Almost every type of fishing uses poppers from fly fishing to spinning, bait casters, trolling, and even hand lining, inshore, offshore, lakes, streams, rivers, and estuaries.
The variety of fish species that can be caught on poppers is only comparable to the shear number of lure styles. Poppers are possibly one of the most versatile lures you can have in you tackle box. They come in sizes as small as 1cm and as large as 30cm and every imaginable color scheme, from clear to reflective holographic scale like imagery.
The first step to using and being successful with poppers is to make the commitment to give it a go. I mean a real go. It may take awhile for you to break the popper code. Going out once and casting a popper around for 20-30 minutes and giving up because you did not catch anything is not going to cut it. You have to put in the hard time. I have taught many people to fish using poppers and not a single one caught a fish their first time out.
The saying “big bait big fish, small bait all fish” holds true. I started popper fishing with a 5cm Sure Catch. I bought them in every color I could find. I fished them every time I went out until I cracked the popper code and could catch fish consistently by changing colors and retrieves. Then I started to buy different kinds and sizes of poppers. I learned to read the bait fish for size and color. I also learned to change colors and retrieves with the weather.
It has been said that one fish on a popper is equal to seven fish caught almost any other way. The surface strike is one of the most exciting things to see. It can be compared to the thrill of switch baiting for large game fish. You see it all happen right in front of you. Once you catch your first fish on a popper you will be hooked.
For the sake of space I will assume you have an idea as to the kind of fish you want to catch. I will also assume that you have caught them before using other lures such as divers, soft plastics etc. If you have not then you will need to do some initial research before you try fishing with poppers.
I have found the Uni Knot to be one of the best and easiest to tie. You can leave a loop in it or pull it right down. It tests close to 100% in most applications. “The strength of the Uni-Knot isn’t diminished when the line is broken with a jerk,” Vic Dunaway. When taking big hits from Trevally you need that kind of insurance. I also use a lot of offshore snap swivels, makes it easy to change lures. I have only ever had 3-4 fail in many years of fishing. The Uni Knot also works with braid. I usually tie a Bimini Twist in my braid and then use a Double Uni Knot for my connection to the leader and then a Uni Knot to lure or snap. I have also found the action is not lessened much without a loop. That being said, if it is very calm and water is clear then I would usually go to a loop for presentation purposes.
The general rule is the darker the day the darker the color the brighter the day the lighter the color. I use the water color also, if the water is very green I lean towards a greener colored lure, brown water towards darker brown with loud rattles.
If you look at the front of a popper it has a cupped shape to it. When I say pop, I mean for you to pull that cupped face through the water with a rapid but smooth jerk using the rod tip or you can give a very quick turn of your reel. This action will make your popper go pop in the water and also throw a little splash out the front. Depending on the size of the popper as to how hard to pop it, also the style and type of fish you are chasing. If you have a lot of chop you will need to create a bigger pop so you can be seen and heard where as if you have a glassy day your pops do not have to be that big and aggressive.
The retrieve is one of the key elements to successful poppering. Different fish respond to different retrieves. I find Jacks and Emperors prefer a pop with a long pause followed by another pop and long pause. Sometime you will need to ad a little wiggle in if there is interest but no bite. When fishing for Trevally I use a rather steady pop and retrieve. If there are bites but no takers then I try a flat out retrieve, still nothing then long pauses and erratic retrieves.
Bream can be a bit tricky, as you need to place your cast spot on, usually under an overhanging branch or over the top of a partially sunken log or in the middle of some oyster racks. Let it sit for about the count of ten then start your retrieve one pop followed by a long pause and so on.
When fishing for Barramundi it is much the same as bream a slower retrieve and maybe a few wiggles added in for good measure.
As with all fish trial and error and matching the hatch. Sometimes the only thing working is a clear lure and other times it might be a black and orange one.
It is going to take practice to get the kinks worked out of your retrieve after all Rome was not built in a day. You will get the line wrapped around the rod tip, the hooks will be fouled, and even the occasional birds’ nest on a spinning reel is not unheard of.
Be sure you wind on the down stroke after you pop. Pay attention to your spool, if the line is getting slack on the spool make a long cast and wind back with out popping to get your line laid down tight. If you pop too hard you will find the lure jumps out of the water and will usually foul the hooks.
While you are still learning go slow and expect to have many foul-ups. It is a new style of fishing for most and will take time to get it right.
In no time at all the thrill of your popper disappearing in a sudden explosion of foamy water will have you hooked and coming back for more.