Poppers, both large and small, have been a staple of fly fisherman around the world since the first angler saw a fish break the surface. The obsession with poppers among non trout anglers is equal to the dry fly purists in the trout world.
Many years ago I used to spend a lot of money on the old school Betts bream buster style poppers. Hell I would be lying if I didn’t mention I still have a handful of those old school bream busters in my vest right now. They were cheap and very effective. Even though they are panfish fly I have caught hundreds of bass on them as well. In fact my first bass on the fly was caught on one. I have always found it odd that most fly shops would rather close their doors than sell such a “cheap” fly.
Poppers now come in different shapes and sizes. Each shape and style has a very specific purpose. I tie flies professionally for Catch Fly Fishing and have learned, through many hours of testing, that popper head style has a definite impact on fish catches. I have also learned that popper paint has an impact on fisherman as well!
Poppers come in a myriad of sizes and shapes however, in freshwater is can be broken down into just a few key styles. First and most common is the cup faced popper head.
Cup faced Popper head
These are cupped like the front of a hula popper. This style is primarily designed to make the loud signature POP and attract fish. The Double-Barrel popper heads from Flymen Fishing Company are the best your money can buy. These heads are designed to really make some noise in the water. They excel at getting the attention of fish that are feeding heavily. When casting to fish that are in a feeding frenzy the Double Barrel popper head will not get lost in the chaos for sure.
Blockhead poppers are my go-to style for wary smallmouth bass. They are designed to push water but not have the highly audible POP of the cup faced style. These are not “aerodynamic” at all as they are designed to move a lot of water, and for the most part get the attention of a wary or resting fish. They may be a little harder to cast in the wind but the rewards outweigh anything else.
Pencil Style Poppers
Pencil style poppers are the real deal for times when you need to be stealthy, or when you are trying to imitate bait with a longer more symmetrical profile. They land softly, move less water, and with the right tail materials are perfect for those extra spooky fish. I use them exclusively when I need to dead drift a popper in warm or clear water situations.
Stay tuned as next up will be the different material choices for poppers and how the impact the fly.