Cane Pole Fishing: Ultimate Guide (Tips & Techniques!)
Back in the day cane pole fishing was one of the most popular ways to fish. Kids and adults alike would wander down to the lake, river or creek with their cane poles slung over their shoulders and a coffee can full of bait at their side.
However, since the push button reel became popularized, the cane pole has fallen to the wayside. For years if you wanted to fish with a cane pole, you’d have to make your own. But now you can find factory made cane poles at just about any store that sells fishing equipment. And the best news is, they’re very affordable.
So, if you want to get back to how your grandparents fished, it’s as easy as ordering one on Amazon or picking one up at your local fishing store. And once you get one, they’re really not that difficult to use.
But there are a few things you should know before heading out with a cane pole. So below we’re going to go over exactly how you can get started cane pole fishing and exactly what you need to get back into this awesome activity.
My Favorite Cane Pole (Highly Recommended)
What is Cane Pole Fishing
In case you’re not sure what it is I’m describing, cane pole fishing entails using a large stick, which can also be a bamboo pole or a sapling that has fishing line attached to the end of it. These poles can be as long at 20 feet in some cases.
Usually the line will be just as long as the actual pole itself, if not just a tad longer. Attached at the end will be a hook which you can use to attach live or dead bait. Artificial lures, such as flies can be used, but that’s another topic for another article.
Primarily, when fishing with a cane pole you’ll be targeting panfish or smaller freshwater species, but you have the ability to catch, bass, crappie, and catfish. However, if you have the right set up you could also catch larger freshwater and even some types of saltwater fish!
Instead of using a fishing reel to bring the fish in, the angler raises up the tip of the cane pole to set the hook. Then they can bring the fish onto the shore by either continuing to raise the tip of the pole towards the sky, or by pulling the pole inward.
These days modern cane poles are not typically made out of wood or bamboo, but instead are made of fiberglass or metal and are telescopic. Which makes it nice to be able to collapse a 15 foot long rod down to about 4 feet in length.
What You Need to Get Started With A Cane Pole
This all depends on what type of fish you’re looking to catch and whether you want to purchase a rod or create your own. So below we’re going to cover all of that so you can figure out exactly what you need.
Telescopic Cane Pole
Many different types of cane poles can now be purchased in stores. Even larger stores such as Cabelas, Bass Pro Shop, and even Walmart now carry different types of fiberglass cane poles. These can range in size from 8 feet all the way up to 14 feet.
The skill of the angler will determine what size of rod should be used. The shorter rods are best used to by young and inexperienced anglers as they are much easier to handle and because of their short stature are easier to bring in fish.
The great thing about the store-bought fiberglass rods is that they either slide into themselves or come in pieces. This way they can easily be transported in a car, or a plane. Which is unlike the traditional cane pole rod which would be near impossible to fly with, and can be a real burden to have to travel in a car.
Real Cane or Bamboo Pole
This was the traditional way of fishing for years and years. People would either go out to a cane patch or bamboo patch and would cut down the length and width that was needed. A smaller lighter rod would be used to catch small species such as panfish. Where longer thicker pieces of wood or bamboo would be used to catch bass, and catfish.
This method is more labor intensive that simply going to a store and purchasing your rod, but this allows you to get a closer feel to your fishing rod and how they used to be made.
First you need to cut down the bamboo or sapling that you need. From here you’ll need to strip off all the leaves, branches, and husks. Then you need to hang them with a weight at the end so that they would dry straight. While it’s not a very difficult process to create your own pole, but it does take more time than heading to Walmart and purchasing your own.
This is all preferential and it all depends on how the angler wants fish. Both methods can be effective and fun.
Hook, Line, Sinker, Bobber
Since you’re not using a traditional reel, you’ll have to be very careful when hooking a larger fish. There is no drag on a cane pole so if you want to catch a big fish, you’ll need a strong fishing rod as well as strong line. If you’re looking to bring in bass, catfish, or other larger fish then you will need to use line that is higher than 10-pound test. The extra power of this line will ensure you can reel in those larger fish without having to worry abut them breaking your line and swimming off with your hook and bait.
Using split shot to get your bait down quicker and easier to cast can be beneficial. If you plan on targeting deeper bigger fish then a weight can ensure you get your hook past the smaller fish quickly and into the strike zone. This is important because panfish can pick apart a bait before it gets down to where large catfish roams the bottom. A split shot can also be helpful when casting, as it gives a little extra weight and allows your bait to go as far as possible.
