A Very Old Hula Popper

Fishing with Poppers

It’s hard to believe that here in Colorado it seems like we skipped from winter straight to summer.  But that’s OK with me, this past weekend temperatures were in the low 80’s every day, and I went fishing every day.  The big reservoir just south of my house was full of boaters, but there are large portions of the lake that are no-wake areas, so I found solitude and fish with my canoe.  The other lake I fished is a smaller lake about two miles from my house.  Both bodies of water have warmed up surprisingly fast, and watching the fish behavior made it seem like summer.  I know firsthand the water is fairly warm due to an unplanned swim I took to try to rescue a fish that I inadvertently killed, but that is a story for another time.  Let’s just say it’s not a good idea to swim 50 yards out into a lake with baggy cargo shorts and a tee shirt on with a storm coming in, and that I’m glad to be here writing tonight.

While fishing at Eagle Watch Lake late in the days, there were a lot of fish hitting the surface.  Sometimes these fish are eating insects, but much of the time they are chasing shad or other small bait fish, or eating frogs, mice, and even small snakes.  There is nothing quite as exciting as eliciting a charging strike from a bass on a top water lure!  One of my favorite lures during low light conditions, on calm (or mostly calm) water is a popping lure.  These lures float on the surface, and have a concave face which makes a popping sound when worked through the water, or they make a chugging sound when fished at higher speeds.  This action simulates a wounded bait fish, a frog, or some other morsel struggling in the water.  This type of action can bring a big bass from a great distance to come charging into your lure.


Modern Popper Lure

One of the first poppers was the Hula Popper, which has big concave face carved into the front of the lure.  Some have metal concave saucers on either side of its face that generate a popping sound when they are jerked along the surface.  These lures were originally made to imitate frogs.  In fact I have a few ancient hula poppers that my great grandpa left me, and they are even made of wood, unlike modern lures that are made of hard plastic.  Later developments in lures led to poppers that chug and even spit water ahead of them, these lures are meant to imitate wounded bait fish.  These are important lures to add to your arsenal and learn how to fish.

To fish these lures, it is most productive to fish them near structure of some kind, like a log, a dock, submerged trees, or lily pads.  However, poppers will work in open water too when fish are actively hitting the surface, especially during a feeding frenzy as I have written about in prior articles.  The key to making these lures work for you is patience and how you retrieve them.  Here is how to fish a popping lure:

Step 1:  Select the right color of lure.  In low light conditions keep in mind that what a fish sees from below the surface of the water is the outline of the lure contrasting against what light is available above the water.  Sometimes even starlight is enough to cause a contrast of something on the surface, so you want a dark colored lure in these situations.  In lighter conditions, you can use a popper that is painted to resemble a shad, perch, or even baby trout or bass.

Step 2:  Cast the lure to a specific spot or general area that you want to target, either the structure as I mentioned above, or rising fish.  Once the lure lands, let it sit until the rings in the water from the splash have cleared.

Step 3:  Give the lure a quick jerk to skip it along a few feet, and then let it sit again.  Often times the strike will come when the lure is sitting still, so be ready to set the hook, and don’t have slack in your line.

Step 4:  Repeat this process until the lure is back to you, and then cast it again.

If you are not getting any strikes, reeling the lure towards you in a steady manner will mimic a bait fish fleeing a predator and can draw a strike.  Vary your speed of retrieve, and try pausing once in a while as well.  If the water is a little choppy, a steady retrieve tends to work best as you want to create the commotion with your lure without letting the fish take the time to get a good look at it.


Some Popping Lure Variationis

Poppers are quite effective on all types of predatory game fish, and I prefer to use a medium weight spinning rod with 8 to 10 pound monofilament line when fishing these lures.  Some people prefer a bait caster and heavier line, but it’s really your preference, either will work fine.  The key to success is your retrieve and your patience.

If you like wood carving, this is a great lure to make on your own, and a fun project for kids.