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Popping corks are among the most basic and reliable tools that salt water anglers have at their disposal. Similar to the bobbers and floats that are used in a wide range of fishing situations, popping corks have a sound component, creating an enticing splash that draws the attention of predatory fish.
What You Can Catch
Speckled trout and redfish are common quarry for anglers using popping corks, but they can also be used to catch other salt water species that hunt in relatively shallow water, including drum and sheepshead. Popping corks suspend the bait above the bottom and work best in shallow habitats like flats, estuaries, weed beds and reefs. Using a popping cork can be effective at any time of year and the best fishing usually takes place during a rising or falling tide.
Rigging a Popping Cork
You can choose among a few popping cork shapes, including tapered, oval and cigar-shaped corks. The most common popping corks have a cupped face on one end that creates the "pop" or splash in the water. Popping corks come with a length of wire threaded through a hole in the center with a loop on either end of the wire. Tie your fishing line to the loop on the cupped end of the cork and tie a separate 18- to 24-inch length of line to the other end. Tie your hook to the tag end of this leader line and attach a sinker about halfway between the hook and cork for weight.
Choosing Your Bait
Popping corks are typically used with live bait. Minnows and shrimp are the most common choices, but you can also experiment with worms, crabs and other natural baits. When you rig the popping cork, treble hooks work best for shrimp while single-pointed hooks work best for minnows. It is also possible to use artificial lures with a popping cork with soft plastic lures being the most common type. These include scented soft plastics, minnow-imitating swimbaits and paddle-tail grubs.
Getting the Action Right
The key to successful fishing with a popping cork is creating the popping sound that attracts fish. This sound is created with short, sharp twitches of the fishing rod, which cause the cork to jerk forward abruptly in the water. The popping sound resembles the sound of a game fish feeding on the surface. Some popping corks have internal rattles that provide extra attraction. Cast out the bait and then alternate between twitching the cork and letting it rest for a few seconds as you retrieve it. Live bait works best with a subtle retrieve while artificial lures may need a slightly more aggressive action to keep the lure moving.
When Richard Corrigan isn't writing about the outdoors, he's probably outside experiencing them firsthand. Since starting out as a writer in 2009, he has written for USA Today, the National Parks Foundation and LIVESTRONG.com, among many others, and enjoys combining his love of writing with his passion for hiking, biking, camping and fishing.