Foam poppers are deadly bass and panfish baits. For general duty, use an 8- to 8 ½-foot, 5-weight outfit with floating line and a one-piece tapered leader. Target grass edges, docks, gaps in lily pad fields, and pockets shaded by overhanging limbs. Vary your popper retrieves until you determine what triggers the fish. Slow retrieves with long pauses work best in hot or cold weather. During moderate conditions, daybreak and dusk bring active feeding periods, with panfish often blasting poppers the second they hit the water.
1. Find a Flip-Flop
Available at your nearest dollar store, inexpensive foam flip-flops provide the base material for these do-it-yourself poppers. Adult-size flip-flops can be turned into several dozen poppers.
These days, color variations seem almost limitless, which allows you to freely experiment until you find a pattern fish like best.
Other materials you’ll need are: a drill, a fly-tying vise, a spent cartridge, hooks, epoxy, glitter, Mylar tape, rubber bands (for legs), and marabou feathers.
2. Learn the Drill
Fashion your plug cutter from a spent cartridge casing. First extract the fired primer, then insert a bolt and fasten it with a nut tightened against the back end of the cartridge. Use fine-grit sandpaper or emery cloth to sharpen the rim for even cutting.
You can create a firm base that won’t dull your cutter by duct-taping a piece of Styrofoam to a section of 2-by-4. With a handheld drill, use measured force and back out when you feel the cutter punch through the flip-flop.
3. Pop Them Out
Leaving your first plug inside the cutter makes it easier to extract subsequent plugs. Or to extract plugs that are shorter than the cutter, use a tooth pick, a straight pin, or a small safety pin.
Design popper bodies from solid plugs, or trim and glue multiple colors together for more visual appeal.
Bore a small hole through the plug’s center, wrap the hook shank with heavy thread, and secure it with superglue. This prevents the plug from slipping on the shank.
4. Get Creative
Use epoxy, glitter, accent colors, stick-on eyes, rubber legs, and various hairs and feathers to yield a variety of popper looks.
Shiny Mylar tape with epoxy coating will deliver impressive designs, such as this Fourth of July Banger (top right). You can even add a small blade to the nose of the popper to create a gurgling design.
For a floater/diver model, position the hook lower in the foam core, trim the face at an angle, and glue a plastic lip to the hook.
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- David A. Brown