Home » Guest Contributor Cami » DIY Toy Fishing Pole (that reels in)…and Magnetic Fabric Fish

DIY Toy Fishing Pole (that reels in)…and Magnetic Fabric Fish

Cami from “Tidbits” is back today — and oh, I’m so glad she is! Because she has created the most darling Toy Fishing Pole that actually reels the magnetic fish right in. Just think how fun this would be to make as gifts for birthday parties and Christmas. So much fun……and absolutely DARLING!


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Hello everyone! It’s Cami from Tidbits, and I’m glad to be back!   For today’s project, I’ve teamed up with my husband again, to bring you a tutorial for making a Toy Fishing Pole and little fishes to go with it.  



The pole is a simple wooden construction that actually winds up the “fishing line” onto the functioning “reel”.  



Oh, and that little lure that is attached to the string? Yep, it has a magnet on the end that actually “catches” the little fabric fishes (that also have a hidden magnet inside).  


The perfect toy for little hands to learn some coordination and skill, all while having some fun.
This project includes a little wood and a little fabric. These are the best kind of projects, in my humble opinion, because it uses a little bit of HIM (my husband) – a little bit of HER (that’s me!). All with the sole purpose in delighting the children.
A real team effort, if you ask me.
But, if you’re handy with wood and tools, you can tackle the entire project on your own. It’s really not that difficult! (I just like having an excuse to ask my husband to do a project with me!)
And somehow, that husband of mine endured the persistence of his crazy blogger wife, and created something better than I could have imagined. (In my perfect dream world, he would do nothing but stay at home and do woodworking projects to my hearts content.)
This Fishing Pole is the perfect size for a little toddler (and would make a great gift!), but I would be lying if I didn’t tell you we haven’t all had our fun with this toy – age 32 on down. :)
Such a great imaginative toy that will get a lot of love at our house, I’m sure!
If you are ready, keep reading to find out how to make your own little fabric fish and wooden fishing pole.
We’ll start with the easy part: The fish.
There are so many fun ways you could make your fish, but I took the easiest possible way out for these little guys. I like to keep things simple.
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I gathered a collection of some of my favorite fabrics, with a bit of a coastal feel to them. I left edges raw and un-finished, completely embracing the frayed edge look. And I LOVE the look! If you do too, let me show you how easy it is to make them.
For each fish, you will need the following:
  • One round Magnet
    • Bought mine in a pack from Hobby Lobby
  • A fish shape pattern
    • I simply “googled” fish patterns, and found my favorite and printed it off to my desired size. You could just as easily free hand one as well.
  • Fabric of choice for the front and back of the fish
    • Just enough for the shape of the fish, in all the variety of fabrics you desire.
  • Fleece Fabric or some kind of soft/thin batting
    • This is to make the fishy feel just a bit plush and cozy, and to stabilize the magnet. You will need at least 2 layers inside.


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First, use your fish pattern to cut 2 layers of the outer fabric and 2 layers of the fleece or batting.

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Trim the fleece about 1/4th of an inch smaller than the outer fabric.

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Line the 2 layers of fleece fish together evenly. Place 1 magnet in between the layers, centered in the body of the fish as much as possible.

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Stitch through the 2 layers of fleece around the magnet, securing it in place.

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No need to worry how this looks. It will be completely hidden.

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Take your 2 pieces of outer fabric and place them on either side of your fleece pieces, “right” side of the fabric facing outward.

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If you need to, pin around the fish to keep it all in place. I prefer to keep the layers together with my hands as I’m sewing because I’m lazy like that. :)
Your final step will be to sew 1/4 of an inch away from the edge, all around the fish.

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Trim off any long threads or uneven edges.

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And that is it! Couldn’t get any easier, right? Now, just set those aside for now.

