pencil poppers (7-8 inches long, weighing 2
ounces) are specialty plugs that have a long-known reputation for
suckering big cows. Pencil poppers will work most any time
Ideally, best conditions for big cows and pencil poppers include
big pelagic baits like adult bunkers, herring and shad in the
vicinity - which have been hard to come by on the beaches lately.
Nevertheless, even in the absence of these larger baits, pencils
will still trigger something very primordial in the meaner and
larger than average fish in the surf almost any time.
Whip them into a murderous frenzy
You require a special spinning rod
to make them work their magic. A cut down Lami 1164 has always
been the rod blank of choice for pencil popping. The current
model number for this rod blank is SB 136 4M. Most pencil pros
would cut a foot off the butt, making a 10 1/2 foot stick out of
it. It's a honey-colored E-Glass fiberglass blank.
There are also medium-sized pencil poppers
of about an ounce or so. These medium pencils work well on
medium-sized fish in the back bays. Again, presence of good-sized
pelagics (bunkers, shad, herring) leads to increased pencil
popping success in the back too. If you want to use one blank to
do both the big and medium pencils, then the chestnut-colored
S-Glass SSB 136 3M cut down to 10 feet makes a fair compromise
for both. S-Glass is sensitive, lightweight fiberglass made with
the same epoxy resins as in graphite sticks.
Conventional and/or graphite won't do.
I have never seen a good pencil popper who used
conventional. It's strictly a spinning tactic. And as far
as graphite goes, both the E-Glass and the S-Glass blanks cited
above are far superior than any graphite rod for shaking and
whipping pencil poppers across the top of the water. Why? Because
when you shake or whip either one of these blanks, they vibrate
in a PARABOLIC ARC. You can't get a parabolic shake with
Cork tape grip. In order to whip a
pencil popper correctly, you have to grip the rod blank about two
feet above the reel with your right hand. Then you start to whip
the rod tip back and forth very quickly and violently. In fact,
if you try to imagine that you are trying to snap off the top
half of your rod as you whip it - that is exactly the kind of
action you have to create in order to work pencil poppers
correctlly. Because of this unique grip on the rod blank above
the reel, many pencil popper pros will wrap a little section of
cork tape on the rod blank between the reel and the first guide
where they typically grip it.
Where to put the butt? As you grip
the rod blank far above the reel, you will quickly notice that
you have a problem with what to do with the rod butt. You will
notice that you cannot violently whip and try to snap off your
rod tip unless the rod butt is effectively anchored solidly
against something. The classic stance is to grip the rod butt
between your clenched knees, and kind of hunch over like a
curled-up shrimp as you whip the rod tip. Ideally, that is
exactly what you need to do to make the right action.
Unfortunately, this posture, with the rod butt braced between
your knees, is not good for maintaining your balance against the
incessant push and pull of a heaving surf. As a compromise
between safety and technique, you can also use a stand-up
offshore fighting belt with a socket that you stick the rod butt
in. You then brace the socket against the inside of your right
I would also add that the rod whipping action often needs to
be violent. You will know you are doing it correctly when the
head of the lure is slapping back and forth on the surface so
fast that it is difficult to even see the lure for all the
splashing it creates. It is as if the lure is basically a
firecracker that just can't stop exploding on the surface! All
the time you are violently whipping the rod with your right hand,
you barely even turn the reel handle with your left. The beauty
is that the side to side motion is fast while the forward
movement is not! This action creates a frenzy of surface activity
that just sits there and stays in the strike zone longer than any
other plug possibly can!
You'll be sweating and sucking wind
trying to catch your breath in no time. However, the results can
be huge cows who become extremely excited and enraged by your
lure. Apparently, the surface-whipping frenzy of the lure does
not allow the cow to clearly see what is causing the commotion.
Often you will just see the spikes of a cow's dorsal fins and tip
of the tail suddenly emerge from the water behind your pencil -
and just hang there for a brief moment that seems like all
eternity. Then, the cow will sink under and viciously lunge at
your lure...and begin creaming it time and again, not stopping
until she nails it. JUST DON'T STOP SUCKING WIND AND WHIPPING THE
ROD TIP...KEEP UP THE ACTION UNTIL THE COW LITERALLY HOOKS
HERSELF. If you keep it up, the cow will become extremely excited
and enraged and keep on assaulting you. However, if you break the
cadence, or if you jerk the lure away from her...the cow will
So, I think that tells you how to use these lures and how to
give the proper action to these lures.
A lot of New Englanders also "nod"
their pencils in fast-moving water around jetties,
rips, and strong sweeping currents. In fact, pencil poppers were
first made to reach big surface-busting bass far out in the
fast-moving rips of the Cape Cod Canal. The "nodding"
technique produces a slow and lazy side-to-side motion in fast
water, and you don't really need a special rod to do it. Although
effective in fast water, I have never known nodding to be as
uniquely productive a presentation as the violent whipping in the
open surf or backwaters. What I mean is that other presentations
can work well when nodding, but little else may work as well when
bass are creaming the violent whipping tactic.
Another plus about the the fast, blurring action caused by the
violent rod whipping is that you can raise big bass under bright
skies on calm, open beaches when you do it properly. Just
remember, although you are whipping the rod tip violently, it
must also be controlled, regular and repeateable - without
breaking the cadence or causing an irregular action. This "regualrity"
in the whipping is the only way you will be able to keep the lure
in one place while it works it's voodoo magic.
Replace the tail treble with a
large single Siwash hook on a stout swivel and split ring. Dress
the Siwash sparsely with long white bucktail or feathers. It's so
Hope it helps you whip that pencil into shape!