If you haven’t watched my video about creating popper heads out of foam flip flops: A.) What the hell? B.) Check it out. I’ll use the popper heads I created in that video as I demo this fly.
My popper derivative isn’t anything earth-shattering. It’s pretty much your standard popper. I do two slightly different variations on the tail, though. Typically, I use marabou for the tail, though sometimes I’ll also use a rabbit strip.
“Why use a material that soaks up water for a floating fly?” one might ask. That’s a fair question. Putting a little extra weight into the fly can make it a little harder to cast, though the difference is probably negligible anyway, especially if you’re casting a seven or eight-weight rod. I like it for two different reasons:
The floating frog
I’m sure you’ve seen a frog take a mid-swim break and pop to the top of the water. The frog doesn’t magically float on top of the water like an inflatable pool toy. Its head breaks the surface as its legs dangle beneath. That’s why I like a little weight on the backside of my poppers. The tail sits below the surface and gives a little motion, even when the fly stops.
The swimming frog
Occasionally, I will actually fish a popper with sinking line. Granted, other than maybe the first strip, you’ll typically lose the “pop” from the popper because it is dragged down by the line. However, you do get a nice effect of the frog swimming just below the surface, and popping to the top when you stop – just like a real frog. Last year I caught a really nice 16” smallmouth early in the season using this technique.
Bigger isn’t always better. I typically use between a size 2-4 bass bug hook for my popper. Bass are pretty aggressive, and will hit anything they can fit in their mouth (and sometimes even something they can’t fit in their mouth). However, occasionally you’ll find that the bass aren’t feeling quite as aggressive.
Maybe all the bass had a raging kegger the night before and are a bit hung over, or you see a lethargic bass that’s just getting over a bad breakup with its girlfriend or something. If you’re having a slow day, try tying on a smaller size popper, like a size 10. Sometimes just a size downgrade will dramatically kick up the action. Take for example, the largemouth in this photo. This is the biggest bass I’ve caught to date, and I caught it on this relatively tiny (size 10) popper. Frogs come in a lot of sizes in the wild, so try different size poppers, too.
I typically tie the frog popper in an olive-green hue. However, the video demos more of a chartreuse color. Yellow poppers have also been quite successful for me. I’ve also used purple and orange to a lesser extent. But, ultimately, you can do whatever colors you want. Let me know if other combos work
Hook: Size 2-10 wide gap bass bug hook
Thread: GSP, Kevlar, or other heavy-duty thread of appropriate color
Tail: Marabou and Krystal Flash of appropriate color
Body: Grizzly dry fly hackle of appropriate color
Head: Foam popper head
Eyes: Doll eyes of appropriate size for popper head