Okay, onto the fishing pole. A little more intense for me (because woodworking/power tools aren’t my thing), but my husband swears it is soooooo easy.
But I am sure you can! So, here we go!
We love the fishing pole! But after playing with them for a bit, there are a few things we would change if we were to do it again. So pay attention, because there are a couple of times I will tell you to do what I say, and not what we did. I will bold them.
Also, we tried 2 methods for the pole, because we couldn’t decide which would work best.
I liked the method on the left, he liked the one on the right. But they both look pretty cool. I will show step by step how to do the one on the left, with the solid spool, and then show you how you can adjust that to make the one on the right. Deal?
Supplies and Tools:
  • Drill
  • Wood Glue
  • Measuring Tape
  • Sand Paper
  • Small Eye screws
  • Any type of string or rope
    • Just make sure it fits through the Eye screws
    • We used 85 inches of rope. This gave PLENTY of line to wind.
  • Wood Clamp
  • 1/4 inch Drill Bit
  • 1/8 inch Drill Bit
    • Not pictured (oops)
  • 3/8 inch Drill Bit
  • 5/8 inch Drill Bit
    • We used a spade Drill Bit that we had on hand, but any type will work.
  • Wooden Spool
    • Found mine at Hobby Lobby
  • 2 Wooden Discs
    • Hobby Lobby
  • 1 small Wooden Toy Wheel
    • You guessed it . . . Hobby Lobby
  • 1 Axle Peg
    • For the turning handle (Hobby Lobby)
  • 3 wooden Dowels
    • For the handle
      • 1 inch square dowel, 6 inches long
        • WARNING: I thought the square would look cute, and it does. But we have learned that it is uncomfortable for little hands to hold onto. I strongly suggest going with a round dowel for the handle.
        • We also bought these dowels at Hobby Lobby, and cut them to size at home. A Lumber store might do this for you if you don’t have equipment to cut wood.
    • For the Pole
      • 5/8th’s inch round dowel, 21.5 inches long.
    • For the Peg (where the magnet attaches at the end of the rope, pictured, but not cut)
      • Use the same 5/8th’s inch dowel and cut 1 inch long
    • For connecting the spool to the handle
      • 1/4 inch dowel, 3 3/4 inch long (pictured, but not cut)
  • 2 round magnets


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Clamp together the 2 wooden discs, off to one side of the discs.
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Mark the center. Insert the 1/4 inch Drill Bit to your Drill, and drill through both discs in the center. Hold onto the clamp to keep your hand safe. Or if you are watching a loved one do this, be sure to warn them to not drill through their hand ;). A few times.

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Set the discs aside.

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Grab your handle piece, and mark in the center of one end.

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Using the 5/8th drill bit, and a clamp for safety . . . .

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. . . . drill in the center down 3/4’s of an inch.

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Ours is a little wonky, but it worked just fine!

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Drop some wood glue down into the hole.

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And then insert your pole into the hole.

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Wipe off any excess glue that came out, and let this dry until it feels secure.

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Meanwhile, find the wooden spool and dab some glue on both ends.
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Line your wooden discs (which you previously drilled holes into) up with the holes in the spool on both ends.

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Clamp these together (with the clamp off to the side, not in the center), and let dry.

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Now, measure 5/8 inch from the center.

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But real quick, before you drill, look at the picture below.
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You will be drilling on this mark you just made. The center of the drill has to be exactly 5/8th’s of an inch from the center of the disc. This is so the wooden wheel will fit in the center and not get in the way of the peg handle used for turning (as seen above). You may want to line that small wooden wheel up with the center hole and be sure the hole you are about to drill will give enough room for the spinning handle.
Using the drill bit attached to the drill . . . .

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. . . . make your hole about 3/8 inch deep.

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Drop some wood glue into that hole you just drilled.

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Insert the peg handle into the hole and let dry.
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Now we will attach the winding spool to the handle.
Mark 1 1/4 inches down from the top of the handle.

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Using the 1/4 inch drill bit, make a hole 3/4 inch deep.

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Dab some glue into that hole and insert the 1/4 inch round, 3 3/4 inch cut dowel piece into that hole. You will need at least 3 inches of dowel exposed for the spool assembly. Let dry.

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Insert the spool all the way through both holes on both ends.

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There should be a small piece hanging out the other end.

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Place some glue through the hole of the small wooden wheel. Do not get glue on the inside of the wheel! To do this, my husband was blowing through the hole after he dabbed some glue inside.

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It takes a little convincing but insert the wheel onto the remaining piece of wood sticking out. Don’t let the wooden wheel get glued to the spool itself, or you won’t be able to spin it.

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Now you need to drill a hole into the spool, where the rope will be inserted and glued in place.

Place the 1/8 inch drill bit into your drill.
Below you will see us drill a hole into the center of the spool. BUT WAIT!! DON’T DO THAT!

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We learned later on, that the rope winds around the spool better if you drill the hole to the far end of the spool. Then it won’t cluster closer to the handle so badly. You will see below how we moved the hole (after the fact).
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So after you have drilled a small hole on the far end, dab some wood glue on one end of the rope.

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Twist the glued end into the hole, until it feels securely in there. Let the glue dry.

