Popping corks are great tools for attracting trout and redfish, and they are not one-trick ponies, but it takes some know-how to get their full benefit. Capt. Addison Rupert of Lowcountry Outdoor Adventures likes to mix things up when he uses them. Some days, any technique will work, and on other days, Rupert said anglers have to find which method is producing.
The three main types of popping corks are: cigar-shaped, oval and cupped-face. All three are constructed with a long, stiff wire running through a cork, beads and washers. The beads and washers knock together, making noise that attracts fish, and the bait or lure is attached below the cork on a leader that may range from 1 to 3 feet.
Cigar-shaped corks are generally the lightest of the three; the ovals are usually heavier, and the cupped-face corks make a louder popping noise and cause more surface commotion. All three can be used with live bait and artificial lures.
In strong current breaks where the water surface is already somewhat turbulent, Rupert likes to use a cork that will produce the most sound when popped, so he prefers the cupped-face cork. The current is already causing rippling on the water, so he reasons that making a bigger disturbance is necessary to attract fish.
On calm days, he will go with either the cigar-shaped or oval cork. He goes with the oval cork when he needs to make longer casts. Both corks create enough disturbance on a calm surface, while a cupped-face cork will often spook fish in calm water.
With a live bait under his cork, Rupert will do very little popping, allowing the living shrimp or baitfish to move around on its own. This will create some noise from the cork as the live bait struggles against its buoyancy, causing the beads and washers to lightly bang against each other. Often, this is enough to attract the fish without much action from the angler.
Once the bait becomes less lively, he will cast, let the cork settle, then pop his wrist, reel in the slack, wait about 7 seconds, then pop again. This is also how he works the cork when using artificial bait.
Rupert (843-557-3476) said that whether you’re using live bait or artificials, he stresses that anglers should never pop the cork so hard that the lure comes out of the water.
“Just a quick wrist snap is all it takes,” he said. “This will attract the fish, and the fish will then see the lure underneath the cork. If you snap it so hard that the bait or lure surfaces behind the cork, the fish will have a harder time finding it, and the lure will fall less naturally.”