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Pencil Poppers
Whip them into a murderous frenzy

By Russ Bassdozer

Big 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.

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 graphite.

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 thigh.

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 depart quickly.

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 deadly!

Hope it helps you whip that pencil into shape!

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