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Now you need to screw the eye screws into the pole. We did 2 hooks, one on top and one in the middle.
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Place the screws to the side of the pole where the spool handle is. Line them up as evenly as possible.
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Now feed the other end of the rope (opposite the end you glued into the spool already) up through the eye hooks. Once you have done that, you are ready to make the little peg at the end, with a magnet for catching the fish.
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Place that little peg piece securely in the wood clamp.
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Using the 1/8 inch drill bit, drill a hole in the center of one end.
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Put glue on the end of the rope and twist it into the hole.
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Using a hot glue gun, glue a magnet onto the end of the small peg.
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Another word of advice – GLUE 2 MAGNETS ON THE END OF THIS PEG!! It adds a little extra strength so those fishes don’t fall off the pole when the kiddos go fishing. So much less frustration. Trust me! :)
Okay, your pole is just about finished. At this point my husband took some sandpaper to the wood and softened up all the edges and sanded down wood glue that was in places we didn’t want it to be. I then taped around the handle and painted it a pretty coastal blue. However, I SUGGEST YOU PAINT THE HANDLE OR ANY PARTS YOU PLAN TO PAINT OR STAIN, BEFORE YOU BEGIN BUILDING THE POLE. That would have been so much easier.
And that’s is. That completes the first fishing pole.
If you would like to make a fishing pole that looks more like a fly fishing rod, here are some tips for how my husband did that. Only a few small changes.
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For this design, he drilled his hole all the way through the handle.

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Then he glued the little wheel on a piece of the 1/4 inch round dowel. (Sorry, I don’t have exact measurements for this one. He threw it together on a quick whim. I was snapping pictures as fast as I could so he wouldn’t get sick of me.)

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He put that stick through the hole.

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Then he drilled 5 holes in one of the round discs. One in the middle, and four more spaced evenly about 3/8 inch from outside edge. He did this on 2 discs. He cut 3 sticks the size he wanted, and one about double that length. He glued those sticks into the 4 corner holes.

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Then he put the other disc onto the other end of the sticks. The one stick which is longer serves as the handle. Then he glued it in place onto the stick already on the handle. The rope ties into the middle stick and wraps around the outside of the sticks when wound.




Boy, I hope that makes sense. :)

We really liked this design as well, though we would have made a few changes. One being, the outside discs should be bigger and closer together so the rope doesn’t get outside of them when wound up. And 2, the handle to wind feels a bit flimsy. Maybe use the same handle as the other pole used.
Please leave a comment or contact me if you have any questions you would like answered. I wouldn’t mind at all. :)


We have truly enjoyed this new toy in our home. And I know you will too! :)


We are already brainstorming about the little nieces or nephews who would love one of these for Christmas.
And I hoped you enjoyed the tutorial! I would love to hear if you try it out!
Check out Cami’s blog Tidbits, her Pinterest Boards, and her Facebook Page.
Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with my craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
Diy toy fishing pole (that reels in)…and magnetic fabric fish
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  1. Fly Addict says:

    Yet another post I'm going share with my buddies on Facebook. Thanks!

  2. Pingback: 10 Games for Kids Made with Fabric Scraps – Sewing With Scraps
  3. Christian Lee says:

    Thanks so much for this project. We decided to re-create it over at We gave you full credit of course.

    We swapped out bubble wrap for the insides and found out it’s difficult to use a sewing machine and magnets.
    Our video:

  4. Nina says:

    My son would love these! What a great gift idea too :)

  5. Steph @MisplacedBrit says:

    Absolutely beautiful photos! And a wonderful toy :-)
    Thanks for the inspiration

  6. Lauren @ Rustic Honey says:

    This is a great idea! I can definitely handle the fish… now, only if I can talk my husband into the fishing pole project! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Joan says:

    Loved this. Thank you so much for sharing. I have even talked my husband to come out of retirement to make a couple for our little grandchildren. Thanks again

  8. Jerri says:

    Does it “release” the string when the child casts? Or does someone just pull the string out for the child to start fishing?

  9. J says:

    Thank you for this easy to follow sample and directions. I love it!

  10. Taylor says:

    This is the cutest idea! So happy I found this. Thank you for sharing but would you be willing to tell me where you got the fabrics? I love those!

  11. Tracy says:

    Thank you so much for the wonderful idea and tutorial. For some reason the photos that are in the “tutorial” portion are not showing up. There is just a grey circle with a line through it. I thought this might be a problem with my computer, but have tried on different machines and different internet connections. Is there any way to be able to view those pictures?


