I‘m a liberal leaning outdoorsman attempting to open the minds of right wingers to the idea that libs fish too. Anglers come from all walks of life, left, right, and center. Not everyone who fishes for bass is a redneck fond of Nascar, country music, and religiosity. Expect posts about largemouth bass fishing, techniques, reviews of lures and other products, but not any condemnable conservative rants. I hope to inspire the online angler community to dial down rhetoric which will do more harm than good to our sport.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

• The Hula Popper

Very few lures have the distinguished reputation that the Arbogast Hula Popper does. It has been a successful bass magnet for decades and is a must have for your tackle box. Time for a quick history lesson. It has been called the "baby boomer lure" because it was introduced in 1948. The Hula Popper gets its name from the sound it makes and from the hula skirt attached at the back. It was designed to create a spitting action and a popping sound when properly fished. It serves as both an effective sight and sound lure. The mouth is cupped so as to displace water in front of the lure during the retrieve. The additional skirt also attracts strikes from the other end. The original was made of plastic, not wood, although the prototypes leading up to the design we have come to love were made from white poplar. Current models are made of hard plastic. The Hula Popper has come a long way since then, going through a few minor revisions. Even the skirt has undergone changes recently. The plastic hula skirts of the past were notorious for melting and would fall apart over the course of months. The new skirt material should stand up to the elements much better. We cannot forget, however, that one of Fred Arbogast's major contributions to the sport was the hula skirt.

At present, there are about 11 color patterns in a four different body sizes. The original only came in one size. The four models are the G750, G760, G770, and G730. My favorite pattern is bass with a black chartreuse skirt, but it comes in other great bass catching combinations. These include black with black and white skirt, coach dog with black/chartreuse skirt, coach dog with orange belly and yellow/black skirt, fire tiger with black/chartreuse skirt, frog with white belly and white skirt, frog with yellow belly and chartreuse skirt, perch with yellow and white skirt, white with red head and a red/yellow skirt, and in yellow coach dog with a black/yellow skirt. The frog patterns are probably the more popular out of the bunch. Each color has its own sizing options, but some sizes are not available in certain colors. Certainly an interesting lineup, wouldn't you say?

Here is a breakdown of the sizing options
1 1/4" 3/16oz #8 trebles
1 3/4" 1/4oz #5 trebles
2 1/4" 5/8oz #1 treble
2" 3/8oz #4 trebles

So when should you use this timeless lure? So glad you asked. Here is what I have learned. The time of year to throw a Hula Popper or similar topwater lure is in the summer when the topwater bite kicks in and lasts all the way through autumn. During these two periods, the Hula Popper can be a consistent bass magnet. Fish the Hula Popper in calm water over any depth as bass can swim unbelievably fast from deep water to attack a surface lure. My best success is in less than four feet of water along uneven banks with vegetation. However, several sites point out that even in rough water out in the open, a Hula Popper does the trick especially when the bass are schooling. I can vouch for that because I have come up on a dink feeding frenzy in such a situation. They bit on the Hula Popper without hesitation. Most people throw topwaters during morning and evening hours, but these lures can be effective all day long. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise.

But how do you use it? This actually varies from person to person, although the Arbogast folks do tell you how to use the Hula Popper on their site. From what I've read, the intent is to mimic a wounded minnow or frog. Here's how I fish the Hula Popper. I cast, let it sit, twitch it, and plop it back to the boat with pauses of varying lengths in between until a bass hammers it. And yes, they do hammer it. Some say that right after the lure hits the water, you should wait for the ripples to completely subside before starting the retrieve. That's why I let it sit most of the time. The motion I use with my rod tip is somewhat similar to walking the dog with a Zara Spook, only less pronounced. You can use light twitches or sharp twitches. Sometimes a good old reaction strike is what you need, so you'll have to use some fierce twitches. The bass will tell you what they want, so vary your retrieve. With this lure, even a quick half turn of your reel can make it pop and spit. Another way to work this lure is to slowly reel it along without any pops or spitting. The cupped mouth will act as a point of resistance creating some side to side movement and the swaying skirt will be enough to attract bass.

Are there any mods? Tips? I've been known to add a split ring to the front to give a little more side to side action. Some will tell you to tie directly to the front eye with a loop knot, not a palomar knot. Consider using line that does not sink as this IS a topwater lure. For example, monofilament can cause the nose to sink and you will sacrifice action. Since this is a topwater lure, I recommend using a 6'6 or longer, medium to medium heavy action rod, or a weight appropriate rod in the case of the very small 3/16oz Popper. You should also be able to swap out skirts with any number of spinnerbait skirts. The most popular mod is to shave down the lower lip. This modification changes the presentation from a popping action to more of a spitting action. I hold the opinion that if I wanted a topwater that spits, I would buy one of the many chugger-type lures out there.

If you miss a strike with a Popper, throw again. Sometimes a bass will keep going after a Popper a few times. It's just that enticing. If that doesn't work, try a plastic frog or a worm of your choosing worked slowly near where you missed the bite. You might be able to coax the bass out of hiding to bite again. If you can't get the bass to bite a second or third time, don't beat yourself up over it. Move on to the next spot and catch another.

So there you have it. Now you know a little more about this fantastic lure. Have fun fishing with the Hula Popper!

Below is a photo of a brand new Hula Popper, a 3/16oz Hula Popper, and an older Hula Popper with a ratty skirt that the elements have beaten to death.

and scroll down to the section discussing the Hula Popper


admin said...

Lately I've been using what I refer to as a chug bug, they are also excellent top water lures for bass......

Ernst said...

My trick with the Hula Popper is take the skirt off (will slide off the horizontal plastic stem) and poke a hole in a rubber worm (color does not matter) and glue it on with a rubber based cement. The worm will dangle and move around in the water as you pop it along the surface (but move it slowly - wait for the ripples to clear before you pop it again). The worm gives the Hula Popper added enticement. Go one step further and thread 10-12 test leader through the worm and add a hook at the end of the worm. Many bass (especially the big ones) will grab the worm (as though it is a mouse or other critter with a tail) and pull it under to drown it before swallowing it. With the hook through the worm, you have a quick opportunity to set the hook, if the fish only grabs the worm.

Brent said...

I lost my favorite hula popper (a 2 1/4 inch white-belly frog pattern) to what must have been one huge bass last night. I fought this thing for a solid 10 minutes before it finally broke my line. Somewhere in Lower Mystic Lake is a fish with a 6 dollar piece of lip jewelry...

I've got a new one that I'm modifying at the moment. I'm using the same size and color pattern, but am replacing the skirt with white zonker strips (rabbit fur) for added "breathing" motion. If I notice a sizable uptick in hits, I'll post back here with details!

On a side note, it's nice to see a site like this. I'm a fairly liberal person who not only loves fishing and competitive shooting, but served in the Navy. We aren't all snobs!

BassFishingDem said...

Rabbit fur seems like a decent mod to make to a topwater. The tail would end up having a quality similar to that of its chug n spit brethren, I suppose.

It's been a while since I've had one of mine tied on. Every time someone submits a comment on an older post, the unintended side effect is to remind me I should be fishing something else. The Hula Popper bite is far from over. I shouldn't let these opportunities go to waste. Thanks for jogging my memory.