Tips for fishing this highly-effective wooden popper.
This 3/4-ounce wooden popper is one of the most productive light tackle surface lures in my bag and I’m not the only guy that believes that. Two of my good fishing buddies, Edwin and Mike Trone, who are very accomplished fishermen can also attest to this. When we are fishing back bay areas and keying in on the topwater bite for bass, these plugs will almost always be first out of the bag.
I know a lot of casters will look at this diminutive bait and say it’s ‘too small’, and that it will only catch schoolies. I can tell you with confidence that nothing could be further from the truth. When worked properly, these little plugs will amaze you with what they bring to the surface.
A lot of the fish-attracting capabilities of this plug depend on the angler and the tackle employed. The use of a light action rod is paramount in bringing out the best in this bait. Remember, it’s only three-quarters of an ounce but a light rod with 10- to 12-pound braid will send this thing a long distance. The softer rod will also enable you to swim and stay in contact with the plug which is crucial with any presentation. Another great attribute of this small popper is the large amount of water it throws; it rivals many larger poppers.
Okay, so you must be asking, “What is the proper way to work this plug?” First off, don’t just chuck it out and rip it in. That might work for bluefish, but for stripers you want to tease them. You want to get their attention, and keep their interest once they spot it. When your plug lands in the water, let it sit for a few seconds. Then proceed with two or three pops and stop again. My friend, Paul Peluso, coined the phrase “awkward pause” and that’s exactly what you’re going for. I can’t stress enough how often the fish will crush this thing on the pause. Continuing with the retrieve, increase the number of pops then pause again.
Make sure to vary the cadence and speed. Mixing up the combination will soon reveal what the fish want. It’s like a cat and mouse game that never gets old. I always say that when a fish explodes on the surface and my heart rate does not increase, it’s time to take up golf… there’s nothing wrong with golf, but if you’re reading this, you understand!
Here is another tip that has been responsible for some of my largest topwater bass. When you have gotten the interest of a fish and it swipes at it but doesn’t take and you see it boiling behind your lure, change things up and swim it s-l-o-w-l-y straight ahead with no pops for a few feet. This move has resulted in more crushing hits than I have the capacity to remember; try it, trust me.
Another trick is to work it with short, steady pops, because of the weight location, you can get this thing to walk to the dog. This adds, yet another variation, to your bag of tricks. With the light rod that I use, sweeping side to side slowly with the rod parallel to the water will impart a wide zig-zag retrieve that will trigger massive hits..
Another aspect of presenting this lure is to fan out your casts, even throwing parallel to shore in order to give the fish different looks. Another important thing to remember is not to rush your retrieve, keep it at a slow to medium speed and work it right to your feet, it’s not uncommon for fish to smash it at the last second.
These small floating poppers represent many of the small baitfish that frequent our coastal waters. They will produce from spring to fall in bays, harbors and even in calm ocean surf. Take a break from the big surf stick and try this pull out the light rod and this little Polaris when the seas are calm and winds are light. You won’t be disappointed.