Designed by MKFF
Note: We did not invent this pattern; it has been pieced together from various popper and ocean shrimp patterns I have seen over the years. It is unique enough that we will claim credit to the Bass Popper version being fished in Warren and Sussex County, NJ.
- Umpqua U301 SZ4
- Ultra Thread FL. Fire Orange 210
- Yellow Bucktail
- Green Bucktail
- Krystal Flash Olive
- 3MM Yellow Foam
- 1MM Orange Foam
- Estaz Opalescent White
- Red or Orange Hackle
- Zap A Gap
- 1/8 Flat Eyes
- Essie 825 Hip-Anema
Step 1 – Creating the Tail:
During May and June Bass begin to feed upon top water poppers. For a Trout fisherman this is equivalent to the hopper season, when huge Trout gobble ungainly foam hoppers whole. The bucket mouths will emerge from below to grab a popper at such speed you will see an underwater wake racing towards your popper. The tail creates life like action to mimic an amphibian racing across the surface of the water.
Start the thread right before the hook bend; cover a small area with the thread to create a base for the tail.
Select the Yellow Bucktail, cut a pinch of hair fibers (around 25), and tie in on top of the base you created in the previous step. The tail should be 1 and ½ times the length of the hook shank.
Step 1 C:
Select four pieces of Crystal Flash, place along the tail on one side of the hook shank, loop the strands around the top of the shank and run along the other side of the hook shank. Trim to match the length of the tail, be careful not to cut the bucktail.
Step 1 D:
Select the Green Bucktail, cut a pinch of hair fibers (around 25), and tie in on top of the Yellow Bucktail. Align to the existing tail length. Remember to always cut the butt end of the fibers off at a 45-degree angle; this makes it easier to cover with thread.
Step 1 E:
Tie in four more pieces of Crystal Flash in manner similar to my description in Step 1 C.
Step 2 – Building the Body
The concept for the body on this fly comes from a shrimp popper pattern Captain Daniel Andrews handed Brenton on our guided trip while staying at Sanibel Island. The shrimp in the bay will hop along the surface of the water especially to avoid predators. This is the same popping sound that entices Bass to strike.
Step 2 A (prepping the foam):
First you need to pre-cut a piece if yellow foam, then the orange foam. Yellow serves as the belly, orange as an indicator for your ability to detect a strike while floating on the water surface. Yellow foam should be 1-½ inches long by ½ inch wide. The orange foam should be trimmed to ¾ inch long and ½ inch wide. Now your foam is ready for attachment to the body.
Step 2 B (Tying in the body components):
Prepare the tie in area by wrapping thread over the butt ends of the Bucktail, work up and down the tail mound a few times to make an even though sloping surface.
Step 2 C (Tying in the body components):
Pick up your piece of yellow foam; hold the piece on top of the shank, and slide the foam down so only a small portion is on covering the base area you just created. Begin to tie the foam in tightly over the tail mound of thread, to tie on, pinch the foam around the shank making it create a U shape. This action will ease getting your initial wraps in place. Tie in and cover evenly, leave a tiny area at the back of the mound without thread so you will be able to roll the foam over in later steps.
Step 2 D (Tying in the body components):
Now take the Estaz and cut an eight-inch piece. Tie this piece in on at the tail end of the mount we just created with the foam. Cover the butt piece completely. Now wrap a base layer of thread forward to one hook eye from the hook eye. This prevents slippage and allows you to evenly wrap the estaz forward up the shank. Once you have wrapped the Estaz up the shank, tie off and cut excess one hook eye’s distance from the hook eye.
Step 2 E (Tying in the body components):
Now pinch the overhanging piece of foam between your thumb and forefinger. Flip it up, over the tie in point towards the hook eye where the thread is hanging. In the same manner that you secured it to the shank in Step 3 B, secure it at the front tie in point. Try not to crowd the hook eye, as there are additional components that need to be added.
Step 3 – The Head
I like to give the fly a lifelike appearance, closely modeling it after a live amphibian that the bass are seeing in the pond or lake you are fishing. Does this really matter? The jury is still out on that; Bass strike mainly for the sound and movement. Its similar to the Trout fly concept of size first, shape of flies next and then color last. Adding the lifelike features helps me as an angler to visualize a strike. That being said, you can build a Bass popper out of a 1-inch PVC pipe filled with BBs with a treble hook attached. Bass are not going to give you an award for the most life like fly. As opposed to Trout, Bass are consumed with a fear of missing their next meal.
Step 3 A:
Flip the popper upside down in the vice, being careful as to not allow your handy work to unwind. Pinch 10 to 15 fibers in your thumb and forefinger. Tie in at the front point where we pinched the foam in. Optimally you will create a fanned out beard for the popper. Once you have secured, trim the excess butt end fiber crowding the hook eye.
Step 3 B:
Now we will secure the orange indicator foam. This foam serves two purposes first as an indicator and secondly a surface for water to flip up against and make the popping or splashing to woo the Bass. Align the front of the foam with the front of the yellow foam, the yellow foam will stick out (trimmed later). Pinch and wrap in through the same band as they yellow foam. Use Zap a Gap to glue the orange foam’s shank end against the yellow foam. Do not glue the front end of the foam.
Step 3 C:
Trim the front foam, what we will refer to as the “mouth” equal to each other.
Step 4 – Finishing Touches
Now that the primary components of making the popper look life like are complete we can move onto the finishing touches.
Step 4 A:
Whip finish the fly by lifting up the foam and completing the four wraps right behind the eye of the hook.
Step 4 B:
Take two flat eyes and gently stick them to the top of the orange foam.
Step 4 C:
Use the Essie nail polish. Paint a mouth between the yellow and orange foam. This resembles one of Fred Arbogast’s Hula Poppers or a frog with its mouth wide open.
How to Fish A Popper
Bass aggressively attack poppers, they fear missing a tasty morsel of food. Try to limit false casting of these large flies, two to three false casts should be enough force to fire them out there. Use the double- hauling technique to give the cast more power.
Look for dark spots in the water and breaks in the weeds, don’t line the fish, instead, cast in a way that allows you to pull along the edge of the coloration changes.
The popper will land with a hard splash; let it sit for a minute until the ripples are gone. Then begin retrieving with two-inch jerk strips. Between every strip, allow the ripples to dissipate. If a Bass is coming at it, don’t stop stripping maintain the same retrieve speed. If she wants it, she will get it!
If you are unable to entice any strikes or interest attempt a different retrieve. For example, sometimes the Bass will attack a continuous slow retrieve. The key is to experiment and figure out where the Bass are hiding.