Nothing bears a bull red crushing a topwater bait. A yard stick-plus of ravenous copper rage unloading on a surface plug is nothing short of astounding.

But when an epic bite in the Buras, La. marsh eventually dwindled, Capt. Ross Montet of Cajun Fishing Adventures switched us to popping-cork rigs with Live Target artificial shrimp dangling a couple feet below.

An hour later, after we’d released several more bulls, Montet explained his move.

“I think sometimes when the reds stop eating topwaters, they’re still in the area, but maybe the sun just got too hot and they don’t want to come to the surface,” he said. “The popping-cork rig is like the next stage down from a topwater.”

That’s the reactive side. Here’s a list of proactive choices for popping-cork rigs:

Hold Your Ground
Maybe you’re trying to position a bait above the seagrass or atop a flooded oyster bar; perhaps you want to position your bait in the eddy outside a marsh creek where reds and trout are snapping up the chow flowing with the outgoing tide. In any case, keeping your offering in the kill zone and tossing in a couple “look here” pops will earn your some love.

On the Edge
If you free line a live pilchard next to a flooded mangrove edge, you’ll spend a lot of time untangling your line after the terrified bait runs into the bushes. A cork helps you monitor the bait’s location and slows its forward momentum. This struggling tends to attract the snook, redfish and trout you seek.

Go with the Flow
You want to present your live bait past a sweep spot, but perpendicular casts offer limited exposure, while easing ahead of the area risks spooking the fish. Solution: Toss a corked bait uptide, let the water carry the presentation naturally through the strike zone and spice things up with a pop every few seconds.

Next up we’ll look at a few popping cork options.