popper fishing

The principle is straightforward: your tug your line and the popping cork attracts predators by creating a gurgling commotion that simulates surface feeding. The same goes for the clacking cork option comprised of a float flanked by noisy bead on a stem to which main line and leader are tied.

But while the principle remains simple, a handful of considerations merit consideration. (Here’s what we covered last time, if you need a refresher.)

Live Performance
Count the saltwater fish that do not like shrimp and you’ll have most of your fingers leftover. The fact that speckled trout, redfish, snook, flounder, sheepshead and black drum have their names on that list is a good thing. Pinfish, lizardfish, puffers, jack crevalle—not so much.

The constant trade-off finds anglers balancing the easy sale of live shrimp with the likelihood of weeding through the riff raff to find a few keepers. Get on a school of fired-up trout, a herd of reds or even a handful of snapping snook and the A-team will bully out the little guys.

Just know that those times are rare and shrimpin’ it will mean increasingly common bycatch as the weather warms.

Another drawback, tugging that cork as hard or as frequently as you can with artificials risks ripping the hook out of a delicate shrimp.

Make Believe
Fooling fish with artificials is a lot easier below a popping cork, because any predator that responds to the surface commotion has displayed clear feeding interest. So when they arrive on the scene, the sight of a shrimp or baitfish imitator hopping and hanging vulnerably below usually closes the deal.

Pre-rigged shrimp such as a DOA, Vudu or Live Target make good choices, but a light jig head offers optimal versatility. In a matter of seconds, you can change from a shad tail, to a curly tail, to a soft jerk bait to a shrimp body (ex. Berkley Gulp!).

Experimentation is the key to dialing in the day’s preference, so make sure your crew throws several looks and adjust as patterns emerge.

Weighted Corks
A little lead in the lower end equals greater casting distance. If the model your using is unweighted, cinch a split shot to the leader below the cork, or onto the stem of a clacking cork rig.

Stealth Mode
Here’s a cool trick that Tampa Bay Guide Capt. Mike Anderson showed me several years ago: When shallow, clear water has the fish spooking from a full size popping cork, go with a small cigar float — the style secured with top and bottom line pegs. Using only the bottom peg to cinch the cork against your line leaves the top end open and that allows you to make lighter popping sounds with a smaller profile.