The Pay Lake Terminology Guide

The Pay Lake Terminology Guide can help you get a more complete grasp of the lingo if you are new to Pay Lakes. It can be a bit confusing at first to even the most experienced carp fisherman.

This image is of two carp rods on rod stands, waiting for a bite at John D. Long Lake in South Carolina.
A photo from Lake John D. Long, in Union, SC, USA (2023).

The Pay Lake Terminology Guide

I have been carp fishing at pay lakes for almost 36 years and even to this day, I am still coming across new lingo that I haven’t heard before. It’s just one of those things that can be a bit intimidating if you are new to the pay lake environment. Just asking the lake boss those questions in front of other fishermen can make you feel a bit over matched or give the impression that you are new to fishing altogether. And that, is never fun. Even as a veteran fisherman, you might find yourself asking for a little terminology breakdown. Oh boy… sigh.

Still, there are ways to get you up to speed and spare you some embarrassment. This blog post just might be what the doctor ordered. Below, we have accumulated some of the most common pay lake lingo that you just might encounter when you visit a carp or catfish pay lake for the first time, particularly those that run in-house tournaments for competition. Over time, we will continue to add more terms as we come across them in order to further improve your pay lake vocabulary and understanding.

If you have some terms of your own that you think might be a great addition, feel free to email me those suggestions and we will certainly consider adding them. I’m sure there are some fishermen out there that would really appreciate that.

Pay Lake Lingo and Terminology:

Pay Lakes

pay lake is a business where anglers pay to fish and compete for hourly and daily cash prizes (Or just for fun). This could be for carp, catfish or another aquatic species. You may find a pay lake near you in our pay lake directory.

What are we Running?

You may hear the phrase “What are we Running” quite a bit. This refers to the type of tournament the lake boss may be hosting on any particular day. This is also called the nightly schedule.

Fun Fishing

Fun Fishing is a term used to describe days or times when the lake isn’t running any type of tournament, but rather fisherman can pay a small fee to fish for the day or a set number of hours. The lake boss will let you know if the fish can be kept or if they must be released, depending on the type of fish and the location.

The Draw

Almost all pay lakes which are running a tournament will have a draw. The draw usually occurs about 30 minutes before the competition begins. When you pay the entry fee for that day’s competition, generally you will be given a peg and a number. During The Draw, when the lake boss calls your number or name, you can then place your peg into the lake layout pegboard at any available fishing spot on the lake. This will signify that you intend to fish at that location for the entire competition. Below is an example of what a pegboard might look like at a pay lake which runs competitive fishing tournaments.

An example of a Pay Lake pegboard used for the draw time.
Example pegboard from Clearwater Fishing Lakes in Henrietta, NC, USA.


The term Spots will either refer the Spot on the lake that you have chosen to fish or any paid fisherman can be referred to as a spot. For example, if the lake boss says they are paying $20.00 spots for up to 15 people. That would mean they are paying $20.00 for the top 15 largest fish caught during the competition if they get at least 15 paid fishermen/spots.


Many lakes will have something called Jugs. This is a set of 5 or 6 predetermined weights posted in writing that will automatically cause the paid fisherman to win whatever money has accumulated since the last time it was hit, if they catch a fish weighing exactly that amount (measured in tenths). For example, if the lake has a Jug for 23.5, this will mean that if I catch a fish weighing exactly 23.5 pounds and I had signed up for or put money into the pot for the Jugs, I will automatically win whatever is in that pot (minus 10 or 20%, depending on the lake.). They always leave a little in the pot so the next fisherman can win something as well. Some jugs are optional, and some are not, depending on the lake rules. They cost to be added to a jug is usually $1 to $2 dollars per jug. When you pay the cost for that particular competition, you simply have to let the lake boss know that you would like to be added to all the jugs. If they are not included in what you have already paid, he will add them and charge you the difference.


A Floater is a type of jug that generally isn’t posted like the rest of the jugs. This type of jug works exactly like the others but isn’t chosen until right before the competition and generally at random.


