In this post I’ll share what I’ve learned about Popping which I have been doing in Maldives & Christmas Island using stickbaits & poppers.
Target species are the mighty Giant Trevally (GT), blue-fin trevally, red bass, grouper, etc in the shallow near the drop-off.
I emphasize all information shared in this blog is just my personal opinion & experience which some may beg to differ 🙂 If you have any thoughts or questions please leave them at the end of this post.
- For rod, reel & braided line recommended for Popping, please refer to earlier post Tips on Matching Rod & Reel which covers the 6 forms of fishing practised.
- For leader I’m using Sunline Big Game ( eBay )…I’ve been trying other brands until I settled on this nylon monofilament leader. What I like is its durability enabling you to fish longer period before re-tying new leader. After popping, lay out leader on the floor & notice the lesser curls produced versus other brands.
- BKK Diablo ( eBay ) size 9/0 & 11/0
Hint: Try putting on different hook sizes on a lure to test out its flight pattern in the air as well as swim pattern in the water. A lighter 4/0 treble at the belly with a heavier 5/0 at the tail will improve casting distance but lure will skip more than dive. And the reverse will create easier dives but there will be slight imbalance during casting.
Types of Lures for Popping
As I’m using 2 popping rods…a light PE6 & a medium PE6-8 the lures are picked in reference to their max lure weight which I’ll go lower to find their sweet spots that I find will cast comfortably. I do use lures out of the sweet spot range but never out of the max lure wt of the rod.
- Ripple Fisher Ultimo 711 (max lure 130g) PE6: sweet spot 90-110g
- Temple Reef Ronin 83-8 (max lure 180g) PE6-8: sweet spot 120-150g
- Stickbait Floating – floats when stationery at 45-60 degrees to water surface; can be short or long twitched bringing lure down sub-surface in a life-like wiggling pattern with bubble trails
- Stickbait Sinking – sinks slowly when stationery; likewise can be short or long twitched underwater to produce wiggling swim pattern which is less intense than floating stickbait
- Popper (aka chugger) – floats when stationery at 45-60 degrees to water surface; has to be hard twitched slightly downwards to produce the needed spray & loud bloop to attract bites
- Preferred colors – reflective silver, black, blue, green/yellow, orange
Hint: As both my popping rods are stickbait rod & I do not intend to buy a specialized chugging rod I’ve to pick poppers with small cup faces which softer tipped stickbait rods can handle. Chugging rods are shorter & with stiffer tips compared to stickbait rods.
Stickbait Floating – for PE6 rod
- Amegari Kaxu 215; wt 95g
- Sea Falcon 200 Tuna SP; wt 80g
- Souls Hibiki 175; wt 95g
Hint: The number that follows after the name usually refers to the length of the lure in mm.
Stickbait Floating – for PE6-8 rod
- Shimano Ocean Pencil 220F ( eBay ); wt 114g
- Sea Falcon G240; wt 120g
- Blaze Garage Burn 230; wt 120g
Techniques – Stickbait Floating
- Position your FG knot outside reel when getting ready to make a cast. This way knot can shoot straight out without causing much hindrance especially to the last biggest guide. If knot is wound inside reel it will spiral out at high speed first hitting the last guide with great force & thereby reducing momentum for a good cast.
- With FG knot outside reel determine the appropriate length of leader you need for a good distance cast. Some cast better with long leader while some prefer shorter leader. Keep practicing until you find the perfect length for yourself before marking it by string or arm length for subsequent re-tying.
- Casting heavy lures is a different ball game compared to a 20gm jerkbait. The key to repetitive good long distance cast is only one thing…PRACTICE. Keep practicing till you get the proper stance, rhythm, stamina & most importantly…distance…in GT popping!
- After casting out, just like as mentioned in Shore Luring, I’ve the habit of stopping the line before lure hits water by cupping the spool.
- This stops excess line from spiraling out of reel after lure hits water & lure can be ready for 1st sweep almost immediately reducing time wasted having to reel in too much excess line.
- You can be ready to set hook seconds after lure hits water just in case a fish has taken a fancy to the surface commotion caused by your lure.
- By preventing excessive line from piling up onto your lure after it hits the surface you reduce the probability of having line entangling with your lure.
