BD Outdoors Pro Contributor Nate Lindsay with a heck of a local yellowfin on the bell shaped popper.
It doesn’t matter where you sit on the political spectrum, if you’re young or old, man or woman, East coaster, or West coaster, freshwater or saltwater, use a spinning reel or conventional, I think one thing we can all agree on is that there is NOTHING better than an awesome top water bite.
The use of poppers is at the top of the list for most anglers regarding favorite fishing techniques. There is nothing quite like seeing a fish surface to engulf a popper. The only thing I can equate good popper fishing to is being a National Geographic photographer. These photographers get a special glimpse into wildlife behavior and as anglers, I feel like we’re getting the same out of this incredible bite. The cast, the anticipation, the wake behind the lure and the blow up that is often by more than one fish competing to inhale your popper.
Dowel Style Popper
Rear Weighted Popper
In the traditional sense, a popper is a plug style lure with the body shape and length meant to match the hatch. This means that they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but most use them as a way to mimic the local gamefish forage. The differences in shapes and sizes is both personal preference and performance based, dependent on water and fishing conditions. I’ve found most poppers to float although there are always exceptions like some of the rear weighted poppers which sink and have added weight to be able to cast long distances. The one attribute all poppers should share is a cupped face, which allows for the infamous popping and splashing action.
When the fish are up and foaming it’s a tell tale sign to start deploying the poppers. Aggresive feeding and poppers go hand in hand.
As often happens, in pursuit of feeding fish, you arrive just seconds too late. By this time the fish have dispersed and the only sign that anything has happened is the glistening of bait scales covering the ocean’s surface.
The original Fred Arbogast Hula Popper, a work of art and ingenuity.
The popper style lures originated in the fly fishing world and date back almost a century. It’s believed that Fred Arbogast developed one of the first marketed popper style lures, the Hula Popper, around 1940. The design, which was designed as a fly popper, was later resized and weighted for conventional and spinning gear to target larger freshwater species. So, any of you that scoff at fly fishing, be thankful for their ingenuity.
The last several years in Southern California has given anglers ample opportunity to try and refine methods of popper fishing while targeting local bluefin and yellowfin tuna. It’s not a fool proof technique and is dependent on the mood of the targeted gamefish. Different sizes, styles and retrieves are applicable. We’ve had years where you literally could not have a popper that was big enough to target our local bluefin tuna, the bigger the better. Since those years things have normalized and our popper preference is truer to that of the size of our local bait fish. Color, surprisingly, has also played a part in popper preference. While this might be more the angler’s wishful thinking, we are seeing better success with lighter colored belly poppers on sunny days and darker on overcast days. Regardless of your choice of popper, the excitement of getting a strike on one is universal.
The Rapala Magnum Xplode is one of our favorites. This lure goes with us no matter the destination or gamefish.
The shape of poppers have also adopted a wide range of silhouettes. As a kid I remember most poppers having a broom handle shape with a cupped out shape to the face of the lure. The most popular probably being the blue/ white ATOM poppers.
ATOM Popper has been around since the 80’s still a great lure.
As years went on, locations in the south Pacific lead and refined the charge on popper fishing for the likes of Giant Trevally and Dogtooth tuna. Those locations began implementing a heavier bell-head shaped popper that allowed for easy casting, as well as having a bigger cup ultimately providing a larger splash. Since those days many poppers have been developed to resemble this silhouette. Rapala makes what I believe is one of the best ones in the market, they’ve been able to get a few things right that make this a leading lure.
Oversized VMC treble hooks make it so that no hook replacement is needed, high density plastic makes them virtually impossible to destroy and lastly they were able to nail down two perfect sizes for our tuna fishery.
A must have in every angler’s arsenal.
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