Cane Pole Fishing — A Complete Guide to Bamboo Cane Poles

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Cane pole fishing is a tried and true method of fishing that countless generations have partaken in.

Whether you want to go after largemouth bass, crappie, or trout, a cane fishing pole will handle the job.

Native americans cane pole fishing
Cane pole fishing has been a popular method for a long time. Source

This article will cover the different types of cane pole styles, how to rig them, and how to fish with a cane pole.

Get your poles ready, and let’s dive in!

What is a Cane Pole?

A cane fishing pole is a large stick, typically a bamboo pole, with a fishing line attached to its end. This line generally is the same length or a bit longer than the length of the pole and has a hook and bait at the end.

Cane poles are used for still-fishing and primarily for panfish species. When the angler hooks the fish, they raise the cane pole to bring the fish close to their body and secure them using a net.

Bamboo cane pole
A bamboo cane pole in sections. Source

There are videos of boat fishermen flipping fish using poles made of fiberglass or carbon. If you’re careful, you can use this method with a cane pole, but many commercial anglers prefer the more graceful route of using a net.

Next, let’s dive into some of the various styles of cane poles. Some are older and not as expected, and some have been developed recently due to newer manufacturing processes.

4 Types of Cane Poles

Bamboo Cane Poles

Bamboo cane poles are made from stalks of bamboo that are cut and formed into the desired length pole.

Popular types of bamboo used for these poles are Dendrocalamus Strictus, Bambusa Tuida, and Bambusa Arundinacae.

You’re looking for solid and robust bamboo with dense walls to ensure durability. You want the nods to be closer together for added strength.

Bamboo cane poles come in various lengths, but the typical range is between four and twenty-five feet long.

A child with a bamboo cane pole
A child-size cane pole. Bamboo makes a great fishing pole for kids. Source

Treated vs. Untreated Bamboo

Depending on the bamboo manufacturer, you can get treated and non-treated poles. Treated bamboo removes many insects and fungi that could damage and degrade your pole.

The standard treatments include leaching, smoking, borax, boric acid mixture, and a CCB Treatment of copper, chrome, and boron). If you don’t want fungi, termites, or weevils, then we recommend you go for the treated bamboo.

Does Bamboo Break?

The short answer is that bamboo breaks if you don’t take care of it. If you use untreated bamboo, the insects and fungi will degrade it and break much faster than treated bamboo.

Even a treated pole will break if you leave it in water, slam it in your car door, or let it warp in a hot car. Bamboo is robust, but it’s not indestructible.

Jigger Poles

Jiggerpoling is an old-school method of fishing for largemouth bass and other fish by making quiet, careful presentations of lures close to cover.

Most anglers use a floating minnow-shaped plug, part of a fish belly, or some pork meat attached to a hook. This bait is placed on a short leader line that’s directly connected to the tip of the jigger pole.

The angler usually sits on a small boat and moves the lure or bait along the cover to elicit a bite. Presenting the bait near grass or downed wood.

This method works well when the water isn’t clear, and the bass is closer to the cover.

Cane pole fishing is popular for bass
Catching bass on a cane pole was popular back in the day. Source

Calcutta Poles

Calcutta bamboo poles were the best fishing poles on the market. It’s funny to think that a long rod and line would be effective when everyone today uses the top of line fiberglass and graphite technologies.

There’s one man back in 1956 named Ernie Giglio who caught a 49-pound striped bass which earned him second place at the Long Beach City Surf Fishing Contest.

All he used to bring in that monster fish was a Calcutta, a guide, and a top. Best of all, he didn’t use a reel seat; he just clamped the reel to the rod using hardware clamps.

Even funnier that together with what we’d consider a vintage cane rod, he had a Penn Squider with Dacron line since monofilament wasn’t a thing in those days.

If you’re looking to get back into how the old-timers used to fish, it’s worth picking up some bamboo and making one of these old cane fishing poles yourself!

Telescopic cane poles

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Not all cane poles are made from bamboo or wood. If you’re looking for a modern cane pole, you should check out the fiberglass cane poles and graphite cane poles on the market.

These are made from different diameter tubes that have a taper. When you put them together, they form a large pole that can be used for fishing.

This makes traveling with them easy since most are longer than 12 feet, making it difficult to get in and out of your car. These telescoping fiberglass cane poles, for example, are popular with backpackers who require a lightweight, small pole that can be used for Tenkara fishing in the backcountry.

How to Rig a Cane Pole

Cane pole rigging is a little different than your standard setup. Since you’re likely fishing with just a flexible bamboo pole, you will need to attach your line to the pole.

Don’t tie your line directly from the tip!

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Wrapping Your Cane Pole

Cane poles can break, and you’ll leave a fish out there with a hook in its mouth, pulling the tip of your cane pole around until it dies.

It’s better to take some dacron and start from the base handle or halfway up your cane pole and tie a knot there as an anchor point. If your tip breaks, your line is still attached to a non-broken part of your pole.

Wrap your dacron around, leaving about an inch or two of space between wraps. When you get to the top, then tie another knot or half hitch at the top to keep the line in place.

Bring your dacron down from the tip to the base of your pole. Make a loop knot at the end.

Leader and Tackle

Take some monofilament and tie a loop knot at one end. Take this loop and your dacron loop and make a loop-to-loop connection.

Then put an Aberdeen hook on the other end, some split shot weight, and a bobber up top. Now you have a setup ready to catch fish!

Rigging a Telescopic Cane Pole

You can tie your line directly at the tip since the material is more rigid than fiberglass and graphite cane poles. If you’re on the worrying side, it doesn’t hurt to come down from the tip about a foot and tie your line to this stronger area.

Then wrap up to the tip, tie another knot, and create a leader with your favorite setup, as we mentioned above.

How to Fish With a Cane Pole

Cane pole fishing is one of the more straightforward fishing methods since you’ve taken out a lot of unnecessary headaches with the reel.

How to Use a Cane Pole

Fishing with a cane pole is as easy as placing your lure or bait where the fish might be and giving the proper presentation.

Since there is no real casting involved, either drop your line directly where your cane pole tip can reach or, if there is current, let the bait drift to where you want it to go downstream.

Catching a Fish

Gently pull up on your pole and set the hook when you feel a strike. Instead of reeling the fish in, you’ll lift the pole high into the air to bring the fish closer to you. If the fish is light, feel free to pull the fish out of the water and into your hand or on the ground.

Remember, it’s better to keep the fish in the water if you plan to catch and release as it doesn’t expose them to potential infection if you remove their slime coating.

If the fish is more significant, you’ll want to bring the fish close to you and use a net to secure it.

Cane Pole Fishing Techniques

Fishing with a cane pole is fun, and it can be used to catch fish, including:

  • Bass
  • Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Trout
  • Catfish

If you’re looking to catch bass, use a lure that works well in cover. Present the lure that seems as natural to the bass as possible and wait for a strike.

The nice part about a cane pole is that after you move the lure past an area, all you have to do is pull up the pole and drop the lure right back at where you started.

For other fish like trout and bluegill, just change out the type of bait and place it in the proper area of the lake or river.

It’s easy to overthink this style of fishing so remember to keep it simple.

Good luck out there!

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
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