fish’s mouth. Has to be done at just the right time.

Please see Fishing Terms Every Angler Should Know

The reason for yanking the line is to make the hook bite into the fish, which must then be landed with skill, rather then pulling the fish directly on to land with one big tug.

  • 6
    As a lad, I spent countless hours fishing. Many times someone else would have seen my float bobbing up and down, and shouted something like Strike! - you've got a bite!. But I seriously doubt anyone ever shouted Jerk the line! in that situation. Commented Jun 22, 2021 at 14:38
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    I note that both this answer and the other answer currently responsive to the question both use the only term I have ever heard for the action: "setting the hook", while neither describes it. And, to @Fumblefingers -- I was told many, many, many, many times to "Set the hook!". Commented Jun 22, 2021 at 19:47
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    @Lambie please tell that to the person who wrote the glossary I quoted - "in a jerking motion". I think this is getting out of hand: my answer is better than yours is very poor politics. Let's start downvoting other answers and race to the bottom. Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 13:28
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    @Lambie no, that's why I upvoted your answer. That was your answer, and this is mine. Geddit?? If you don't like it, downvote it. OP indicated they would say to yank the fish directly on to land. I said, no, you have to jerk / pull / twitch / whatever the line, to set the hook and then play in the fish. Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 13:50
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    @Lambie in that case this is posted on the wrong site. SE angling? Is angling the correct term? Please put me right. We never say "I am a fisher", but "I am an angler." Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 13:54

The act of bringing the fish to the shore or to a boat from the water is called landing a fish**, whether with a reel, net, or by whatever other means.

A lot of fishing is done with a rod and reel. If you're fishing with a rod and reel, you might also say that you were reeling in** the fish. This more specifically means using the reel to get the fish near to the shore or the boat using the reel. You could reel in a fish but fail to land it, for example, if the fish got away at the last moment.

The other answers here are talking specifically about setting the hook, which is often done with a sharp jerk on the rod. At this point the fish is still in the water, however, and is not yet landed. It sounds like you're talking about a single motion to haul a smaller type of fish directly onto shore, which is better described by the general term landing.

** No affiliation with the links - just a convenient example

  • 1
    but Americans don't say "a reel", they say "a spool" and we have the verb "to reel in". Do Americans say "to spool the fish in"?
    – Tom
    Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 5:47
  • 1
    @Tom No. I'm not sure where you're getting any of that.
    – J...
    Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 10:51
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    @Tom That is not true and that upvote is kind of annoying because it is wrong. Americans and British say reel and reel in a fish. Yes, landing a fish is also right. spooling is not right at all unless that is some unusual regionalism. One can't know them all.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 13:38
  • 2
    Been fishing in America for 50+ years, and I've never called it a spool, nor has anyone else I know. I've never brought my "rod and spool" with me, nor have I "spooled in" any fish. I buy a spool of line at the bait shop when I need to load my reel with new line. That's the only time a spool comes into it.
    – barbecue
    Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 21:34
  • It doesn't have to be a sharp jerk on the rod. A normal person can do it, possibly better...
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 14:55

Below is a dictionary for fishing, written in the UK with the differences in terminology for BrE/AmE. That said, the first thing is whether this is saltwater or fresh water fishing.

A rod with a fishing line is said to be cast into the water. (cast, cast, cast). "Oh, that was a great cast!" "Where did you learn to cast like that?"

In freshwater fly fishing, the nice broad motion of getting the line into the water is considered an art and it is called: casting. That is because a spinning reel is not used. If using a spinning reel in fresh or salt water, casting is very easy. Without a spinning reel, it is not easy and you have to learn how to handle the line and reel.

However, in both cases, a fish is said to strike (go for the bait), whether in fishing in saltwater or freshwater on both sides of the pond. At this level, there really is no difference in terminology.

fishing terminology with BrE and AmE terms

Strike: this is when a fisherwoman or fisherman gets a bite from a fish and lifts his or her wrist upwards with a snap in an arc in an attempt to set the hook into a fish

Setting a hook: striking at a bite to set the hook into the fish's mouth.

To set a hook you snap your wrist upward which will lift the line. The line (the rod) is then lifted as a result of the wrist motion.

Please note: When you get a strike, you never, ever yank or jerk the line. That is a sure-fire way to lose a fish. The hook will not set. You raise the rod from your wrist in one single motion. You snap your wrist to set the hook. (Please note: the word snap is tricky as when a line breaks it is said to snap).

Basically, when you get a strike in freshwater fishing, or angling (fly fishing), you raise the rod from a 45 degree or slightly higher angle in one motion of the wrist. This is called setting the hook. In ocean fishing off a boat, when a fish strikes, they usually start to run so the hook sets itself. This can also happen in fresh water when you are fishing off a boat.

setting a hook


For starters, if the rod is in the water, you're not in with a good start to 'learn to fish'!

When a fish 'takes the bait' it's nibbling at it. That causes the float (when attached to the line) to bob in the water. At that stage, you have not hooked the fish. For that to happen, the rod (in the air!) needs to be sharply swung away from the fish's direction. That gives the hook impetus to penetrate inside the mouth of said fish.

That's the strike. More often than not, the fish will remain in the water - unless it's a tiddler - and will need playing as the line is reeled in, until the fish tires and is close enough to be landed, hopefully in a net.

With no real clues, it's difficult to determine whether the terminology should be explained in U.S. or British English. Maybe 'Yank' is a clue..?

  • Ha ha, that's right. If the rod is in the water, you ain't fishing. You fish with a float attached to the line when fishing with hardware-type lures.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 14:41

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