Hoppers and Hopper-Poppers!
Live hoppers were a mainstay for trout and smallmouth fishermen through the years. Traditional deerhair hopper patterns such as Dave’s Hopper and a host of others are very effective in seducing smallmouth to sip them in – like a trout.
There’s something about an 18 inch smallie, slurping a dead drifted hopper that makes me lose sleep at night.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve been experimenting on the Mississippi and other rivers to measure the effectiveness of hopper patterns. We know they work, but what we have found is remarkable.
There are many times when bass will not readily strike a popper. Died-in-the-wool popper fishermen will have a dismal day if they try to force feed these fish (and the surely will). Some days it’s simply the time of day and they’re not going on top until a bit later. Other days, they’re just not going at all on top.
The conventional wisdom is to then delve into the depths subsurface with streamers and even sinking line, and fish that way.
The Missing Link
We believe we have found the missing link in top water action with foam hopper patterns. We like foam flies as they ride high all day and will not sink like their deerhair brethren. Most of my old deerhair hoppers became a cheap Muddler imitation after about five drifts.
Instead of going under after the poppers crap out, we tie on hopper patterns and enjoy great topwater action all day! Sometimes we’ll switch to poppers if they’re really hogging on the hoppers, but usually we keep fishing them because the “takes” are so cool.
The smallmouth typically will gently rise up and suck in a hopper, hardly leaving a trace, very much like a trout. At times, there is more disturbance, but sometime all you see is the fly disappear.
One of the coolest flies we’ve used is the Hopper Popper (as seen above). These are foam hopper ties with a cupped front face. You can dead drift them or pop them a bit to stir up some trouble from below.
We use a size #4 hopper pattern and they work very well and double as big trout flies. I have a supply of hoppers on the way that are twice that size on a 1/0 hook and really get the smallies hot. Look for these late this summer (2012) and for sure next spring.