Pop Culture

Across Florida’s numerous inshore venues, fishing with a popping cork is one of the most fundamental and productive tactics for catching seatrout and redfish, especially around healthy grass beds. Pompano, sheepshead, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jack and snook will also attack baits and lures suspended under a popping cork, making this effective presentation a versatile and essential tool in every shallow water angler’s arsenal.


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Photo: Joe Richard/

Popping corks are particularly effective in murky water, as the popping sound helps nearby game fish zero in on your offering. Rigging with a popping cork is also an excellent option when searching a wide swath of water for pockets of activity. Keep in mind that not all popping corks are created equal. With several styles available, anglers should select the appropriate cork and impart the correct action based on the prevalent conditions and specific task at hand.

Popping corks are particularly effective in murky water, as the popping sound helps nearby game fish zero in on your offering.

Is the goal a clicking sound that mimics shrimp, or a gulping noise that better simulates a wounded mullet skipping on the surface? If it’s the latter, select a popping cork with a deep, concave face that scoops large volumes of water. There are also popping corks designed to spray water, mimicking the sight and sound of miniscule baitfish scattering across the surface. What is universal is that most popping corks include plastic or brass beads above and below the float to enhance the clicking sound. Some also have weights to help increase casting distance.

Rigging a popping cork is easy, but remember that the devil is in the details. A 7’0” or 7’6” spinning outfit loaded with 10 or 15 lb. braid is ideal and it’s best to tie the cork directly to your running line. Most corks feature an inline swivel, so no need to worry about line twist.

Now attach the leader, which should never exceed the depth of water you are fishing. The idea is for the cork to attract attention, with your vulnerable bait fluttering just above the bottom. In almost all venues along the Gulf, 30 inches seems to be the perfect balance, but don’t hesitate to modify the length of leader based on your observations.

Leader material can be monofilament or fluorocarbon and in everything other than the most extreme cases, 20 lb. test will keep you connected. Just don’t forget to inspect the leader regularly when presenting baits near sharp structures like oyster bars and barnacle-encrusted mangroves.

Lastly, you need to select the appropriate bait to complete the presentation. Live and soft plastic shrimp are favorites, with 3- and 4-inch twitchbaits and grubs also excellent choices that are easy for fish to engulf.

Now it is time to focus on technique. After the cast, retrieve the slack and keep your rod tip high. Pop the cork with a sharp snap of the wrist. The goal is to lift the line off the water before imparting any action so you don’t spook any nearby predators. An important key to success with a popping cork is the cadence and vigor of the pops. Most fishing guides suggest two or three hard pops followed by a five second pause, and then a couple of light pops. It’s important to pay attention to what’s working on any given day and adjust accordingly. By experimenting with the retrieve you’ll soon notice a preferred pattern from species to species and from one tide to the next. In any case, when the cork disappears simply reel tight and try to hide your grin.

Cupped Face Popping Cork
Displaces the most water and produces a distinct pop and spray.

Inline Popping Cork
Lengthwise split and plastic insert enables anglers to make quick depth adjustments.

Egg Shaped Popping Cork
Egg shaped popping corks attract fish with glass and brass beads, and produce less resistance so fish hold on when it goes under.

Cigar Shaped Popping Cork
With a tapered weight-forward design, these corks feature incredible castability and are designed for fishing smaller offerings.