T HE POPPING CORK/SHRIMP COMBO is undoubtedly the most used technique along the coast to catch speckled trout.
Why? Because it features one of a speck’s favorite foods, and it’s easy to use for a novice angler as well as a seasoned pro. When the cork disappears, as one guide says, “Fish On!”
As with any popular method of filling limits, there are lots of different types of popping corks and how to rig them. Guide Tommy Countz uses a Mid Coast cork, a conventional dome type cork. You pop it and get that distinct plop sound.
“I’ll put a three foot, 20- to 25-pound fluorocarbon or monofilament leader with a single hook under the cork,” he said. “I like the single hook because it doesn’t kill so many little fish. Sometimes I’ll pinch a piece of buckshot about six inches above the hook just to keep the hook down in the water.”
Jack McPartland uses a Cajun Thunder football-shaped cork—not your conventional popping cork—but worked like a popping cork. Metal beads are on the bottom and plastic beads on the top.
“I think the metal beads on the bottom are there to provide weight to keep the cork floating in the upright position,” he said. “You pop it just the same. It has a wire extending from both ends, one to tie to the reel line, and the other to the leader line.”
The Cajun comes in a variety of colors, as most of the different types of corks do. McPartland doesn’t have a favorite color. If he has several different anglers fishing with him, each one has a different color cork on the end of their line with different length of leader under the cork. “Whichever angler is catching the most, I know from the color of his cork what length of leader he or she is using, and that’s the depth the fish are at,” he said.
Popping the cork: “If it’s real calm I don’t pop the living heck out of it. I want to make some noise, but not to the point where it scares fish off.”
Leader length: “Depends on getting the bait just above the bottom, not on the bottom, just above the grass line.”
Hooks: “With a treble hook you won’t miss as many fish,” said McPartland. “I put a 1/16 ounce jig head with a Gulp or Down South soft plastic on the hook when live shrimp are scarce. Rig the soft plastic like you do a live shrimp. Pop the heck out of them, jig them around, and they catch fish.”
Capt. Daniel Land, who in April will be spending much of his time in Baffin Bay, prefers a Woody Cork. He describes the cork as having a wood grain appearance on the bottom and the top painted orange. The corks are already rigged and have a good-sized cup in the top.
“The popping noise from the cup in the top of the cork creates a noise like a trout exploding on the shrimp when the fish are feeding, Land said. “It also has beads attached to the top and bottom of the cork that give it a good clicking sound, mimicking the clicking noise of jumping, popping shrimp.”
Land likes a 1/16-ounce jig head with the shrimp. “The jig head gets the bait down a little quicker when you’re popping it, rather than fluttering around the surface and not being in the strike zone.”
“Treble or straight hook will work, but it’s a lot easier to use a jig head,” Land continued. “When you have to re-rig a line you don’t have to put on split shot and then tie on the treble hook. Tie the jig head on, and it’s ready to go.” For the Baffin he likes a foot-and-a-half leader.
Line choice is important for Land. He spools his reels with Hook Spit Platinum Braid. He claims his fish numbers have gone up since switching line.
“The braid blends into the water a lot better than the other colors such as pink and green,” he said. “On cloudy days, if the water is just a little off-color, it blends really well. For those guys who don’t like to use a leader, you can tie the hook straight to the braid.”
He uses 30-pound. test if there is light wind. “You can cast a little further. If the winds are blowing pretty well, I’ll move it up to 40-pound. test. With the 40-pound test you can feel the bite a little bit better.”
The kinds of popping corks described here only scrape the top of the list of what’s available to the coastal angler. By varying the retrieve, frequency of popping, and the depth of bait, the popping cork is one of the best rigs for catching trout that can be found.
Location: Morris & Cummings Cut
Species: speckled trout, redfish
Best Bait: Live bait
Tips: Good spot from dawn to dusk. Best in East or Southeast wind.
Email Tom Behrens at [email protected]