Making Foam Poppers by Byron Begley

I have always enjoyed fishing with poppers.  But I never thought I could make them.  Bob Clouser was teaching some classes at our shop years ago.  His popper class had one opening so I sat in.  It was an inspirational day for me.  Basically what I’m describing in this article is what Bob called the EZ Popper.  They are made from foam cylinders which are easy to obtain these days.  Back then there was only one source. 

Making poppers is not like tying flies.  It is more of an industrial assembly line process.  I usually make up several bodies and advance the steps making several at a time.  It seems to be faster to make at least 6 at once.  I usually produce a dozen at a time.  With marking pens you can add colors.  You can use several different methods to apply eyes.  Tails and legs can be made with many different components.  You can make yours with a cupped face to make more noise on the water or just leave the face flat.  I used to coat my poppers with rod wrapping finish, which took more time and required a jig turner.  These days I usually skip that process.  And lately I have not applied color.  I just use different color cylinders.  It doesn’t seem to make a difference.

Materials and Tools
Hook - Mustad CK 52 S Kink Shank Popper Hook
(In this example we are using a #8 hook)
Zap A Gap CA Glue
Plastic Eyes 4.5 mm
Craft Sticks
Single Edge Razor Blade
5 Minute Epoxy
Foam Cylinders (5/16" Chartreuse)
Round Rubber Legs Medium
Krystal Flash
Danville 210 Thread or 3/0 Unithread
Sharpie Markers with Chisel Point
Sewing Needle with large eye
Sportsmans Goop or Shoe Goo
First Cut of CylinderCutting Cylinder 2Completed CutAdding Flat SurfaceFinished Cut CylinderDremmel ToolCupping the FaceCupped FaceCutting Slit for HookCutting Slit for Hook 2Completed Slit 

What I will show you here is a simple one color popper made using a #8 hook.  I can tell you that they work extremely well and they are durable.  I like the #8 for bluegill.  I have tied them on #10 hooks using ¼” foam cylinders but the bream suck those in so far the fish are injured sometimes and I wear out the poppers faster using forceps to reach into the fish’s mouth. 



Step 1 – Here I am using a 5/16th” cylinder.  Use a sharp single edge razor blade and a soft pine 1 x 12 board for cutting.  Make your first cut at about a 45 degree angle making the body long enough to cover much of the hook but leaving plenty of room to tie in the tail.  When making the cut you can move the razor blade to make the cut but only move it in one direction.  A back and forth motion results in an uneven cut. 

Once your body has been cut you will notice what is left on the cylinder is an exact replica of your first cut.  So, you can cut your second body by making a flat perpendicular straight cut and you have your second body.  If you have enough of the cylinder left you may get another body out of it.  This 90 degree ramp has a purpose.  When the fish takes the fly and closes it’s mouth the ramp actually pushes the hook into some tissue. 






Step 2 – At the base of the ramp make a straight cut leaving a flat surface where the rear of the hook will come out of the body. 

Step 3 – This step is optional and requires a Dremel Tool mounted to some sort of device to hold it for you.  Mine is an inexpensive attachment that is supposed to make your Dremel tool into a drill press.  I got mine at Home Depot.  The drill press does not fit all Dremel Tools. 

You will also need a cone shaped grinder.  I’ve cupped the face on a lot of poppers.  One thing I learned early on is you should wear safety glasses.  When I was learning to do this I had some bodies fly out of my fingers and one hit me in the forehead.  I also tried using two fingers to form the mouth and hold the Dremel with my other hand.  That did not work for me. I guess you could hold the Dremel Tool between your legs.  I don’t like having power tools running at several thousand rpm’s between my legs for obvious reasons.

I use a medium speed on the Dremel, make a small hole in the center of the popper body then turn the body with my fingers slowly to widen the popper’s smile. I put a recessed mouth on most of my poppers but it is not necessary. 

The bass seem to like the added noise and moving water. When my popper hits the water I give them one jerk so everyone knows it is there.  Then I wait.  If a bluegill does not show up I start stripping and making noise to see if a bass is home.







Step 4 – This takes practice too.  Line up your razor blade on the belly of the popper and make a cut about halfway into the body.  This will allow you to slide the body over the hook.  With practice you will learn to get the cut straight.  A straight cut is important so the popper tracks straight when you jerk it in the water.  Make this cut after you have cupped the mouth.  The hard part is over.  The rest is easy.  I would make a dozen bodies before starting on the next steps.

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