Your hook will depend on what type of fish you want to catch. A smaller panfish will need a smaller hook such as a size #6, or even smaller. While larger fish can use a size #1 or #2. When catfishing and you want to use chicken livers then a treble hook can be very effective. Especially if you want to keep the fish for the frying pan.
Finally, you’ll also need a bobber. This can help suspend your bait in the strike zone and also gives you an indication of when a fish is attacking your bait. This is very important in cane pole fishing as it can be tough to detect strikes otherwise.
Essential Cane Pole Gear (Recommended)
Types of Cane Poles
Traditional Cane Poles
What kind of rod you use really depends on what you want in a cane pole. You can hand-make your own rod using bamboo, or a tree sapling. Making your own rod can be great if you want to fish how our grandparents did and enjoy the old ways a little bit more.
Depending on how skilled you are in selecting a rod and crating it, it will probably not be as strong or efficient as a fiber glass rod bought in a store. But you should have little no issue catching fish.
Another issue that arises with using a handmade cane pole is it can be a real pain to transport, especially if you crafted a larger one over 8 feet. With these longer rods you’ll need to have them hanging out the window while driving to your spot. By doing this you’re exposing your rod to fast moving objects outside the car which can cause your rod to easily break.
Modern Cane Poles (Best Option)
A more popular item these days is to purchase a fiberglass cane pole style rod form a sporting goods store. These are reasonably priced and come in a variety of sizes. These are typically stronger than your normal cane pole rod and readily available for purchase online or in store. These also come with the option to either telescope in, or come in pieces so that you can easily break them down for safe and efficient transport.
Really it all depends on what you need in a rod, and if you’re willing to take the time and effort to craft it yourself. With that said, my recommendation is to use a modern collapsible cane pole. They’re very affordable, lightweight and even the longest rods will collapse down to around 4 feet in length.
How To Rig a Cane Pole
This depends on what type of rod you have. Some fiberglass cane poles now have one eye at the very tip that can be used to prevent the rod from breaking at the tip. While classic cane poles are just a straight and have no eyes on them.
How To Rig A Modern Cane Pole
When rigging up a rod that has an eye on the end you’ll need to grab some 8-20-pound test and double the length of your rod. Wrap some around the end of the rod a few inches up from the bottom. Then run it up the rod and bring out the top of the eye. That’s it.
How To Set Up A Traditional Bamboo Cane Pole
When using a rod that doesn’t have an eye, you’ll need to pic out your line and tie a nail knot around the middle of the rod. From here you’ll bring the remainder of your line and connect it just a few inches below the top of the pole.
This way if you wind up hooking into a big fish and the leader breaks then you have the line still attach to the backbone of the pole. That way you ensure you still can attempt to reel it in and the fish isn’t just out there swimming along with a large piece of cane pole dragging around by a line from its mouth.
The extra line that comes out of the top of the rod can then be used to attached hooks, sinkers, bobbers, and bait. You’ll need to adjust your bobber based off of how deep you want to fish.
Best Baits for Cane Poles
This answer varies based on the area of country your fishing in and exactly what kind of fish you are attempting to catch. You’ll find that nightcrawlers are often the most popular bait to use for fishing. This is because of how effective they are and also that they are readily available. You can easily head outside and start turning over rocks, or head down to a local gas station to pick some up from a cooler.
Other Live Bait
Outside of nightcrawlers you’ll find other live baits include, crickets, minnows, grasshoppers, and just about anything else that you can either scrounge up in the yard or pick up from the bait shop. All of these baits will be effective but some will be more so than others. This all depends on the location of the lake and what kind of forage the fish have. It’s best to experiment when you get there to see exactly what the fish prefer.
Next you’ll have your bait that is not typically thought of as bait. These includes, hot dogs, corn, dough, cheese, and bread. If you’re having a hard time picking up live or dead bait then everything above will be able to catch fish. You can cut up the hot dogs to certain sizes based off how big of a fish you’re looking to catch.
Same with corn. You can slide the pellets up onto the hook until the shank it covered and just the point is showing. The fish enjoy the bright yellow color of the corn and will key in on it. You can also ball up cheese, bread, and dough and slide it onto a hook. These are great lures to use when you’re under time constraints and need to hit the water quickly.
