Inshore anglers know the power of the popper. While plenty of speckled trout and redfish are caught simply cranking a jighead and soft plastic swimbait or curl-tail, the addition of a popping cork can double or triple the number of fish in the ice chest.

Popping corks call fish with a splash that imitates a fish taking bait on the surface and an auditory “click” from the beads on the wire. The fish are attracted by the sound and surface disturbance, then see and attack the jighead and swimbait hanging from 1 to 2 feet below.

Then the angler “pops” the cork by twitching the rod, the cork shoots ahead a few inches and creates a splash on the surface, while the jighead and swimbait below it darts toward the surface and pendulums back down. It’s normally while the jighead is descending that the fish strike.

Not all popping corks are created equal, though, and anglers quickly learn what works best. Cheap popping corks bend out of shape due to inferior wire, which decreases quality of the action and sound. Many have just a single ball bearing rattle on top and bottom and don’t produce a good, loud “pop,” or “click.” The bearings themselves may be cheap plastic that produces a muted sound.

Venice, La., redfish guide David Iverson makes a living putting anglers on the biggest redfish of their lives, and he almost always hands them a rig consisting of a Bomber Saltwater Grade Paradise Popper Xtreme with a jighead and money minnow suspended a foot or so below it.

“I use a shorter leader than a lot of people,” he said. “The fish are coming to that sound and I want the bait where they can find it. Fish are naturally curious, and when you pop that cork it’s making a clicking sound like a crustacean.”

This popping cork features three plastic beads on top and a pair of brass balls underneath to create a full, natural sound when twitched or popped. This combination of clicks creates a full, realistic sound that gets both redfish and speckled trout excited.

“The devil’s in the details, though,” Iverson said. “It’s the zinc washer on the underside of the cork that gives it longevity.”

He said he was fishing alongside another angler, both using the same jighead and swimbait under brand new popping corks. Both caught fish early on, but then Iverson started catching five-to-one over his client. The difference, he said, was the washer between the cork and beads. The washer keeps the beads from chipping and wearing out the underside of the cork.

Theophile Bourgeois of Bourgeois Charters just south of New Orleans uses the Paradise Xtreme because of the wire, which is a heat-treated stainless steel that flexes but doesn’t crimp, bend or break.

“Go out and catch 60 or 70 specks in a morning and it wears on your cork,” he said. “With all the time I spend taking off fish and handling the boat, I don’t need additional distractions of having to retie rigs. Plus, it gets expensive.”

An important key to success with a popping cork is the pace and strength of the twitches the angler imparts with the rod, and most guides suggest a similar starting place: two or three hard pops after the rig settles in the water, then a 5-second pause, then a couple light pops. It’s important to pay attention to what’s working on any given day, though, and adjust to what the fish want.

For speckled trout, a 4-inch soft plastic swimbait or paddle tail like the Mud Minnow on a ¼- or ½-ounce jighead is effective, but for big redfish or gator trout, anglers can go up to a 6-inch version. Iverson ties his jighead onto the line with a loop knot to provide maximum swimming action.