Big Mouth Popper

By Tom Sheehy


This is an un-tested fly pattern that I came up with after seeing the Rainey Offshore Poppers in a local tackle shop. I liked the head design and overall style of the Rainey patterns, but the hook gap didn't look like it would be sufficient for large fish. After playing around with some foam scraps, this is what I came up with.

This pattern uses a foam cylinder (like you would use for a Bob's Banger) and some sheet foam to create a popper body that has a cupped mouth, and a partially hollow body that will hide the tie-in point of the tail materials and create a smooth transition between the popper's head and tail.

The pattern shown was tied on a Gamaktsu Trey Combs 8/0 hook.  The larger pattern shown at the end was tied on the same hook in a 10/0 size.  Both flies were approximately 7" long, and were designed to imitate a tinker mackerel. Obviously you can imitate any bait species by using different colors in the tail and head design.

Step 1

The first step is to cut a piece of foam cylinder to size, and drill out a hole for the hook shank. For the 8/0 fly, I used 5/8" diameter foam. For the 10/0 fly, I used 3/4" diameter foam. You want the hole to be on the bottom of the cylinder, so that the body of the fly won't interfere with the hook. Test fit the foam cylinder on the hook, and draw a reference line across the back of the cylinder with a sharpie.

Step 2

Cut out a piece of sheet foam to use as the overbody. The foam should be roughly as long as the hook shank, and wide enough to be completely wrapped around the foam cylinder without overlapping. I recommend cutting the foam a bit too big, then slowly trimming away a little at a time until it is the perfect size. Once you have the foam cut to size, fold it in half and cut to the shape shown in the picture. Make another reference line exactly in the middle of the foam.

Step 3

Now we will glue the sheet foam rectangle to the cylinder. For this step, you want to use as little CA (superglue) as possible. You want to use less than a drop of CA for this ENTIRE process. The more CA you use, the longer it will take to set up, and the more likely you will be to glue your fingers to the table. I highly recommend that you use a bodkin or paperclip to apply CA where you need it, and in very small increments. The CA is just being used to hold the foam in place, you will coat the whole head with epoxy to give it strength at the very end. We will use the reference lines to make sure that the back or top of the foam cylinder is lined up perfectly with the middle of the sheet foam.

You want the sheet foam to overlap the front of the foam cylinder by about 1/8" to create a cupped 'mouth' for the fly.

Lay the sheet foam flat on the table, with the reference line up. Remove the foam cylinder from the hook and apply a very small amount of CA along the reference line on the cylinder. Line up the reference lines, with the cylinder about 1/8" behind the edge of the foam and hold it in place for a few seconds.

Now, keeping the sheet foam flat on the table, roll up the cylinder in the sheet foam, one side at a time. You shouldn't have to add any additional superglue in this step, as the extra glue from the previous step will be pushed forward as you roll. Again, the whole head should be glued together with less than one drop of superglue!

Once the superglue dries, you can use sharpie markers to decorate the foam.. or you can wait until after you tie the tail materials in. In either case, make sure you color the mouth of the popper now, as the hook eye will get in the way later.

Note: If you are adverse to using superglue, an alternative is to use an adhesive spray like Scotch 3M77, which can be bought at most hardware stores. I would recommend a very light coat around the outside of the cylinder, letting it set up for about 90 seconds before rolling it up in the foam sheet. The 3M77 will create a very strong bond, but it will take 5-10 minutes for the glue to set up enough for you to let go without it coming undone.

Step 4












Remove the foam head if you haven't already. We will now tie in a 1/2" corsair or ez-body spreader right above the hook point. We will tie in the tail against the spreader to flare the materials and give them a much better 3D profile.

I won't go into details on how to tie the spreader, as most of you have probably seen it done before. You basically cut a piece of tubing to size, and secure one end at the end of the hook shank. Then you fold the tubing back on itself to create a cone shape, securing the front of the tubing right above the hook point. Use a few drops of CA at both ends to secure the spreader in place.

Step 5

Tie in your tail materials directly in front of the spreader. You can use saddle hackles, flatwings, or synthetic materials. Make sure you create a nice 3D shaped tail by covering the bottom, sides and top of the spreader. Tie in some flash if desired.

Step 6

Add a couple of drops of superglue over the tie in point for the tail materials. This will help secure the tail, and will also help keep the foam head in place during the next step. Insert the foam head back on the hook, making sure that it is aligned properly.

Step 7

If you haven't done so already, use sharpie markers to color the head to match the baitfish you are trying to imitate. Add a couple large stick-on eyes. When you are happy with the design, let the markers dry for a few minutes, while you mix up some 5-minute epoxy. I like to add a very fine glitter to the epoxy before I apply it to the head for a bit of extra flash.

Apply a thin coat of epoxy over the entire body and mouth of the foam head. You will have to work quickly, and the technique I use is to apply a glob of epoxy to the head, using a bodkin to spread it around. Once the entire head is covered, I use the length of the bodkin like a squeegee to scrape off the excess epoxy and make sure the head is coated evenly.

Step 8

Finished! Sit back and enjoy your new pattern.. You can make it in any size, to match any baitfish you want. Here's hoping that you get a chance to throw it into a school of busting tuna, or a billfish that has been teased to your transom at some exotic locale!