Popping for fish is fun. Popping for big saltwater fish is even funner. This type of fishing requires specialized equipment, heavy tackle, knot knowledge, and casting ability to consistently bring in fish.
Over the years we have gathered up lots of equipment, but no matter what, always seem to lose lures every trip. Ranging from $30 up to $200+ (and that’s without hooks and split rings), poppers can get very pricey.
Our buddy Mike Gatlin who is a woodworker by trade, was more than happy to try building us a few. Gat owns a small woodworking shop in HB, and does some really amazing work. We spent a few days over at his shop turning out our Gen I poppers on his old lathe before heading out to the Mentawais in early 2013. They looked promising, but ended up being weighted too heavy. As a result they were sinking instead of floating.
(Above: Gen I poppers hung up to dry – circa March ’13. Below: R&D field tests – Indo)
Our next attempt would be New Year’s in Fiji, where we knew we would have a chance at popping up some big ulua as well as ahi.
An afternoon of dark lagers and exotic hardwoods later, we had our gen II poppers shaped.
(Above: rough outlines shaped… next will be thru-drilling and cupping. Below: Taylor getting weird on the lathe)
They were all built out of scrap. Gat added eyes, a few strips of reflective tape, and of course, his personilzed logos.
We decided that since we had such little time we would skip painting and just clear coat them, except for one that I wrapped in gold leaf. He also put these on the scale and weighted them out accordingly. The result was lures that cast and floated great.
Our first few days at Tavarua we managed to pop up a few smaller ahi and skippy. When we saw one of the fishing boats bring back 2 100lb ahi, we talked to Eddie who told us they were feeding on the surface. New Year’s morning Taylor and I ran way out and found the school. Casting in, I was the first to hook up. About half an hour later I had a 100lb ahi to the boat. Without a gaff, which was forgotten (new year’s), our driver Mika bare handed it into the boat in true Fijian fashion. Blood was spilled. We ran back and found the school, and Taylor was able to hook up. He got it to the boat, and unfortunately broke off when it went ballistic. We headed back in with one in, one lost; both never wanting to dual a fish that big again.
The next morning we headed back out with dad and a camera. It took us a while, but we were able to locate the school; the fish were going crazy.
My dad was the first to hook up, but lost it shortly after. Casting into the school, a huge ahi exploded out of the water and engulfed my lure the size of a hot dog bun; the biggest we made. It headed straight down and almost immediately broke off. I retied, cast out and was able to hook up again. This time I was able to get it to the boat, and Eddie quickly gaffed it.
We would continue trying to find the fish, but as the sun got higher, the fish stopped feeding on the surface. We headed in.
We also threw along the reef with good results.