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Brandon Khoo

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Recommendation for poppers
February 15, 2009, 12:41:56 PM
updated on 22 April 2012

I regularly get contacted by people seeking recommendations for poppers so I have again decided that perhaps I'll simply start a thread on it with some of my views and we can go from there. It's easier than typing the same e-mail over and over again!

In a nutshell, poppers are available at prices ranging from bargain basement to absolutely scary. At the cheapest end are unmentionables which I do not recommend to the top end where the lures. Some of these lures used to pretty much unobtainable but in the past few years, have become significantly easier to obtain although there are still models that are extremely difficult to get hold of. At this end, I'm not just referring to lures like Carpenters but limited edition pieces which we will rarely see. These generally tend to be very limited lures made of materials like abalone shell. Some of you may have seen Craftbaits abalone shell GT2 but you see the odd very limited offering from Carpenter in this material as well. The most amazing one I have seen is a Shell Shaping lures using mother of pearl shell. On the other hand, Carpenter went down the other end and produced a limited edition Sea Frog which was in natural colours (not painted).

The most collectible of the Hammerheads is done in a watermelon colour scheme but this is much more available these days.


Limited edition Shell Shaping Lure Glans, Carpenter Sea Frog and Craftbait GT2

There is a general assumption that you get what you pay for. I suppose my opinion on this is that while there is some semblance of fact to this, it is not a rule that should be followed by any stretch of the imagination where GT lures are concerned. I have seen very expensive poppers and stickbaits which don't swim and I have also seen very expensive lures where the construction of the lure has been severely compromised by one fish. I'm not convinced that some of these lures have ever been tested! That said, the best of the premium poppers are truly at the top end of the industry and have earnt the reputations they have.

We get a number of poppers in Australia in some of the tackle chains which are being priced at silly levels for a very poor product. Some of these tackle chains carry poppers which I am sure they have not tested and I feel sorry for anyone who has paid the $60 to $80 being demanded for a particular wooden popper (they're everywhere in shops) when I've seen these in Singapore and Thailand for 1/3 the price. They look well finished but the finish gets scratched off by the hooks and before you know it, the lure is waterlogged. I will only go so far as to say the lures bears a resemblance to a Hammerhead. The problem is that these chains don't generally have people with the necessary knowledge and are simply looking for a product at a wholesale price point where there can make their requisite profit margin.

In terms of lures I do recommend (and I'll work upwards from most reasonably priced to sell your kids but please note - the scale is on price, not performance), the entry level would be with lures like the Halco Roosta, River2Sea Dumbbell and Yo-Zuri poppers like the surface cruiser and GT Bull. These lures are proven GT catchers but anglers using these should consider changing the terminals. Also, I have seen Dumbbells broken by GTs but I believe the incidences of these are much lower than what many people think. Another lure I will mention in this price range is the Jai Bighead - a very reasonably priced lure that is a proven fish catcher. The best of this range of the Jai range of poppers is the original Jai Bighead 130 in my opinion. Subsequent models ahven't been as good in my opinion.


The original Jai Bighead 130

In the next price group up from this are the Heru lures. These are marketed in Australia as Nomad or Blackjack lures. There are also widely available around the world now under different names. These are among my most highly recommended lures, especially the Cubera popper and the Wahoo/Dogtooth stickbait for the simple reason that you don't have to sell the kids and they work. I can't say enough about these because they're well-constructed and finished and in the case of the cubera, a brilliantly effective popper. The wiring is also excellent. I won't deny I would still use a SS Glans or a Sea Frog in preference to one of these but the price difference is enormous for a small performance difference. I know someone mentioned that they had the middle swivel drop out of the belly on one but I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the distributors of the lures in Australia would replace them without batting an eyelid. My only reservation over time has been with the swivels used as there have been a very small number of incidences where these have been compromised.


Heru Ulua, Wahoo, Cubera and Amano (from top)

A bit higher in price than these are the Adhek poppers which are available around Australia if you look hard. Adheks, particularly those with the holographic finish are a brilliant looking lure and are incredibly strong in terms of the wood used and the holographic finish. Wiring is adequate without being outstanding. Adhek makes a range of poppers and I have used most of them. They're also a proven fish catcher but my favourite lures in the range is the Adhek Long Goby. The Goby was designed as a stickbait but can I say, it has proven itself to be one of the most effective lures around Bugatti. You can fish this by simply casting it out and reeling it in at a reasonably high speed. It is almost what I would describe as a skittering popper - sort of a combination between a pencil popper and a stickbait.