If fishing for catfish, you can use chicken livers. This is a highly effective way to catch these bottom dwellers. Simply slide a portion of the liver onto a hook a allow it to sink down to the bottom of the pond where the catfish like to roam.
What Can You Catch With a Cane Pole
All of the usually suspects can be caught using a cane pole. Bass, catfish, bluegill, crappie, trout, pike, and walleye. Your only limitations when cane pole fishing is how heavy is your line and how strong is the rod. If you’re using a strong enough piece of equipment you’ll be able to land both large freshwater and saltwater fish.
However, the most popular fish to catch with a cane pole has got to be bluegill, catfish, and crappie. Because of how cane pole fishing works you’re able to pull out panfish after panfish from an area without disturbing the school.
Unlike using a fly rod or spinning rod where the fish take the lure then swim around under the water, the cane pole simply flips the fish out of the water immediately and doesn’t disturb the rest of the school. It’s truly the most effective way to catch schooled up panfish. Especially if you’re looking to take them home and cook them.
This works the same way with crappie as well. These can grow to slightly larger sizes than some panfish so it might best to use a little bit heavier line when fishing for them
This is a great method for catfish because you can sit on the edge of the bank, dock, or boat and drop your lure down to the bottom and just wait for a catfish to come swimming past your bait. Once you have one hooked you just need to bring it off the bottom and into your boat. These are usually larger than panfish and put up a bigger fight so it might not be as easy as flipping them up and in. But a smaller catfish shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Do You Need a Fishing License To Fish With A Cane Pole
Most states require everyone over the age of 16 to have a license when fishing. This includes using a cane pole. Just because you’re using an older piece of technology does not mean you don’t need a license.
However, each state has different rules and regulations. Please check out your local department of game website to ensure that cane pole fishing is allowed and that if you are over the age limit that you do purchase a license. The money used for fishing and hunting licenses goes right back in that states department of game.
Can You Saltwater Fish With a Cane Pole
Yes, you absolutely can. Again, it all depends on where you’re looking to go and what fish you are thinking of targeting, but it can certainly be done. Surf fishing could prove difficult, but fishing from over saltwater could absolutely prove to be fruitful if you’re using the proper bait and gear.
If you’re targeting smaller fish then a handmade rod could be sued. However, it might best to use fiberglass or even a metal rod if you want larger fish. This will have the strength needed to fight again those hearty saltwater fish.
A metal pole can be very helpful if you plan on jigging larger baits off the bottom. This way you can wrench those fish out from under the dock and be able to sling them up on shore with fear of breaking your rod. Just remember to increase the size of your line when attempting to catch saltwater fish, and if you feel like you need to then attaching a metal leader to your brad or monofilament might be needed.
Cane Pole Fishing Tips
Now that you’ve got your cane pole all rigged up and ready to go, there’s just a few things you need to remember. Follow these cane pole fishing tips to better your odds at catching more fish.
If you’re new to cane pole fishing, it may take a bit to remember that you don’t cast a cane pole. If you’ve set up your pole properly, you’ll have a nice length of fishing line hanging off the end of the rod. All you have to do is position the end of the pole over the water and drop your bait into the water wherever you want. You typically don’t get a lot of range with a cane pole, but you can work the banks a lot easier than you can with a standard rod and reel setup.
Drag Large Fish To The Bank With A Cane Pole
Even the modern styles of cane poles can break under the force of lifting large fish up out of the water. Remember that you don’t have a drag system or anything else alleviating all of that stress on the pole. If the fish is much larger than a large panfish, walk it to the bank, and either use your hands or a fishing net.
Patiently Play The Fish
Don’t force the fish to go where you want. Instead, patiently work with the fish and allow it to tire out. Once the fish is tired, you’ll be able to walk it to the bank. Large fish that have lots for fight left in them can break your cane pole if forced to go where you want them.
Cane pole fishing might be thought of an outdated way to go fishing. After all, we have great technology that is at our disposal. We can use smaller shorter rods to catch bigger and stronger fish. A 12’ cane pole is no match for a baitcaster attached to a heavy rod.
However, you’ll find that there is something beautifully simple about cane pole fishing. It brings us back to a time when items needed to be made not bought, and knowing you caught a fish on a rod that you handmade can be a very rewarding experience.
So next time you’re out on the water and find yourself wanting to change things up, think about getting a cane pole. Not only are they easy to use, but they’re also extremely fun.