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How to Rig and Fish a Popper: The Basics Explained for New Anglers

When the weather’s warm and the bass are keyed in on prey items like frogs, large insects, and minnows, the time’s right to throw a popper. Easily one of the most effective bass lures in summer, poppers are effective all day, from morning to night.

New fishermen shouldn’t underestimate the power of the popper, and with the right knot and technique, they’re simply deadly.

Let’s break down the popper and get you up to speed quickly.


What is a Popper?

what is a popper lure

The unusual head shape of a popper makes lots of ruckus, attracting bass.

A popper is an artificial lure that’s shaped more or less like a small fish. On the head, you’ll find a large, open “mouth” designed to catch water and make a disturbance as it’s ripped across the surface.

Typically, poppers wear two sets of sharp treble hooks, and many sport a small skirt to up the ante on action.

Poppers float, even when you give them a hard tug with your rod tip. They’ll drop just under the surface, create a thundering thump (to bass), and pop right back up.

Check out our top recommendations for the best poppers for bass!

How to Rig a Popper

There are two schools of thought about poppers: snug knots and loop knots. And some anglers like to use a clip, but don’t count me among them.

bass love popper lures

Big bass can’t resist a popper!

Yes, clips allow you to switch lures quickly, but when I’m catching, I’m retying enough that there’s little advantage to that method, and I recommend you follow suit, cutting and retying to keep fresh line connected to your lure.

My favorite snug knot, so named because the knot cinches down on the ring on the lure, is the Uni.

We’ve discussed the spectacular Uni knot before, and if you want to learn to tie it well, check out this article:

One Knot to Rule Them All - How to Tie the Uni Knot

The Uni is secure in all line types and ties easily. Some anglers find that snug connections work better for them with poppers; others won’t consider a snug knot.

Probably your best choice for a loop knot, a knot that holds the lure with a secure loop that’s not snug against the ring, is the Kreh Loop knot.

This is another knot we’ve covered thoroughly, and if you’d like to learn all about it, read this article:

How to Tie the Non-Slip Loop Knot or Kreh Knot

The Kreh knot has some significant advantages over other loop options. It’s fast and easy to learn. It holds well in all line types. And it orients the tag end back toward the lure where it won’t catch trash like algae.

For me, loop knots allow better action from my poppers, enticing more strikes.

That’s why I recommend them.

How to Fish a Popper

Once you’ve got your popper rigged, look for features like the line between shadow and sun on the water, floating lily pads, lone stumps or trees, or other isolated cover.

Then cast your popper right up against them. Accuracy matters.

Pause a second or two and let the ripples die down. Then, use one of two techniques.

The punctuated retrieve

The first is a retrieve punctuated by pauses and pops. Give your reel two or three slow cranks, then jerk the popper to create its characteristic splash and noise. Pause, then resume the slow cranking.

Repeat as necessary - and keep a tight line!

Walking the dog

The second technique is called “walking the dog.” The idea is to more or less keep the popper in the spot you cast it, right where you think a hungry bass is waiting in ambush. 

With short sharp pops of your rod tip, you want to send the popper into a side-to-side dance that very slowly moves it forward. This takes some practice, but a few minutes in a pool or pond will have you working it well.

Top Popper Picks

It’s always a good idea to “match the hatch,” meaning that you want to select a popper that looks like the prime prey item where you’re fishing at that time.

If minnows are at the top of the menu, I reach for Yo-Zuri’s 3DB Popper for its hyper-realism and great action.

Yo-Zuri R1101-PGSH: 3Db Popper (F) 75Mm 3' Topwater, Prism Ghost Shad


When the frogs are singing and leaping into the water left and right, I like Arbogast’s 2-inch Hula Popper in “Cricket Frog.” That trailing skirt creates action that triggers strikes, and it’s great for pitching near lilies.

Arbogast Hula Popper Baits, Cricket Frog, 2-Inch


And if there’s a secret weapon when shad are the meal of choice, it’s Strike King’s KVD Splash Hardbait in “Sexy Shad.” It’s probably the first popper I reach for when I hit the water, and I keep one handy from spring through to fall.

Strike King Lures KVD Splash Top Water Lure, 2 7/8' Length, 1/2 oz, #4 hook, Sexy Shad, Package of 1


Final Thoughts

We hope that this article has helped you to learn a bit about poppers, and we strongly recommend that you add a few to your fishing arsenal.

They’re a devastating choice in warm water, morning, noon, dusk, and night.

As always, we’re here to answer any questions you might have, so please leave a comment below.

About The Author
Pete Danylewycz
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. Whether he's casting a line in a quiet freshwater stream or battling a monster bass, fishing is his true passion.