Popper Fishing!

A globe-trotting popper-meister offers 17 great tips in 17 images to help you catch more fish on poppers.

About the Author: Dave Lewis custom-builds trips for groups of United Kingdom angling enthusiasts and leads them on adventures all over the planet via Dave Lewis Worldwide Fishing. When he isn’t traveling, he resides in Wales. Also a contributor to Sport Fishing, Lewis offers in successive captions some tips to help make readers more proficient in his favorite fishing of all: throwing big poppers to big fish.

Dave Lewis with what is also one of his favorite topwater targets: Giant Trevally. Dave Lewis

Safety, Safety, Safety!

That’s one of my mantras. Look before each and every cast for other anglers but also others’ lines, outriggers overhead and so on. A big popper armed with 4X trebles is a formidable weapon! Dave Lewis

Put on the Gloves

This angler is smart: Gloves ensure a secure grip, especially with sweaty, sunscreen-coated hands. Also a full-fingered glove, at least on your casting hand, help keep your forefinger from getting raw when repeatedly throwing heavy lures on heavy braid. Dave Lewis

Put on the Gloves

Serious popping demands serious gear. I encourage anglers to use a top-of-the-line heavy spinner, whatever their brand of choice. Dave Lewis

Protect Your Vitals

I don’t usually rely on heavy, gimbaled belts when popping, but, like this angler, use a small, light, comfortable rod-butt pad. Being unobtrusive, it’s easy to leave it on all day so it’s there, in place whenever you need it. Dave Lewis

Why I recommend changing out the hardware on most lures before fishing.

Few manufacturers equip their lures with treble hooks up to the challenge of large, powerful fish and up to the pressure that a big reel set on max drag can exert on whatever the line is attached to. I usually upgrade to Owner 4X ST66 trebles or sometimes even the 5X SS76. I also often change out stock split rings with Owner heavy-duty rings. Dave Lewis
Most poppers come equipped with two trebles. I leave ’em both when the fish are few and far between. But otherwise, I prefer to leave just one treble on the lure, at the rear, as this angler with the bluefin trevally has done. Extra-strong single hooks may be substituted for heavy use and hold most securely, especially on yellowfin tuna. Dave Lewis

Keep an Eye on Your Line

Check your line often to spot even slight damage that could pop on your next hookup. When casting repeatedly, I like to retie all knots every couple of hours, stripping back a bit of braid each time. Dave Lewis

What’s Behind You?

The obvious rule of thumb is to cast toward structure such as rockpiles, but if that isn’t producing, make a cast or two in the other direction — away from structure (fish don’t read reference books very carefully). Dave Lewis

Color My World — Or Not

Some anglers worry excessively about throwing the right color. I’ve found that changing lure sizes is often more effective than changing colors. Also, I’ve found that casting stick baits like these rather than big poppers can sometimes turn around a slow day. Dave Lewis

Pre-Rigged and Ready

I pre-rig poppers so they’re ready to connect and throw. I use a Flemish eye and crimps on a three-foot length of heavy mono — usually 200 pound — with a swivel on the top end. The latter connects to a very strong snap tied to the braid. Dave Lewis

Stop That Popper!

If I miss a strike, often I’ll stop crankng the lure and the predator will zero in for a second swipe. Dave Lewis

Change It Up

Another tack, especially when you can see reluctant strikers, can be as simple as varying your retrieve, perhaps slowing it down. Dave Lewis

Watch That High-Stick!

High-sticking — holding the rod high, at a steep angle — is the quickest way to break an expensive spinning rod, especially when a big fish is boatside and then suddenly heads straight down. Dave Lewis

You’ve Got a High-Quality Drag: Use It!

Often I’ll use upwards of 20 to 30 pounds of drag, as is this angler. That’s a lot, but particularly if fishing over reefs or near structure, may be your only chance to keep big critters from cutting you off. Dave Lewis

Watch Those Hooks!

Any angler wants a photo of his big fish, and leaving the lure in place adds to the shot and helps tell the story. But only experienced anglers, like this chap, with a sense of caution should do so. A remote atoll in the middle of some ocean is not the best place to impale your hand with a 5/0 treble. Dave Lewis

Safety, Safety, Safety!

In conclusion: Again — be careful! You’re throwing heavy objects armed with big hooks using great force. Stay safe. Dave Lewis