Fishing With Cane Poles

Five empty blue fold-up chairs and six cane poles sit arranged side by side in front of a pond. There is short green grass on the ground.

If you watched any old cartoons, you’re probably familiar with the fishing rods they carried around: bamboo sticks with a line and a bobber attached.

It’s comedic in these days, with our fancy baitcasters with magnetic bearings that make backlash practically impossible and ultralight spinning reels.

So imagine my hilarity as a child when my father brought home two simple, black “crappie poles.” No reel, nothing fancy. Just a fiberglass rod with line attached.

Little did I know just how effective those rods—otherwise known as cane poles—were at simply catching fish. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate just how good a cane pole is not only for catching crappie, but for bass and other fish as well. Here are a few things to know about fishing with cane poles.

What is a Cane Pole?

In short, it’s a stick with a line attached to it. Seriously, that’s about it.

Well, to an extent. Can poles come in a few types.

One of those, and perhaps the most iconic, is a bamboo cane pole. Want to get in touch with your ancestral roots? You can always go cut a stalk of bamboo and try it out. But I might recommend buying a bamboo cane pole instead.

You can often find them in two pieces cut to fit together to make them a little more negotiable. And they’re likely treated to remove nasties that could break your pole down sooner.

Otherwise, the most common kind of cane pole you’ll find today is a telescoping pole. These are often made of fiberglass or graphite. Given the name, you know they slide down into a smaller package then telescope out for actually fishing with them. Very handy for backpacking.

You may also find jigger poles, which are like a combo of the two described above. Jigger poles are primarily used to catch bass (hence the “jig”). They tend to come in two or three pieces, and are made of fiberglass or graphite.

How Do You Rig a Cane Pole?

Never fished a cane pole before? You’re probably thinking, “tie a line to the end of the rod, dummy.” Not quite. Because bamboo and even graphite can be quite fragile, it’s not uncommon for a fish to break one off. If the line is tied at the end, the fish will just carry that part of the pole around until it dies. That’s no good.

Instead, you’ll want to wrap strong Dacron line starting about three-quarters of the way down the pole (starting where you hold it) with an anchor loop—the same you’d use to attach monofilament to a spinning reel—up to the tip.

From there, a quick loop through the guide to help hold the line in place. Then, stretch out a length of Dacron about the entire length of the pole (or longer, if you want). Attach to that a monofilament leader and then your hook or jig.

How Do You Fish with a Cane Pole?

The eternal question: is it as simple as it looks?

In essence, yeah, it is. With either your bobber and bait or your lure, just drop it in the water. You can sit and wait and make the bait look as tempting as possible. Or if nothing’s biting, you can pick it up and put it wherever else you can reach.

When you get a bite, lift up quickly with the rod to set the hook. To bring the fish in, lift your pole into the air. I’ve had far too many fish shake off hooks by trying to lift them into the boat, so unless I’m quite sure I’ve got a good set on the thing, I don’t do that. Otherwise, I’m using a net.

So yes, it’s about that easy. And fun. Ready to get a cane pole for a nice, easy day of fishing? Leave a any questions or thoughts below.


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