Cane pole fishing is known for its unmatched simplicity, and today, we’re guiding you through it. In this article, you’ll learn all about cane poles, their types, how to rig them, how to fish with them, and even how to make your own!
What is a Cane Pole?
A cane pole is basically a length of pole used for still-water fishing. It’s typically made out of bamboo, but it’s also available in other materials such as graphite and fiberglass.
The length of a cane pole setup most often ranges between 8 to 12 feet. The pole will feature a similar or longer length of monoline tied to its end, as well as a hook with bait tied to the end of that. A lot of fishermen also use a bobber or a float of some kind and extra weight.
Cane poles don’t include a method with which you can cast, instead, you just drop the bait into the water for the fish to find. Unlike cast-and-retrieve fishing, this style of fishing lacks continuous line movement, which is why it’s known as “still-fishing” or “still-water fishing”.
Stillwater fishing is the simplest, most minimalist type of fishing out there. As such, it’s very suitable for beginners, kids, and anyone who prefers working with as little fishing gear as possible.
Additionally, still-water fishing is ideal for survival fishing situations since you can make your own cane pole from scratch.
Pros of Fishing with a Cane Pole
Many people don’t expect this, but fishing using cane poles comes with several advantages over more modern fishing methods.
- Cane poles offer a distinct sense of nostalgia and vintage aesthetic.
- Cane poles allow for a high level of accuracy as you drop your bait into cover.
This is particularly effective when you’re fishing in spots with thick cover, for example: underneath low-hanging trees or in areas between lilypads and weeds. Being able to drop your bait exactly where you want can be a huge plus compared to casting rods, which can cause snags and headaches.
- Cane poles don’t need as much space as casting rods when it comes to getting your bait in the water. For example, if you’re fishing in a thickly wooded area with limited space, you may not have enough room to cast properly. In this case, a cane pole can come in handy.
- Cane poles are very affordable. Not only are bamboo poles super cheap, but you can also fashion your own with a little DIY guide (more on this down below!). What’s more, you’ll use way less line than you’d normally do with a casting reel, so your spool of line will last for a long time.
Cons of Fishing with a Cane Pole
Despite all of the advantages above and as with any type of fishing, cane poles aren’t suitable for every scenario.
While they’re ideal for catching small to medium-sized freshwater fish (including bass, perch, crappie, and smaller catfish), most cane poles aren’t reliable when targeting larger fish (such as northern pike, muskie, or big cats). Here, a conventional rod will work best.
Types of Cane Poles
The most common type of cane pole is, of course, the bamboo pole. But there are also a couple of other variations that we should take a closer look at.
Bamboo Cane Poles
Bamboo is tough, flexible, and possess a high level of compressive and tensile strength. It’s considered the ideal material for cane poles by most fishermen.
The traditional bamboo cane pole is made out of a solid piece of thick-walled bamboo. Its length can fall anywhere from 8 to 20 feet (sometimes even longer), but most bamboo poles are between 8 and 12 feet long.
Our recommendation for a bamboo pole is the Backyard X-Scapes Natural Bamboo Pole. Made from Tonkin bamboo, this commercial-grade pole is fumigated and fire straightened. It’s lightweight, long-lasting, and ecologically friendly.
Treated vs Untreated Bamboo
After being cut into the desired length, bamboo can then be treated with a type of anti-fungus and anti-insect treatment.
Since bamboo is an organic material, it’ll naturally decay over time, which means that it’s vulnerable to biological degrading organisms. To extend the lifespan of bamboo poles and prevent damage caused by termites and beetles, bamboo poles are often treated with a chemical agent.
Common treatments include prolonged soaking in water, smoking, borax/boric acid mixture, and a CCB treatment of copper, chrome, and boron.
Bamboo poles are generally durable and will last for many years given they’re treated properly. However, bamboo isn’t an indestructible material.
Bamboo can break if you don’t take care of it. It can snap under heavy stress or if mistreated. It’s also prone to degradation by insects, so the chances of breaking are much higher in untreated bamboo than treated bamboo.
Even a treated pole will break if you leave it in water for too long, let it warp in a hot car, or slam it against hard surfaces.
Jigger poles are an old-school tool used mainly in pole fishing for largemouth bass. This type of fishing involves making very careful presentations of lures close to the cover.
Either telescopic or one-piece, jigger poles are often 15 to 20 feet long (can be longer). They’re flexible and ideal for fishing in areas that are usually hard to reach by conventional casting.
Jigger poles can be made from bamboo or newer materials such as fiberglass and graphite. They’re rigged, featuring a short leader (6 to 12 inches) fastened directly to the pole’s end with a plastic or wooden plug fixed to the end.
The style of a jigger pole goes all the way back to the 14th century – it’s thought to be the oldest known method of catching bass using an artificial lure. Although pretty old, this is still one of the most effective ways you can catch bass in cover and murky water.