The Weekly is a type of Jug as well. The only difference is that this type of jug is paid out at the end of the week, rather than the end of the night. For example, if you paid to join the weekly, which is generally optional, and you catch a very large fish, you might have a chance to win whatever is in the Weekly at the end of the week. In other words, the largest fish for the week would win the weekly and the lake boss would either contact you about your prize money or tell you the next time you come to fish.

Pots and Side Pots

A Pot or Side Pot at a pay lake is in addition to whatever competition is running at the pay lake that day. For instance, if there is an optional side pot of $5.00 for the evening at a lake, it implies that those who choose to contribute an additional $5.00 will be eligible for a prize. The angler who catches the largest fish of the night will receive $5.00 multiplied by the total number of anglers who have entered into the side pot. Many times, this is voluntary and not required participation. Side pots can be paid per hour or per day and for the largest or smallest fish caught. The lake boss will let you know what the side pot is (if there is one) before you decide.


A Rodeo at a pay lake is generally used to designate the largest fish caught over a period of time. For example, if a pay lake says they are fishing from 6pm until 12 midnight with two 3-hour rodeos. This would mean that the largest fish caught for both the first 3 hours and the second 3 hours would win whatever amount of money that the lake boss has designated. So, if the lake was also paying the large on the night, by default that fish would also automatically win at least one of the rodeos.

Fish Off

A Fish Off is somewhat similar to a jug in that it will accumulate over time. Every time a fisherman pays to fish a tournament at a pay lake and pays money into the fish off, he is added to a list. Each lake is different but if, for example, the lake requires you to fish at their lake 10 times to be eligible for the fish off and you do, you qualify. Once qualified, at the conclusion of the carp season, on a predetermined day and time, you will have the opportunity to join a private tournament for a nominal fee and compete for the total sum of money accumulated in that season’s fish off pot. For certain lakes, participating in this tournament might involve an entry fee of $30.00 (for example), yet offer the possibility of winning $10,000 to $20,000 dollars by year’s end. This strategy is an excellent method for lakes to cultivate loyalty over time.”

Hogs or Pigs

A Hog or a Pig is a term used to indicate a very large carp.

Rippin’ or Pullin’

Rippin’ or Pullin’ is something you might hear a lot. This indicates that the carp or catfish are pulling the bait very hard. This could cause the rod to lift up in the stand, the line to become taut, and your reel drag to emit a loud screaming noise.


The term Graveyard at a pay lake generally refers to the part of the lake that is very slow or dead. You may sit here for a very long time before you get a fish to bite, but historically that area of the lake can produce some very large fish. Some fishermen may sit in the Graveyard in hopes of catching the largest fish on the night.

Suddin’ (or Boilin’)

The term Suddin’ is used quite often at a pay lake to indicate that the carp are feeding in a certain location on the lake. Many times you will see lots of bubbles at this location, hence the term Suddin’.

Bait Base

The base of a bait is generally the primary component. Examples of bait bases for carp fishing are trout chow, millet, rice, grits or soybean. If you are using a pack bait, the base (or main recipe) is generally packed around the hook (which contains the pickup) and thrown out into the water. Sometimes another carp fisherman might ask you what you are throwing? They are simply wanting to know what your main bait base is, not its flavor. You might reply, for example, “I’m throwing chow!”.


The pickup of a bait is generally the part of the bait that is placed directly on the hook itself or attached using a hair rig. Examples of pickups are Kix cereal, corn pop cereal, corn puff cereal or whole kernel corn. Generally, a pickup is flavored with an attractant like cherry or grape. The different flavors applied to a pickup can be endless. Many fishermen use what they have had the most success with or what a particular lake seems to be hitting on at that time. Carp fishermen spend countless hours coming up with their favorite pickup flavors and combinations. Many times, this can be the difference between catching fish or nothing at all.

These Nice Folks do a great job of explaining some of the lingo. Video below.

A nice video from Team Country Boys Outdoors regarding pay lake lingo.