- Floating stickbait can be retrieved in several ways & I noticed different boat captains will recommend their preferred way. For eg. in one of our Maldives trip the captain recommended long sweep with 2 cranks while another captain in another trip recommended short downward twitch with just 1 crank. Both ways were effective at the same locality so it’s not a matter of only one best style for each location. Best advice is to try out different styles till you find one most effective for that locality.
- Most common retrieval…start from rod tip roughly pointing to lure & sweep your rod slightly downwards to your left sideway (for right-hander) at slow or medium speed. Taking your starting position as 12 o’clock your sweep should end about 9 o’clock.
- Slightly downwards so that lure will dive & not skip on surface. And sweeping at high speed will likely cause lure to skip & not dive. Do your sweep in 1 continuous smooth action without pause.
- Do not end at 8 o’clock too near to your body giving yourself no room for hook set. If sweeping this way your hook set should follow the same pattern ie. sideway towards your left & not upwards or towards your right.
- At end of sweep do 2 cranks before bringing rod tip to starting 12 o’clock position to repeat cycle. You’ll have to adjust your cranks whether full or partial according to line slack in each sweep. Objective is to give enough slack for lure to swim wiggling & darting left & right like a real fish. If there is no slack lure will swim straight back at you. This is exactly the same concept in walk-the-dog where lure needs slack to sway left & right.
- At start of sweep you’ll notice lure will point its head upwards at roughly 45 to 60 degrees to surface before disappearing diving downwards & swimming at sub-surface as you execute the sweep. And at end of sweep it will pop its head up again. This will mean your sweep is done correctly if you see this pattern of lure movement.
- To vary your lure movement you can add in pauses anytime in between sweeps or vary your sweep between slow & medium speed to mimic a live fish. Pauses are added at end of sweep ie. when lure pops its head out of water & not in the middle of a sweep.
- Main differences to the long sweep is…rod tip should end around 10 o’clock since it’s supposed to be short. And crank 1 full turn (instead of 2) since there will be less slack to be retrieved.
- Similarly chug slightly downwards for lure to dive & swim. Lure will swim shorter distance & pops out its head more often as compared to long sweep.
Skip & Pop
- This is the easiest of the 3 retrievals mimicking a frantic escaping baitfish darting on the surface.
- After lure hits water & as soon as line is taut with no slack start retrieving in medium to high speed with rod tip pointing slightly upwards adding pauses randomly.
- Objective is to make lure skips & pops making noises & splashes creating a commotion as it darts across water surface.
Hint: Remember you’re trying to make your lure looks like a real fish which doesn’t swim in a straight line or constant speed. Try different retrieval, speed, pauses etc till you hit a successful formula. You can even mix the above 2 or 3 retrievals randomly in a single cast to make lure moves erratically. My motto…If You Never Try, You Will Never Know.
Stickbait Sinking – for PE6 rod
Techniques – Stickbait Sinking
- Retrieval is similar to long sweep which you can add pauses or change to shorter sweep randomly.
- Main difference is…you need to wait for lure to sink to your preferred depth before starting your sweep. And don’t wait too long as lure can hit corals & get snagged.
- One setback of sinking lure is…it’s not visual as you cannot see its swimming action or when there is an explosive take as compared to floating stickbait.
Popper – for PE6 rod
- Fifth Element Rampage 160; wt 100g
Popper – for PE6-8 rod
- Blaze Garage Kimitsu 190; wt 120g
Techniques – Popping
- As soon as popper hits water & line is taut without slack you can start by chugging rod hard dragging cup face across surface. Intent is to create splashes, sprays & noises to attract nearby fish.
- You can try chugging rod slightly upwards, horizontal to water surface or slightly downwards to see which can produce the best effect on your popper.
- Before your next chug give time for popper to recover to its original position as doing it too early may not give the best effect as popper may still be sub-surface.
- Techniques are straight forward & easier compared to stickbait but requires more strength & stamina to do it for long periods.
Hint: Popper is a good way to start your morning like an alarm clock waking up & attracting fish to your area. While 1 or 2 anglers are using poppers the others should try stickbait to see which is preferred.
All the best,
PS: Please leave a comment if any information in this site is inaccurate or incorrect…I’m learning too 🙂
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