    1. Ashley says:

      So sorry about that…..the pictures were having some sort of coding error. It’s all fixed now! :)

  12. Anonymous says:

    most of the pictures are not there

    1. Ashley says:

      So sorry about that…..the pictures were having some sort of coding error. All fixed now! :)

  13. Hill says:

    Where did you purchase your fabrics from? So cute!

  14. Sav says:

    Hi Cami/Ashley! So I recently made a bunch of these for Christmas presents. They turned out SO darling! Thanks for the tutorial!! However, I wanted to know if anyone else is still having problems with the line bunching around the inner side of the reel? I drilled the hole near the outer edge of the reel as the tutorial suggested, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. The line immediately shifts inward and even gets stuck in the (tiny) gap between the reel and the pole handle. Long story short, my fishing poles look awesome but they simply can’t reel :( Got any advice?

    1. Cami says:

      Sorry it took me so long to respond! I just have to check over here from time to time. In response to your question – my husband and I noticed this was a problem, which is why we did some of the things we did. I actually don’t notice it to be a huge problem with the ones we made. If the kids reel super quick, it tends to get bunched to the side closest the pole, but they seemed to learn pretty quickly that they couldn’t do that. This design seemed to be the best we could think of to prevent that problem. I wonder if getting taller wooden discs for the ends would keep the line inside if you continue to have that problem.

    2. Sav says:

      You’re fine! I found a solution. I’d originally had three eyescrews holding the line (I liked the look); I took out the bottom one and voila! It reeled. :) Thanks again for the amazing tutorial! These were a huge hit with the kids!

  15. alisha says:

    About how much would you say this cost all together?

  16. Cindi says:

    This is adorable. I’m making one for each of my grandkids age 2 and 4. I know they are going to love it especially since my husband,(Papa) loves to fish! I too was wondering how big your fish were. I cut my fish out and they are about 7 1/2 inches long. Just wanted to make sure they wouldn’t be too heavy or awkward to be picked up by the magnet before I sew them together. Thanks!!! And love your blog!

  17. Lorena says:

    I made something similar about a year ago, no where near as fancy and we used paperclips with random ribbons attached. then we spread our “fishies” randomly on the floor. the kids loved fishing but sadly since I only had one fishing pole the game soon ended. (I have twins, what was I thinking!!?)
    to answer Leah, this game could be suitable for almost any age as long as they can hold the pole, keep in mind that magnets are dangerous and supervision is required so that they don’t place it in their mouth, other than that, a great game for 3 and up. not sure what other might think.
    I am so tickled with the idea of a rod that reels! I’m totally printing this one and handing it to the Mr after I shop for supplies :-)
    lovely post thank you!!

  18. Leah says:

    Just curious… What age is everyone thinking that this toy would be good for?

  19. Laree @ Ever Heard of Euless says:

    I adore this (and I’m totally making one for my son for christmas!) Quick question though: why did you use magnets in the fish? Wouldn’t washers be easier/cheaper to use?

    1. connie says:

      I used washers in the fish I made and it worked out great. My husband thought the magnets would “fight”

  20. Anonymous says:

    Great project and your little girl is so adorable xD

  21. Erica G says:

    Yes! I love this. I have been brainstorming on how to make a pole for my 3 year old son since last spring. (We were talking about fishing poles and fabric fishies on a walk one day) We have lots of drift wood (we live by a beach) but I wanted something more than a stick with string!

    Thank you for the great ideas and all the photos. I just went into a hobby lobby for the first time last week so now I know how to find stuff at that store! Now that my 3 older kids are back in school maybe I can whip out a couple poles for the kids to play with!

  22. Sharlyn says:

    Absolutely darling!

  23. Patricia says:

    Hi. This looks fun. Re the fishing pole…the paragraph just before the list of Supplies and Tools…the step by step is for the one on the left…. but you say that you will show how to adjust to make “the one on the LEFT”…should this be “the one on the RIGHT”?
    Sorry, I knew what you meant. I’m not nit picking.
    Keep up the good work.

    1. Ashley says:

      Hey Patricia……thanks for noticing the error, that’s actually really helpful……not nit picking at all! I’ll go in and fix this for Cami. :)


  24. Emily says:

    What size did you end up deciding to use for your fish? I think it looks like maybe a full 8×11 print out page with the fish just printed landscape vs horizontal – I’m an over-thinker so just thought I’d see what you went with! :) Totally cute and my nephew turns 2 this month! Perfect!

    1. Emily says:

      And instead of “horizontal”, of course I meant “diagonal” … geesh… :/

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Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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