The Greate Debate–aka Pole Dancing at the Lake

A few days ago I unwittingly stepped into the middle of a controversy. It seems the use of the word pole is only allowed in the context of dance apparatus and never in fishing. The thing is I grew up fishing in Minnesota and we used poles. So deal with my occasional slip into the comfort zone of youth.

But it did get me deeply involved in a fit of googling. It is impressive to see the number of venomous posts of the Y chromosome persuasion that are out there. The list-servs and blogs would indicate that only a newbie or a moron would call it a fishing pole. I note if it is a cute little girl enthusiastically catching a fish it is her “Barbie pole” but if it is their sons it is always a rod.  

So what is the difference? The attempts at drawing distinctions leave much ambiguity. It seems one part geography, one part snobbery, and at least two parts masculinity. 

Some rigorously defend a position that if it has a reel, it’s a rod. If you put eyelets to run your line through, it’s a rod. And, there are the more wiki-esque definitions that a fishing pole derives from bamboo or other natural matter fishing sticks. The old cane pole fishing methods of days gone by. But wait, I almost exclusively use Tenkara “rods” which are descendants of those very methods. I am reel-less. I attach line to the end of a modern stick, which very much sounds like a pole. But even the Tenkara retailers all sell rods. To be sure, my fishing devices are not bamboo. 

It really doesn’t matter to me. I’m confident that fishing is fishing. I can catch with a pole, I can catch with a rod. The one thing I don’t need is a reel. It does intrigue me that it is gentlemen that seem fixated on the need for a firmer moniker for the stick in their hand. I will most likely continue to use the two words interchangeably and demand no less respect. I fish. The trout don’t seem to care what I call it. It isn’t lost on me either that the $600 rods nearby do not catch prettier, larger, or more plentiful fish. In the end it’s all just standing near water hoping for a pole dance.  

Is it a pole or is it a rod? Sure is bendy.

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