The Pencil Popper

The Pencil Popper: Big Lures Land Big Fish

The Pencil Popper is a common part of every hardened striped bass angler and is often called upon when nothing else works. But you need to know how, and when, to use the pencil to write your good fortune this bass season.

There are now a wide assortment of pencil poppers in my tackle box, the same as that of any true bass anglers, but that was not always so. There was a time before pencils, before I understood how deadly they could be. That was also before I caught stripers with any regularity.


When I first started fishing for striped bass I had no idea what they were, no idea how to fish for them and no one to show me. I heard they were “bass”, saw they were big and tasted they were delicious so I pulled out my biggest freshwater bass gear, hooked it to the biggest rod/reel I had and got the grill ready. As you can guess I had a little success, a few break offs and a lot of questions.
Then I met another angler who had experience with stripers and didn’t mind a fishing companion. He introduced me to the correct gear, the right rod/reel combo and pencil poppers. At first I thought they were an unfinished popper or torpedo lure and wondered what they could offer the others did not.

Then I saw him use one.
We were standing on an old pier when he cast farther than I thought possible, next to a rocky outcrop bait fish were certain to call home. Next, he placed the rod between his legs and started violently pumping the rod while working the reel. At first I couldn’t take my eyes of his crazy retrieval – then I heard the splash and looked to see the large cow he now had on the other end of the line. It wasn’t long before I was convinced and my tackle bag held its own pencil poppers.
The crazy thrashing I saw my friend using was common with early poppers. Thankfully today’s anglers do not need to go so far. With today’s fast-action blanks and braided line such a violent action is not necessary. Simply place the butt of the rod against your leg, grab the rod a few inches above the reel and give a sharp pump while reeling slowly.
Of course you can go crazy and thrash about – the more action you put in the more you will get out. But it is not necessary to get the Pencil Popper to work or to catch fish. In fact you may want to vary your retrieve, even during the same cast, to provide options to the different stripers who may be watching.


Not every striper is going to race from cover an inhale your pencil popper, many will charge and swirl without actually hitting. When this happens you will need to add something, or at least change something, to make them commit. What do I suggest? I suggest you simply stop. That’s right, stop retrieving all together, at least for a moment, and then begin again real slow. The goal is to not only look like a wounded fish but the MOST wounded fish around.
Give the pencil popper a shot and see if it doesn’t sharpen your striper numbers.

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