Pop and Drop for Summer Smallmouth

We refer to our favorite summertime smallmouth technique as the” Pop-and-Drop.” This deadly tactic pairs a fly rod with a spinning outfit for the freshwater version of bait-and-switch. The premise is to entice smallmouth into action with the disturbance of a popper, then serve up a soft plastic.

A redeye that investigated the pop but fell for the drop

Summertime is prime time for the pop and drop

In the window between July and September, river smallmouth activity from the Pacific Northwest to the North Woods reaches its apex. The arrival of the dog days coincide with popper season. Few spectacles in fly fishing beat a smallie blowing up a topwater popper. However, all too often, a fish investigates a popper but won’t partake. Or, the schoolie smallmouth bum rush the topwater bait, leaving the angler gawking at the red-eyed slab hovering beneath the disturbance. With a drop shot rig at hand, refusals and investigations become instant hookups.

Probing a weedbed with a topwater popper

A Simple Yet Effective Popper

Topwater poppers take on many forms, but for economy and effectiveness, its damn hard to beat the Dedeaux Popper. Brainchild of Texas guide, Alvin Dedeaux, this simple foam creation takes mere minutes to “tie” and produces action that topwater-oriented predators finds irresistible. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PS7V-IIUaRg. Smallmouth are no exception, and color doesn’t seem to make much difference. Simply adhere a popper to a short leader comprised of a 30/20/15 lb Seagur or Maxima and the fly rod piece of the equation is solved.https://cd-fishing.us/flyfishing/allfly-ultimate-plus/

Our preferred popper for the Pop and Drop technique

Proper Popper Presentation

Popper presentation needn’t be belligerent. Working the popper like a cat toy is the best way to induce strikes. Akin to twitching a hopper pattern for trout, pressured bass generally prefer more enticing movements of the fly versus aggressive strips. Cast it, let it sit a moment, then give it a twitch. If a bass comes to investigate, another twitch may trigger an eat. When it doesn’t, we call on the other angler to hit ‘em with the drop shot.

A chunky smallmouth that committed to the topwater popper

If They Don’t go for the Pop, Feed ’em the Drop

Timing is important, and before bass lose interest or become suspicious, the drop shot rig should be pitched right into the fray. With the weight below the hook, the falling action of the minnow is irresistible. The bait drops quickly to reach the larger bass that are attracted by the activity but suspended lower in the water column.

The Smallmouth One/Two Punch

Rigging the Drop Shot

The drop shot rig takes some getting used to. Every summer, I need to reteach myself the proper steps to creating this all-effective bass rig.https://www.google.com/search?q=tying+a+drop+shot+rig&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwil5KP3q_T5AhXUMTQIHdIHAeAQ_AUoAnoECAEQBA&biw=1378&bih=701&dpr=2#imgrc=8K7kB6hbDHmxiM I generally use the XPS Finesse drop shot weights in ¼ and 1/8 oz sz., a drop shot hook, and a small Berkley Gulp minnow. I fill my spool with braided line, add a swivel, and attach a two-foot length of 15lb.  fluorocarbon.https://www.berkley-fishing.com/collections/soft-bait/products/gulp-minnow-1285380

The Buddy System

The Pop-and-Drop is buddy system fishing at its finest. The captain (typically yours truly) can run the boat with one hand while drop shotting with the other. When the Pop-and-Drop is firing on all cylinders, doubles are common, as bass struggling at the end of the line attracts more fish.