Fly Fishing: Explosive Popper Tactics for 5 Species, Besides Trout

Dry-fly fishing isn’t just for trout guys. If you want to see the surface erupt in warm- or saltwater, just tie on a popper—and use these tricks to drive five notorious topwater crushers downright bonkers.

Light-Headed Just the sound of a foam popper hitting the water can trigger a strike. Photograph by Ralph Smith

Largemouth Bass
If you're working a popper through grass or lily pads and it gets stuck, don't yank it off the snag. Give it some short, gentle tugs instead. Quite often, the subtle movement of the vegetation attracts enough attention to make a big bass remove that popper from the snag for you.

Smallmouth Bass
In low light, tie on a black popper and pull it across the surface with slow strips instead of hard jerks. The dark color creates a silhouette that's easy for bass to see from below, and the subtle swimming action mimics a juicy mouse trying to swim to safety.

Pike
When you cast a popper for pike, avoid having any slack in your line when the fly lands. The sound of the bug hitting the water is often what triggers a pike to strike, and it can happen so fast that you won't have time to pick up any slack and get tight.

Redfish
With poor eyesight and a downturned mouth, redfish often miss a moving popper on the first strike. When that happens, give the fly a short pop and let it sit still. Your sight-challenged quarry will have time to get a bead on it—and to get its mouth around it.

Striped Bass
When stripers are keyed in on live bait, it can be hard to turn them on anything artificial. The trick is to give your fly a different sound and vibration than the live bait. Cast to the outside of the bait school and work your popper erratically, constantly changing the number of pops and the length of pauses, until you hook up. Then repeat. Still not connecting? Switch to a foam crease fly, which pops and dives a few inches on the strip.