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Poppers are hollow-bodied lures designed to float. Poppers come in a large variety of sizes and colors with applications for species ranging from small panfish to large saltwater game fish. The lures are made for spincasting, baitcasting and fly fishing. The style of fishing is aggressive as the lure makes a loud popping noise and a wake during retrieval.
When to Fish Poppers
Poppers are best used when the fishing conditions are ideal. The topwater lure requires a high level of energy expenditure from the fish as they travel from the depths to the surface for the lure. Many fish species will only make the aggressive strike when the water temperatures are ideal. This is especially true for bass, panfish, pike and trout. Use poppers during the warm summer months for bass, panfish and pike. Use them when water temperatures range from 55 to 65 degrees for trout.
Locating Good Popper Water
Look for shallow weed beds when popper fishing for warmwater species. Bass and pike are both ambush predators that wait for prey to pass within striking distance. The shallow water reduces the distance they must travel to strike, making an ideal situation for topwater lures. Focus on backwater sloughs and lakes when popper fishing for trout. Predatory brown trout inhabit some of the slower water habitat where poppers are most effective.
Popper Fishing Retrieves
Numerous retrieves are possible with a popper with the effectiveness of each changing by the day. The key to success is experimenting and changing the retrieve until you find the best option for that day. Start with a slow retrieve, making the lure dive and pop one time followed by a pause of several seconds. This makes the lure look wounded and attracts some of the more cautious fish. Gradually add speed to the retrieve with each cast until you are retrieving and popping the lure at a consistent pace without pausing. The faster pace retrieve attracts the more aggressive and opportunistic fish. Also, jerk the tip in a low sweeping motion to increase the noise and wake during the retrieve.
Poppers come in a wide array of sizes and colors. Some have hard bodies only and others have the addition of fur and feathers to the tail. A large part of choosing the best lure comes with experience and personal preference. For the beginner, carry dark colors like black and purple for overcast days and low-light conditions. Carry lighter white and yellow styles for sunny days. Adjust the size according to the targeted species. Use small quarter-size poppers for panfish and trout and the larger 3-to-6-inch sizes for bass and pike.
Zach Lazzari is a freelance outdoor writer specializing in hunting, fly fishing and the general outdoors. He guided fly fishing trips for 10 years in Colorado, Alaska, Montana and Patagonia-Chile. Zach lives in Montana and splits time between the river and keyboard.