Cane Pole Fishing – Bamboo Rod Guide

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Written By Donny Karr

Donny Karr is a Tournament Angler with more than 20 years of fishing experience and a writer whose work has been featured in magazines for over a decade. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He enjoys bass and crappie fishing in the lakes around the south-eastern United States. He also fishes for trout in the streams and rivers of the Appalachian mountains. Donny has written for Georgia Outdoor News, Paddling Space, Man Can Outdoors, Alabama Outdoor News, and Bassmaster.


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Cane pole fishing is a simple, traditional technique using a long, slender pole, often made of bamboo, with a fishing line tied directly to the tip. This method requires no reel and is effective for catching panfish, like bluegill or crappie, in calm waters near the shoreline or docks.

Before there were highly-complex baitcasting rod and reel combos with magnetic braking systems and double-shielded ball bearings, anglers had to use a method of fishing that had proven effective for hundreds of years. Cane pole fishing is one of the oldest methods of catching fish and it’s still a technique that is enjoyable and challenging to anglers of all ages and skill levels. 

If you’re interested in learning more about this ancient method of fishing, we’ve compiled this article to explain some of the basics of cane pole fishing. 

Cane Pole Fishing Overview 

Cane poles have been used for hundreds of years to catch everything from bluegill to catfish and largemouth bass. Early settlers to the North American continent utilized cane poles to catch fish that would eventually prove to be a method of providing food for hungry families to survive harsh conditions living in the untamed wilderness. 

This method of fishing is still used today, mostly by anglers targeting small panfish species. It’s incredibly fun and can be a great way to enjoy fishing the old-fashioned way, or as a means to introduce kids to the sport of fishing. 

Cane pole fishing allows the angler to focus on the basics of targeting fish and using stealth and strategy to land them. For these reasons, it’s actually a very useful teaching tool for beginner and novice anglers as it helps them learn the value of being quiet and understanding how to use leverage and the pole’s action to bring in their catch. 

cane pole fishing

Different Types of Cane Poles for Fishing 

You may have watched videos on anglers using long poles to yank fish out of the ocean and onto commercial fishing vessels, but these poles are made of either fiberglass or lightweight metal. If you’re interested in authentic cane pole fishing, there are three different types of cane pole material that you can use today to catch fish just like anglers did more than a century ago. 

Jigging Poles 

If you venture into any fly fishing store or some of the few remaining bait shops scattered around the country, you might be fortunate to find some jigging poles, which are also known as jigger poles. These poles are intended for anglers to use to stealthily sneak up to fish along the shoreline and drop their bait down onto the fish’s position. 

Jigging poles were very popular among anglers in the early part of the 20th century, especially among those who didn’t have the financial means to afford a rod and reel combo. In many cases, these types of poles could be homemade by anglers who had a little enginuity, but modern jigger poles are made of fiberglass material. 

Bamboo Poles 

Another highly popular type of cane pole that’s still in use today is made of bamboo. This material is more readily-available and affordable to those who want to fish with the same materials anglers used many years ago. There are a few different types of bamboo used in making cane poles, but each one has roughly the same degree of strength and flexibility. 

Many people actually construct their own fishing poles out of bamboo, which is a technique that was done by anglers long ago. This method involves a bit of craftiness and usually some trial-and-error on the part of the one making the pole, but is often a fun way to get back to your roots and connect with what anglers had to deal with many decades or even centuries ago. 

If you’re going to use a bamboo pole, be aware of the difference between treated and untreated bamboo. If you purchase a bamboo pole made by one of the brands that sells them, you’ll probably be buying a treated bamboo pole, which will have an added degree of strength. Treated bamboo also lasts much longer than untreated as certain types of insects and the elements won’t affect it as much. 

Calcutta Poles 

Old timers may still remember hearing about Calcutta bamboo poles from anglers from years gone by. These Calcutta poles were once the highest-quality type of cane pole fishing instrument one could own and it was certainly a symbol of the level of expertise of an angler if they owned a Calcutta bamboo pole. 

These poles are incredibly tough and capable of landing large fish on them in the hands of a skilled angler. If you’re interested in finding a Calcutta pole, you can still find them at some online sources, but they are mostly sold as decorative items today. 

How to Fish with a Cane Pole

Fishing with a cane pole requires just as much attention-to-detail as any rod and reel combo you might use for a variety of different fish species. Once you’ve acquired a cane pole that’s the right size for you and the type of fish you’re going after, you’ll need to set it up. 

One of the first major mistakes novice anglers make when it comes to cane pole fishing is to tie their line directly onto the end of the pole. This might seem like it would work, but you’re defeating the purpose of using a long, limber cane pole and, if you’re going to tie your line to the end of the rod, you might as well be fishing with a tree limb as you’ll have the same results. 

The correct way to rig your cane pole is to wrap the line around the pole in different intervals, spaced out much like the guides you find on most modern graphite or fiberglass rods today. By wrapping your line around the rod starting at the base, you’ll ensure that there might be less of a chance of you losing a fish if the rod does happen to break. 

Dacron line works best as it’s incredibly strong and flexible enough to be used. Wrap your dacron line around the rod starting at the handle or base and leave roughly 2 or 3 inches between each wrap. 

Using dacron is fine for wrapping around the cane pole, but its thickness makes it unsuitable for fishing with. It’s better to use a leader line that’s made of monofilament. You can use various methods to tie the dacron line and monofilament line together, but using mono will allow you to camouflage your line more efficiently and have a greater chance of catching fish. 

Cane Pole Fishing Tips

Fishing with a cane pole is vastly different from a modern rod and reel. Since there is no casting involved, you’ll need to learn how to sneak up on fish without spooking them away from the banks and drop your bait in quietly in order to have the best chance of catching one. 

Wear dark-colored clothes that will help you blend into the woods or other surroundings near the lake or river banks. Be sure to move slowly and quietly in order to avoid scaring the fish away. If you’re fishing in a stream where there is a moving current, you can drop your bait upstream from where the fish are located and allow the current to carry it down to your target. 

Hooking and Landing a Fish with a Cane Pole 

Hooking a fish requires lots of concentration and a careful effort when using a cane pole. Once you see or feel a fish bite your hook, lift up gently and gradually until you’re sure that the hook is well in place and the fish won’t get loose. Don’t attempt to ‘set the hook’ in the same way you would using a modern rod and reel unless you want to snap the cane pole and lose your fish. 

Landing a fish using a cane pole is one of the trickiest parts of cane pole fishing. Instead of being able to let enough line out to grab the fish with one hand, you’re going to be relying on the rod itself to guide the fish to the banks. 

Be sure to take your time and let the fish tire itself out before you attempt to bring it to the bank and land it. Once you’re ready to do this, simply guide the fish to the side of the bank while keeping steady pressure against the hookpoint. 


Cane pole fishing is loads of fun and is a great learning tool for beginner or young anglers. It’s a useful method for understanding the basics of catching fish, but it also teaches anglers the value of being quiet and stealthy when fishing. 

If you’re looking for a fun activity that you can enjoy with friends or family, cane pole fishing is a great way to connect with nature and have fun fishing. 

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