Fishing with jigger poles calls for sitting in a small boat close to the water and working the areas near cover by gently bouncing the jigger pole to keep your plug slightly submerged. Ideally, two people will partner up for this method.
One person will paddle or operate the trolling motor while the other softly works the jigger pole along standing timber, weeds, logs, and other covers.
If you’re concerned about the portability of your cane pole, telescopic poles have got your back.
Let’s face it, carrying and transporting a one-piece 12-foot cane pole can be a huge hassle when you’re going backpacking or camping. This is where telescoping poles shine, designed to extend and retract according to your preference at the time.
Telescopic poles are usually made from newer materials like graphite or fiberglass, so they’re both compact and lightweight. What’s more, most of these poles are on the affordable side, making them a great option if you’re on a budget or in need of a backup pole to keep in your backpack or trunk for when a fishing opportunity presents itself.
Our recommendation for a telescopic pole is the B&M BW4 Black Widow Telescopic Rod. This is a 4-piece rod made out of 100% fiberglass with fiberglass reinforced joints. It has a glossy black finish with red accents and features a metal eye tip and a line keeper.
How to DIY a Cane Pole
Below is a step-by-step guide to help you make your own cane pole:
- Find a sturdy piece of bamboo, about 10 to 20 feet long. Longer poles will improve your reach, but they can be a bit tricky to carry and move. If you’re fashioning the pole for a kid, stick to a shorter pole to help them handle it better.
- Cut the bamboo stalk near the base, right below the knuckle closest to the ground.
- Trim off any small branches attached with a knife or machete. Be sure not to cut into the stalk itself while doing this.
- Cut the tip of the stalk right above the last knuckle to create a strong tip where you can attach the fishing line.
- Allow the stalk to cure for several weeks by hanging it in a dry place until it changes from green to a solid tan color. This is to ensure that the bamboo has completely dried so it lasts for as long as possible.
- Sand the base and the rest of the pole to remove any imperfections. If you want it to look nice, apply a coat or two of wood lacquer.
- Rig your cane pole and jump into action.
How to Rig a Cane Pole
Rigging a cane pole is a lot simpler than rigging a regular casting rod because there’s no reel to deal with.
The first thing you should remember is to never tie your line directly to the pole’s tip. Instead, it’s best to fasten your line lower down the body of the pole. This way, you won’t lose your line, tackle, and fish in case the tip breaks under pressure.
Use an arbor knot to anchor your monofilament line about halfway down the pole. Here, monofilament lines perform better than braided lines thanks to their higher flexibility and shock-absorbing capability.
If you’re not sure where to tie your knot, a good spot would be right behind one of the bamboo knuckles. Next, you’ll just wrap the line around the pole in one-inch increments making your way to the tip.
This manner of wrapping serves 2 purposes:
- It boosts the integrity of the pole’s structure to reduce the stress on the pole tip.
- It helps protect your line from breaking by spreading the pressure over a larger surface area.
Once you reach the tip, tie another anchor knot at the tip’s end. Finally, cut the line at about the same length as the pole (you can add an extra 2 or 3 feet if it feels more comfortable), then add attach your hook, bobber, and weight. Now, you’re ready to go!
Rigging a Telescopic Pole
Rigging a telescopic pole is as simple as rigging a bamboo rod. The process is pretty similar, except that there’s a lower risk for the tip breaking under stress because most telescopic rods are made out of fiberglass or graphite.
This allows you to tie your line directly below the rod’s tip. From there, you can run the line through the eyelet attached to the rod’s tip.
How to Fish with a Cane Pole
Fishing with a cane pole is as straightforward as fishing types come. You simply drop your line into the water by gently dipping the rod downwards then lifting it up slowly.
The goal is to provide the bait with a somewhat natural momentum, so you shouldn’t move it around too fast or too vigorously.
Once you get a fish hooked, you want to land it. Since your line is around the same length as your pole, then lifting the pole up above your head will bring the fish close to the bank or boat.
From there, your job is to grab the fish either by hand or using a net and then remove the hook. As for the proper techniques, here are some tips to help you catch different fish:
Use a small fly as bait then head upstream to the mouth of the stream or pool. This technique involves slowly dangling the fly 2 or 3 inches above the surface and occasionally touching the water surface as an actual fly behaves.
Using a slightly heavier line, make sure you anchor your line closer to the base of the pole because the weight of this fish can really test your pole and even snap off the tip.
Crappie & Bluegill
While they’re generally easy to catch, a cane pole lets you get your bait into hard-to-reach places near heavy cover where crappie and bluegill love to swim. Fishing from shore is much simpler with a cane pole, especially if there’s an area of thick vegetation between you and the water’s edge.
There you have it, a detailed cane pole fishing guide to help you get started with your adventures.