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The Art of Cane Pole Fishing

Star Tribune

Cane fishing poles have been around since before the Egyptians. They are simple, effective, and a great way to get back to the old-school ways of catching fish.

The earliest use of poles for fishing dates back to before 2000 BC. In that time, line was made of silk or fiber cordage, with bone used for a hook, and cane as a pole. Since then not much has changed about the setup or the use of cane poles, only the materials of which everything is made.

Cane Poles

While many people still prefer actual cane poles, good ones are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Instead they have been replaced with fiberglass and aluminum models that are telescopic, like the B 'n' M Black Widow. With these changes, the days are long gone of having to leave a window down with your cane pole flapping around in the wind to transport them.

cane pole
Open Seasons

The cane pole setup is as simple as it gets. Measure some 8 to 10-pound line double the length of your pole and tie one end off a few joints from the bottom. Run the other end through the eye hole at the tip and pull all the way through. Tie on a hook, add some split-shot, and you're good to go. Cork or lightweight floats work wonderfully with cane poles as well.

Cane poles can offer a huge advantage over modern-day tackle when it comes to getting into tight spots or dropping into thick brush. Rather than trying to throw a precision cast, you simply use the length of the pole and drop the line where you want it. This comes in handy when trying to fish under docks and low-hanging trees.

They are also great for kids to use. There is no reel or casting so you don't have to worry about tangling the line every five minutes. Everyone can just have fun and catch some fish.

South Bend
South Bend

Cane Pole Techniques to Catch Different Fish

Most people don't see cane poles as serious fishing equipment anymore. The truth is, you can catch numerous fish from crappie to bass with a few simple techniques.


One of the best ways to catch bass on a cane pole is to use a technique called "jigger poling" or "sweeping." With this technique, only leave around two feet of line off the end of your pole. Tie on a noisy top water bait such as buzzbait, and drag it across the water in a erratic pattern near the bank. This can also be done by using a jig and quickly dragging across the surface while snapping the end of you pole in the water.

Doing this will allow you to get to places around the banks a lot of fisherman can't using modern bass rods. This technique also works great while gently floating down a river in a small boat or kayak, allowing you to cover a lot of bank very quickly.

Crappie and Bluegill

Instead of the old-fashioned way of dropping a line in one spot and waiting, try a "spider rig." Spider rigging involves anchoring your boat over the thick cover crappie love, and setting up multiple poles around you in different directions. Thus making you look like a giant water spider, hence the name. This is a highly effective technique and allows you to fish at different depths all at once.

NC Wildlife
NC Wildlife


To fish for trout on a cane pole you use a technique called "dapping." Dapping is mainly done on smaller streams where stealth is key. To do this, use a lighter weight four-pound line and tie a small fly onto it. Wade into the water and move up stream until you find a good spot. Dangle the fly over the water and zip it around like a real fly, gently touching the water here and there. Trout will burst from the water to snatch it up. This technique requires a little practice to get down, but is well worth it to learn.


Go after catfish on slow-moving river bottoms and small ponds. Catfish will test your skills with a cane pole and put up a really fun fight.

It is best to use heavier, braided line when going after catfish. Just remember there is no reel, therefore no drag to help you keep from breaking your line. You must rely completely on the constant tension of the line and bending of the rod to wear fish out. It isn't uncommon to have to dip your tip in the water to keep the pole from snapping if you hook into a large one.

Simply decide how much line you will need to reach the area you want. Leave a little extra to wrap around the bottom of your pole a few times so your catch doesn't get away if the tip snaps. Add your hook and weights before carefully lobbing the line where you want it to be. Sit back and wait for a bite.

Try out these techniques for yourself and see what kind of luck you have. You never know you might end up enjoying cane poles to your modern day equipment.

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The Art of Cane Pole Fishing