A popper is one of the most fish-catchingest topwater baits of all time. By choosing between slight variations in color and size, a popper gives an angler the ability to mimic several different types of forage that bass feed on regularly throughout the spring, summer and fall. And though a popper’s namesake reveals is primary action, many of these little baits can be walked along the surface just as well as they can be popped.
A great bait whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, a popper is one lure that every angler should try. So today we’re going to break down the basics and beyond relative to fishing a popper and hopefully give all of you some food for thought whether you’ve never tried a popper or you’ve been fishing one for a while. Let’s get to it.
A popper is designed primarily to be popped along the surface in a straight line. That is the distinguishing capability of this bait when compared to other topwaters out there. So you’ll just want to throw the bait out, and then with a steady twitch of the rod tip, pop the bait along the surface. This action does a great job of mimicking a bait fish like a bluegill that is feeding on bugs along the surface.
But many poppers can also be walked along the surface of the water really well. While there will still be a little bit of a chug to the bait as the mouth of the popper pushes water, you’ll notice when walking a popper that the bait has more of a side-to-side action versus coming back to the boat or the bank in a continuously straight line. Creating this action can be a little tricky at first, but a cadence will develop with a little practice where the bait swings to each side on a slight pause between twitches. Walking a popper is a great way to mimic a shad or other small baitfish that’s injured.
Combining the actions
Often times, there will be situations where it’s beneficial to be able to fish a popper both these ways on a single cast. You may want to start out by popping a popper along, since it’s easier to cover more water faster this way. But if you have a fish boil on the bait and miss it, it’s then a good idea to pause your retrieve and try to walk the bait in place for a few twitches. This gives the fish more time to track the bait down for a second attempt and the interruption in the action of the bait likely leads the fish to believe that it injured the lure on the initial swipe.
It’s also a good idea to go from popping a popper to walking it anytime your bait comes near a target during your retrieve. Say for instance you made a cast down the bank and, for the most part, the bank is void of cover. But for about a 15 foot stretch there’s a patch of grass. Popping the bait along the barren areas will help you cover that water faster, and then slowing the bait down to walk it along the grass line will give the bass that are are more likely to be in that higher percentage stretch a better chance at connecting with your bait.
What makes a good popper?
With all this in mind, it stands to reason that a good popper can be fished both these ways, capable of being popped and walked along. This is a tall order in and of itself. And there are some really popular poppers out there that are better at popping than walking. But a good, well-rounded popper should be able to do both. Sincerely not a shameless plug, the MONSTERBASS Mad Max is truly one of the greatest poppers I’ve ever personally fished with at doing both of these.
And the Mad Max has all three of the remaining characteristics that make for a good popper as well. First and foremost, behind the dual action of the bait, is a good set of hooks. Then it’s also really beneficial for the back hook to be feathered, as this helps mask the hook that is right in the fish’s face on its final approach. And a feathered hooks does a good job of mimicking the tail of a small baitfish, as it kicks back and forth on the retrieve. Lastly, a good popper comes in a wide variety of colors that can be used to mimic bream, bluegill, shad, small bass and other forage in a variety of water colors.
Poppers can be fished on a wide variety of gear. If you’re more comfortable with a spinning rod or a closed face reel like a Zebco, those are both great options, especially for beginners. But if you’d prefer, you can certainly fish a popper on a baitcaster. Both braided line and monofilament work well, since they both float. You don’t want to fish a popper on fluorocarbon however, since it sinks.
A 7’ medium heavy action rod is a great size if you choose to fish a popper on a baitcasting combo. Pair that will a midrange gear ratio reel, something in the 7:1 range. And if you do decide to go with braided line, 30- pound test is a good place to land. For monofilament, 15 pound test works well. Keep in mind though that these two lines have vastly different characteristics, as monofilament has a lot of stretch and braided line has very little.
Braid works best if you have experience using this type of line, since it will allow you to make longer casts and provide for a better hookup ratio at those long distances compared to mono. But with braided line, you’ll want to be sure to not set the hook as hard and be a little more careful as the fish nears the boat or the bank, backing off your drag a little to ensure that the fish doesn’t straighten the hooks out or tear free due to the low-stretch of the line.
Poppers are again one of the best all-around topwaters for any skill level angler, because they’re both easy to fish and extremely effective. Look for a good popper if you decide to try this technique out for yourself, one that you can both pop and walk along as there will be times when each approach is more effective.
And be sure you choose a popper with a good set of hooks, preferably a feathered hook on the tail end and a wide variety of color choices. When it comes to gear, the popper is again great for any skill level since it can be fished on whatever type of rod the angler is comfortable with. Choose your line again according to your preference, and then just go have fun. If you give this technique a try and get a few topwater explosions, you’ll likely be hooked on fishing a popper by the end of your first trip.