Growing up surrounded by lakes in Minnesota meant I was also surrounded by tales of fishing adventure. The monster sturgeon pulled in from Lake Superior. The massive largemouth bass that took a bite of the 20lb walleye being reeled in. And how ice fishing on the Canadian border isn’t nearly as cold as you’d think!
Now that’s a fish story if I’ve ever heard one…
Many anglers, myself included, enjoy fishing to spend time in nature, not necessarily to catch a fish dinner. So what if my version of fishing involves a lot of reading and naps? Mind your business and eyes on your own bobber people!
If you’re a more engaged fisher-person than I am, you’ll want to be sure you have the right equipment to get your catch of the day. I recommend starting with a bamboo fishing pole.
Types of Fishing Poles and Rods
You might think of fishing poles and rods as the same thing. They're close, but those made from fiberglass and graphite with guides to improve performance are usually referred to as rods. Those made from wood, cane, or bamboo that have no guides or special mechanics are usually called fishing poles. Fishing poles have been around for over 4,000 years and the very first were made of bamboo poles.
These days we have a lot of options and choosing the best fishing pole will depend on the type of fishing you want to do. The three main types of fishing rods and poles are graphite, fiberglass, and bamboo.
Bamboo fishing poles are the most traditional. They were first used thousands of years ago as fishing evolved from hand gathering and spearfishing. They remained one of the most popular types of fishing poles until a trade embargo on China in the early 1950s made bamboo poles hard to find. Manufacturers focused on carbon fiber until the early 2000’s when bamboo fishing poles made a comeback.
Bamboo fishing poles are great for all types of smaller lake and river fish and are especially popular with fly fishermen. They have a slower flexible action which often means more precision when casting. The strength of bamboo allows it to be crafted into extra-long fishing poles for greater reach. The craftsmanship of many bamboo fishing poles makes them a more expensive option, but many see the value in the quality and strength of traditional bamboo.
Fiberglass fishing rods have been around since the 1940s and are made with reinforced plastic material embedded with glass fibers. They’re typically less expensive because they can be made so quickly and easily. While strong and durable, they’re not the best rods for large fish because they’re heavy and flexible to the point that the entire rod bends from end to end. This can be tough if you’re fighting a big fish for a long time. very bendy. These rods are great for beginner fishermen because they’re inexpensive and work well in smaller lakes and streams.
Graphite fishing rods have been used since the 1970s, as a lighter option compared to fiberglass. They’ve grown in popularity because their light weight makes casting easier and the bites from fish are easier to feel. Graphite rods tend to be the strongest (and often most expensive), but the stiffness of the material can make them more brittle. They’re often used by more experienced fishermen who know how to work through how to use the fast action, or bend in the fishing rod, to their advantage.
Serious angles may feel you can’t use the same rod for different types of fishing, there is a composite option that’s a mixture of graphite and fiberglass. This will give you a lot of the flexibility of fiberglass without the extra weight.
Why Choose a Bamboo Fishing Pole
While the more modern graphite and fiberglass rods may seem like a good option, they won’t give you the solid craftsmanship and performance of a traditional bamboo fishing pole.
Performance and Variety
Bamboo fishing poles are strong and durable while also being flexible. The strength of the bamboo plant is why it’s also used as construction material like scaffolding and housing that can withstand earthquakes. You’ll be able to choose the right length and flexibility for the type of fishing you want to do. There’s also a wide range of styles and pricing from a basic bamboo cane fishing pole to a high-end bamboo fly rod.
Better for the Environment
Using a natural material like bamboo is better for the environment. The poles also have a clean production method, unlike fiberglass or graphite. These factory-made rods go through a chemical manufacturing process that leaves toxins in our air and water. Bamboo poles are often cut by hand and crafted into durable and long-lasting poles without the need for chemical processing. If you want to keep things truly sustainable you can even make your own!
A quick note on sustainable fishing methods. Personal fishing typically has a low impact on the environment as long as you’re not losing gear or leaving cut lines floating in the water. Lost gear impacts species well beyond those you are trying to catch. Wildlife can get caught in fishing lines or ingest debris left behind. Be a conscious angler and leave our waters cleaner than you found them.
This probably isn't your first thought when choosing your new fishing pole, but a bamboo fishing pole brings back memories of simpler times. Most poles are made by hand so they’re each one of a kind. Don’t stick this beauty in storage – hang it on the wall as a beautiful piece of art that makes you remember warm afternoons on the water every time you walk by.
Caring For Your Bamboo Fishing Pole
A good quality bamboo rod can be more expensive than other options so if you invest in one, you’ll want to take care of it. Never put your bamboo fishing pole away wet. It’s totally fine to get it wet while fishing (obviously or bamboo fishing poles wouldn't have been used for thousands of years). But storing your fishing pole while wet can lead to mildew and rot.
If your fishing pole is more than one piece, you’ll want to break it down after each use to clean and dry the ferrules (the threads that hold the pieces together). Leading them wet will eventually loosen them and affect the strength of your fishing pole.
Bamboo is a natural material and even if it has a layer of varnish on the top to seal it, you shouldn’t use solvents to clean it. Use a simple soap and water wash with a gentle brush as needed.
Keep your rods stored at a moderate temperature. If storing in a tube, don’t leave the tube baking in the sun or it will ruin the varnish. That shouldn’t be an issue if you hang your bamboo fishing pole indoors. Maintenance is easy – just remember to clean, dry, and display!
Have a Great Day of Fishing With a Bamboo Pole
If the performance and appearance of a bamboo fishing pole aren't enough, many choose them to feel connected to their ancestors. This type of pole has been used since mankind started fishing and can help us remember our heritage and help us connect with nature in a unique way.
No matter how experienced you are, it's never too late to try fishing with a bamboo fishing pole. Even if you spend all day on the water and don’t catch a thing, a bad day of fishing always beats a great day at work.