It’s called a Pencil Popper, so you must work it with a popping action. Right?


While some folks do use true popping presentations with this classic, elongated surface plug, others prefer to walk the dog or to chug the surface quickly and erratically. Popular in places for everything from stripers to largemouths to muskies to redfish, Pencil Poppers work well being fished a host of different ways.

We’ll highlight a few specific presentations that are highly effective and popular in different situations. That said, the best action any given day might fall under “none of the above” or more often, “all of the above.” Sometimes blending presentations or intentionally adding variances is critical to triggering strikes.


In freshwater settings, by far the most popular presentation is a classic “walk the dog,” achieved by repeatedly snapping the rod tip with just a bit of slack in the line. Each time you snap the slack out the lure changes directions. A Pencil Popper has an extremely wide side-to-side wag and can be kept in motion, making constant commotion, without moving the lure very far across the surface. That makes it great for aggravating fish. Unlike most other walking lures, it also spits a bit as it darts.

Keys to successful walking are keeping the correct amount of slack in the line and finding the winning cadence, which is normally quick, but sometimes broken by pauses. A Pencil Popper is long-casting, making it great for covering water to summon fish or to cast to schooling gamefish, and it’s easier to walk than many lures.


Anglers casting into the surf or from a boat across a rip line or toward schooling bluefish or stripers typically take a much more aggressive and almost haphazard approach. They cast the lure as far as possible, often using an extra-long rod, and then start reeling quickly, all the while snapping the rod. The lure skips, chugs and darts like a fleeing baitfish and calls fish from afar. Attacks can be violent, but fish commonly miss, so anglers must learn to just keep working the lure instead of yanking it away. When the fish do connect, they usually hook themselves.

Popular variations of this approach are to eliminate the jerks and simply reel quickly so the lure just skims, spits and skips, and to mix in occasional stops. Sometimes pausing the frantic-seeming motion for just a moment will trigger a fierce strike.


Despite its name, the Pencil Popper is least often used as a true popper, worked with isolated tugs to make its concave face pop. This approach can be highly effective, though, especially when the lure is cast around cover in calm water. Pop sharpness and frequency are important variables with a true popping presentation.

An especially effective hybridization of techniques is to cast to a high percentage spot, let the bait settle for a bit and then work it back with a combination of pops and short series of walking motions, all broken by pauses.

Pencil Popper Variety

With the recent introduction of a 4 ½-inch model, the Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper now comes it three sizes, with the other being notably bigger at 6 and 7 inches.  Weights range from ¾ ounce to 2 ounces.

The middle size comes in the most colors at 20. The 4 ½- and 6-inch versions come in 12 and 20 colors, respectively. All three selections include bold, opaque classics like Pearl/Red Head and Chrome/Black and some partially transparent and highly natural baitfish imitations.

Collectively, the Pencil Popper line-up covers a vast ranges of situations and includes lures well suited for many different kinds of waters.