Poppers, Updated

The Central Florida Sprog

By Chris O’Byrne:

At some point in our year, after powerful thunderstorms begin to boil up each evening, but before the threat from hurricanes is over, central Florida’s bass and pan fish become more active. Like teenagers walking into an air-conditioned mall, fish are reinvigorated when they are able to move up to the now cool top of the water column. And like teenagers with Mom’s credit card, they are ripe for the picking. Whether the calendar says September, October or November, Florida’s autumn popper time allows fly anglers to select from the other half of their fly boxes.

While classic poppers made from balsa wood, deer hair or even natural cork are still functional, today’s high tech materials provide new and exciting opportunities on the water. Modern top water flies come in several variations of foam with high tech epoxies or even Mylar coverings.

Here are some updated poppers that demonstrate these helpful developments:

Whitlock’s Air-Jet

One new design that is fun to look at and fish is the Georgia Bull Frawg by Craig Rendeau. Its life-like appearance and reptile skin texture comes from cutting open cell foam into a realistic silhouette and painting it with modern clear coating liquid. The novel shape combined with a strong weed guard incites aggressive strikes from bass in thick vegetation.

Like kids in the mall, it is important for fishing flies to have an online presence. Co-starring with several large Montana bass and a cool motor scooter, Rainy’s Rattlin’ Frog has earned a reputation as the top watched fly fishing video on You Tube. This big fly creates big dreams of big fish as the oversized body and deep cupped face shove water like a World War II landing craft. In order to prolong the attacks of huge bass for that important micro moment that makes a difference between dissatisfying stories and amazing grip and grin photos, the Rattlin’ Frog features Rainy’s modern “chewy foam” and proprietary flexible foam paint.

Rainy’s Rattlin’ Frog, the You Tube sensation
Rainy’s Rattlin’ Frog, the You Tube sensation

A modern classic was invented right here in central Florida. T.J. Bettis, owner of Orlando Outfitters says “I’ve caught more freshwater fish on the Sprog than any other fly. Bluegill, and some big bass and I’ve even caught mangrove snapper.” A two for one effect is achieved by tying two layers of craft foam curved around the eye of the hook. The water repellant foam keeps the Sprog fly on the surface where the rubber legs and a marabou tail give a buggy look. But when retrieved quickly, the backward curved face draws it just underneath the surface, imitating an escaping frog.

That’s “Frawg”

An updated and effective twist on the popper comes from the fertile imagination of Dave Whitlock. Also functioning in two ways, his Air-Jet Bug features a tube running parallel to the water through the length of the popper head. When stripped quickly, the fly pushes more water than the size of its face would suggest. But when given a smooth strip, the Air Jet leaves a trail of bubbles for a fish to follow like those teenagers following signs to the food court.  Autumn popper time no longer means chipped, broken, mangy and water logged poppers that lose effectiveness. With modern foams and epoxies, the fishing goes on.