Pole and Line

A hand line is the most simple of tackle but has limited use. It was probably the earliest method of fishing with a hook and line. Adding a pole gives you more leverage when you hook fish and helps you land them. And it's usually more fun fighting a fish on a pole and line than just on a line by itself.

Equipment Needed for Pole and Line Fishing

Poles now range from traditional cane poles to modern fiberglass poles that retract into themselves for easy transport. They can be any length but fourteen to sixteen feet is about average. Shorter poles are easier to handle but limit your reach. With longer poles you can get your bait out farther away from you.

Lines are attached to the tip of the pole and should be about as long as the pole. Any kind of line can be used but monofilament is the traditional line to use on a pole. Add a hook and you're ready to fish. Most people also use a small cork or float and a Split Shot (a kind of sinker) above the hook to hold the bait in place. Bait at the end of the line can vary from earthworms to artificial baits, depending on how and where you're fishing, and what you're trying to catch.

When starting out, and especially for kids, tie line to the pole that is a few feet shorter than the pole is long. That makes it much harder to hook yourself when holding the end of the pole.

How to Use a Pole and Line

Basically, tie a line to the end of the pole, put a cork, Split Shot, and hook on the end of the line, bait up with a worm, and drop it into the water. That's it! Bream, catfish, bass, and many other kinds of freshwater fish will hit a worm suspended under a cork. A saltwater variation is to put a gob of worms on a hook without weight or float and drop it around the edge of marsh grass for mullet.

After baiting up you raise the pole tip while holding the bait in your other hand. As the tip of the pole rises, release the bait and swing it out over the water. Drop the tip of the pole when the bait gets to the right spot to drop it into the water. With practice you can place the bait right where you want it and not make a splash as it enters the water. You can learn to drop it right beside a bush or stump for exact placement, which is sometimes needed.

When holding the bait before swinging it out over the water, be very careful of the hook. It's best to hold the line a few inches above the bait and hook so the point of the hook won't stick you when you release it.

When a fish hits, you simply raise the pole, setting the hook and pulling the fish toward the surface. You bring the fish out of the water and to you with a pendulum motion if the fish is small enough, or, if the fish is too big, work it toward you by raising the pole tip to lift it out of the water. Walking away from the water will work if you are fishing from the bank. Or pulling in the pole hand over hand to get to the line after fighting the fish will work if you're in a boat. You can quickly take the fish off and put new bait on the hook and be back in the water waiting on the next bite.

Fishing with pole and line is very efficient and can be learned quickly. Costs are low and the equipment is simple. It's a good method to use to learn to fish.

You can buy a cane pole with line, hook, sinker, and float, and a cup of earthworms for bait, for less than $10. It's by far the cheapest way to get started fishing and there's very little to break on a cane pole.

When to Use a Pole and Line

Choose a pole and line any time you can get close to the fish. It's hard to fish more than twenty-five feet away with a pole and line. You also need to be close to the water, so fishing from high piers with pole and line is difficult. It's excellent when you need to drop your bait into an exact spot close to you without making a splash. This method is also best with live or prepared bait.

Fishing from the bank of a pond or stream for bream and catfish is the traditional use for pole and line. Easing along the bank of a lake, dropping a live minnow or jig beside the brush to catch crappie in the spring is a ritual with pole and line in the South. Catching mullet on poles is also a traditional method in salt water. It's best to fish with pole and line in relatively shallow water, because fishing deeper than the length of the pole is difficult.

Skitterpoling is an old method of catching bass, pike, and other cover-loving fish. A strong two-foot piece of line is attached to the tip of a long, heavy pole, and a lure that makes a lot of surface noise is tied to it. This bait is skittered along the top of the water near cover until a fish hits.

Poles and lines don't get along well with overhanging tree limbs. You need a clear area with enough room over your head and over the water to raise and swing the pole. You can drop the bait under overhanging brush but it must be far enough away from you to give you room to move the pole.

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