Home Fishing Tips & Advice How to Fish a Popper Lure

How to Fish a Popper Lure

In this article, we will be covering not only how to use a popper lure, but what a popper lure is, which fish popper lures attract, and why a popper lure works. So, if you’re looking to pick up a new technique, are just starting out, or are simply curious about popper lures, this article will tell you what you need to know. We will also include a link which features our recommendation for the best Popper Lure.

What is a Popper Lure?

Regardless of who made it or when, all popper lures share one distinctive feature: an open cup mouth. Inside that mouth is a loop for fastening the line. At the opposite end and on the bottom side is where the hooks are, usually treble hooks. Since they’re topwater lures, poppers need to be light, so they’re commonly made of wood and painted to look like baitfish or frogs. Some of the newer lures use resin or foam for the body. They can be jointed and a lot of them rattle or make other noises to draw fish.

This style of lure really got its start with competitive fishing. Popper lures became popular in the late 1940s. One of the most popular from that time and one that remains popular today is the Hula Popper. Invented by Fred Arbogast, the plastic version was released in 1941, during the Second World War. Its body was shaped like a small fish or frog wearing a rubber “skirt.” Another old-timer, made by Rebel is the Pop-R, introduced in 1976. The Creek Chub Knuckle-Head, the Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper, and Yo-Zuri’s 3DB Popper are all examples of top popper lures on the market today.

What fish can you catch with a Popper Lure?

Popper lures are meant for top fishing, meaning that it’s going to attract fish that find their meals on the surface of the water. True, some fish who are middle feeders will occasionally strike on topwater bait, but your main customers are going to be fish like bass and trout. Bass are, by far, the most often talked about fish when it comes to poppers, but any topwater feeder big enough for the lure are likely candidates. This includes both freshwater and saltwater fish. 

The bass that swallows your popper lure might not even be a bass at all, technically speaking. Bass aren’t actually one type of fish. In fact, the many different kinds of fish called “bass” aren’t even related to each other aside from being fish. That’s why a bass caught in one part of the country might look totally different from one caught a thousand miles away. Channel bass, drums, sunfish, grouper, and crappies are all given the name “bass” even though they’re unrelated. Between sea bass and grouper alone, there are 400 different species. Chilean sea bass isn’t actually a bass at all, but a cod. Before 1977, people called this fish the Antarctic toothfish. The name was changed purely to make the fish more marketable. That’s how it ended up on pricey menus alongside lobster and abalone. 

Largemouth bass and smallmouth bass are extremely popular with sport fishermen who use popper lures. World record holder, George Perry, caught a 22 lb. largemouth in Georgia in 1932 and nobody has caught a bigger one yet. The largest smallmouth was caught by David Hayes in 1955 and it weighed 11 lbs. However, there’s some controversy over this one. 

How do you choose the Best Popper Lure?

Now that we’ve covered what types of fish strike on popper lures, it’s fairly simple to understand how they work. That characteristic cup-shaped mouth is the key. As you retrieve, the action of the water against the cup makes the lure splash and flail like injured prey. All of that commotion gets the attention of a fish in the shadows and it races to the surface to take advantage of an easy meal. Those popper lures that rattle, buzz, and “pop” are even better at mimicking a baitfish in distress. 

Your popper lure will be more convincing if you choose one with the right color at the right time of year. The best time for this lure is in the spring and summer when there are plenty of insects and activity at the water’s surface. Fish are also more active in the warm weather. Other clues come from above-water predators, like fish-eating birds. If there are plenty of birds diving in to catch the fish, you know the fish are at the surface, actively seeking a meal. Another thing to notice is that not all insects or frogs are active at all times of the year and can change their appearance. So, fishing a frog popper when there aren’t frogs active in the area won’t feel right to the fish. Many insects and fish become more colorful when it’s time for them to mate, whether that’s time-of-year or the time in their lifecycle. Timing your lures so you mimic that behavior will increase your chances of a prize catch. To that end, having a few options in your tackle box is a good move.

Finally, there are a couple of types of popper lures you should be aware of: chuggers and spitters. Chuggers like Arbogast’s famous Hula Popper create a bubble over the bait, which pops and creates a ripple. Spitters have a slightly different mouth shape; it’s uneven instead of round. This sends the water spitting out in front of the lure as it’s retrieved and makes a different sound. 

How do you fish a Popper Lure?

Once you’ve picked out the right lure for the conditions, it’s time to learn how to work with this particular type of lure. The best line to use is a 30-40lb braid. The next best substitute is a 17-20lb monofilament line. These are both light lines that are going to float along with your chosen popper lure. A good rule with these lures is to go with a 6.5-foot to 7-foot medium rod. This will give you the flexibility you’ll need to drive in those hooks and play the fish better. In freshwater conditions, pick a pocket with a dock, rocks, aquatic plants, cattails, or anything the fish might be using for shelter. You’re going to want a nice, shady area to cast into because the fish are more likely to want to come to the surface. 

Salt water presents a different set of conditions, but you can still use your popper lure here. The rod you want will be longer, about seven feet. When casting in salt water, you want one that’s got a lot of tip action, like a snooker rod. Choose an area with a lot of underwater traffic that’s not far from shore. This is where different fish are coming and going and you’ll be more likely to encounter your target fish. Topwater feeders will also want some consistent features, like temperature and light. A place that goes from high temps to low ones with the tides is not ideal. 

After you’ve cast your popper, there are many different ways you can retrieve it. Saltwater or fresh, the best way to know what style to use is to pay attention to the fish. It’s important to try a few patterns and see which ones the fish are striking. Popper lures can be retrieved quickly after the initial cast and drawing in at a steady pace if the fish are moving fast. Later in the afternoon, on still water, you can alternate a pop-pop, rest rhythm. There’s no set-in-stone way to go about it, so experiment and see what works.

Video on Beach Fishing with the Halso Roosta Popper

Why use a Popper Lure over other lures?

Popper lures are great for target fishing. The more accurate your casting, the better you’ll draw those bass out from under the docks and the laydowns. They’re not the best lure for thick bank grass, as they tend to snag. For grassy embankments, weedless lures work better. The profile of a popper lure is specifically designed to mimic topwater feeding baitfish. Because of the unique cup mouth shape, it spits like no other lure. Depending on the speed of your retrieval, it’s possible to mimic bluegill, shad, and mullet. You don’t have to be fast with a popper either, its light weight will allow you to pull it in slowly to entice any lethargic fish that aren’t ready to commit to an energetic chase. That’s an advantage over walk the dog lures and buzzbaits. We included a link below to highlight our favorite popper lure.

There are quite a few popper lures on the market, so it’s easy to pick up a few to try out. Many are tried and true lures fishermen have banked on for decades. However, brands are always experimenting to get the edge on the competition. Remember to think about where and when you plan to go out, as the color and style of popper lure you want will vary with the season.