Poppin Cork Magic

EARLY is always better, especially when fishing in the summer months.

I’ve just arrived at one of my favorite fishing spots on East Galveston Bay, where the salt-grass is alive with the mornings activity of bait-fish fleeing the maws of hungry fish.

This morning I chose to use an olde standby method to my fishing madness called "Poppin", which is rigging with a popping cork (cork type) and plastic shrimp. This method was used by experienced anglers ions ago that required a certain amount of skill. In fact, "poppin for trout" the olde timey way actually became sort of an art form among the fishing crowd.

This required fishing skills experienced from fishing for speckled trout when they were surface feeding. The specks would make a certain pock-like sound when snatching shrimp or minnows from the surface. And we, the anglers, would attempt to recreate that sound with our popping corks, which in turn attracted the specks to the sounds of surface feeding trout.

Only the weighted popping cork will recreate the pock-like sound of a surface feeding trout, not the new plastic types that make rattling noises. My favorite is to use a weighted slip cork, the kind that you can slip your line in then secure with a stop stick. Using this type of cork will allow you to shorten or lengthen the depth of your line as to the depth of your fishing area. Shallow water areas from 3 to 5ft are best, but this method will also work well when specks are schooling in deeper waters. Just slide it on your line, peg it after you’ve reached your desired depth and you’re ready for trout, reds or anything else that swims by.

Popping corks will suspend baits such as shrimp, shad, or artificial s such as curl tailed grubs and touts (plastic shrimp) over areas where game-fish feed. Live croaker are also great as they will struggle under a cork, attracting attention from predator fish. They’re called popping corks because the cupped face can be ripped quickly across the surface imitating popping sounds fish make when striking the bait on the surface.

A popping cork is handy in many situations that may occur, under bushes, piers, and docks, or keeping your bait above oyster reefs or grassy sloughs where it may snag or weed-up.

The best jigs for a popping cork rig are 1/8th to 1/4-ounce leadheads in light tides or 1/2- or 3/8-ounce leadheads in swift tide conditions.

I’ve used the poppin cork method in my freshwater guide trips as well, where it worked very well when fishing for schooling striped or white bass. On one guide trip I sonared a pod of striper holding on a deep-water point. Using popping corks over them attracted their feeding instinct where they actually rose to the surface and started feeding, enabling us to catch several before they sounded.

I often rose before dawn to enter a bay or reef by first light. At such times the quietness was almost total with only sounds of bait fish riffling and shrimp skittering across calm waters. My popping cork soon added to mornings hush by "slurping" the surface. During these inspirational times you could see schools of predator fish moving in to feed on the rafts of bait fish, with an occasional "pock" sound of a feeding speck alerting me to their presence. A short cast and a quick flip of the rod, causing my cork to "pock" the surface like a feeding trout, and the fight was on!

The trout had mawed the lure trailing my poppin cork, a voodoo shrimp, and after a few minutes of exciting leaps and zipping runs, a speckled beauty of about 3-lbs came to net.

This is great fun folks, when you have to work a little to entice a trout to hit your offering. What you have to do is, after rigging properly, lower your rod tip to about 9 o’clock- then quickly snap it to about the 11 o’clock position. Practice this on a pond or calm water surface, being sure that your popping cork cup is pointing in your direction. If you’ve done this properly your cork should sound like the "pocking" splash a feeding trout makes when snatching a bait fish or shrimp from the surface.

Even though I once used live shrimp under the corks, I now much prefer artificial lures. My personal favorites for this type of fishing are jigs with soft plastic imitations of bait fish or shrimp. One such lure that’s caught my eye are Voodoo Shrimp marketed under the VooDoo Bait Company. Made with Kevlar to make them resistant to the shredding teeth of trout and mawling crunch of the redfish bite, these imitation shrimp are already weighted and lifelike enough to fool any predator fish.

Other choices are the Saltwater Assassin soft plastics or the Berkeley Gulp swimming minnows. The curly tailed grubs are also good and when flounder fishing the flats a simple 1/8oz chartreuse jighead rigged with a 3inch sliver of flounder belly skin (white side) works real well. This is referred to as a Cajun rig and is an old popular standby used by flounder anglers.

Popping for trout in the olde days involved 7’ to 8’ fishing rods (called poppin’ sticks) with sturdy level-wind reels spooled with 25lb test mono. The olde rods were strong and had enough backbone to turn a big fish with a reel strong enough to crank a big fish in. My favorite back then was a fiberglass Shakespeare 7 1/2 ft poppin stick rigged with a 4000 Ambassador reel spooled with 25lb test Berkeley Mono fishing line. But today’s rods are lighter, stronger, and more sensitive rigged with much smaller and smarter reels spooled with much lighter abrasive resistant fishing line.

My fishing rigs today are graphite Castaway 6.5 ft sport series fishing rods rigged with Pinnacle bait-casting reels spooled with 12lb test Yozuri premium mono (6-lb diameter). These rods are super sensitive with Pinnacle ball bearing reels built for smooth action, and the premium mono allows for super sensitivity and quicker responses for the hookups.

Today’s newly designed premium rods and reels are also lighter and stronger for handling by the anglers who use them, allowing for longer fishing periods without tiring the anglers. This is also important for anglers who fish professionally, as a fishing guide or tournament angler, who average 6 to 8 hours of continues casting per trip.(About 40 to 50 casts per minute)Like they often say; with the right tools the job stops becoming a job. AMEN!!

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