PomPom, Gecko and Long Goby (from top)

Next is a legendary name in GT circles - Orion lures. Orions look rather agricultural and if you didn't know anything about them, you wouldn't look at them twice but they are one of the first lures reached for by many of the most experienced GT fishermen around. The most famous of the Orions is the Bigfoot - a sinking stickbait. I can't say enough about this lure. It's looks so plain but GTs love them. Orion isn't only about stickbaits though - poppers such as the ConoCono, T-Rex, the unique Flapper etc have cult followings. The ConoCono and T-Rex are among my favourite poppers. Orions used to be quite difficult to get hold of but today, you can get them from a very small number of tackle stores (Gara and Saltywater or direct from Eric Le Guyader himself). I should also point out they are moulded, not carved from wood. Orions take the hits from GTs better than any other lure on the market but whatever you do, don't cast them into rocks! A number of anglers have done so to their sorrow.

Overall, in terms of a combination of price and performance, Orions can't be beaten.


Big Nambas, Hotdog< Bigfoot, Crazy Dog, Speeder,(from top)



Big Jim, ConoCono, T-Rex and Flapper (from top)

At the next price level, I'll put a locally made popper which I was heavily involved in developing being Chris Young's Fullscale poppers. Chris' lures are entirely handmade and have the strongest wiring of any popper on the market and are constructed with absolutely no compromise for big fish. Let me put it this way - if I am popping the edge of a deep shelf for monster class GTs, a big Fullscale Kong would be one of the first lures I reach for. The great thing about the Kong is that it is easy to pop and produces a big pop and a lot of presence in the water for its weight.


Long Kong, Kong 200 Bigmouth, Kong 200, Kong 180 Bigmouth, Kong 180 (from top)

we are now reaching into the entry level of the premium Japanese poppers like Fisherman. Fisherman lures are well known and need no introduction in any company. They're cheaper than many of the super premiums but they're not finished to the same degree. These lures are reasonably widely available but the more popular models cam be hard to find. I'll mention two - the giant Bigmouth HP tails (200g and 220g) are a favourite for big GTs and with the heavy HP tail, they pop beautifully in heavy conditions. Fisherman also make what would probably be the most famous pencil popper of all - the Fisherman Long Pen.


Long Pen, Krog Bigmouth, S-Pop 160 with HP Tail, Bigmouth 220 with HP Tail (from top)

Another name worth mentioning at this level is a popper which we see rarely in Australia called the Skagit Pump King. The Pump King is a lure that is very easy to pop and swims beautifully and it is a proven fish catcher. On the negative side, the wiring on the Pump King could be stronger and I am aware of examples where the wiring has been compromised by one fish. (comment as at April 2012 - I haven't seen the GT sized Pump King for a couple of years now)


Skagit Pump Kings

In the super premium level, you have poppers like Carpenter, Craftbait, Hammerhead and from other boutique producers like Shell Shaping Lures.

The Carpenter Sea Frog needs no introduction and while it is a brilliant lure, a ridiculous mystique developed around them for some time to the fact that they were so hard to obtain. The luremaker, Kenji Konishi is an absolute perfectionist and it shows in his products. Sea Frogs come in sizes from about 120g to 180g with the 140g and 160g models being specially made for rough conditions. Carpenter also make what is the most famous stickbait in the sport called the Gamma. The Gamma has been produced in everything from a tiny size of about 25g to a whopping monster of some 350g.

The Carpenter brand, however, does create some confusion as to what is available or not. The Gamma range remains available when they are produced although the 350g Gamma has not been made beyond its original run. The Sea Frog range I referred to above is no longer available although a thriving second hand market exists for these and all other Carpenter lures. The Sea Frog range is in the process of being reworked and the new 105 and 120 have been released publicly now. Some larger sizes may follow.

Proving to be hugely popular today is a new sinking stickbait, the Pandora and a new pencil called the Kattobi.


Sea Frogs - 120, 130, 135, 140, 160, 170, 180 (from top)


Gammas - 200, 160, 140, 120, 90 (from top)


Pandora, New Sea Frog 120, Kattobi (from top)

Craftbaits are beautifully finished and have a unique wiring system and are quite easily available. The wiring looks awesomely strong but there have been isolated incidences of it failing. That said, their finish is one of the best available and they're a proven popper. Their quality control is somewhat open to question with incidences of significant variation in weights of some of their lures but they are a very popular poppe with good reason.

Craftbait haven't had the same success with their pencils and stickbaits. The Realbait look fantastic but doesn't work well with a higher speed retrieve. it works best with a slow twitch.


GT3 190 Ultra Bigmouth, GT3 170, GT3 150, GT2 (from top)


Craftbait Pencil, Realbait 170, Realbait 130 (from top)


Hammerheads are another legendary popper but the big models are hard work. The E cup is a good size as it is still easy to pop and not too painful! Mind you, if you are focussing on BIG fish, the I Cup is a proven performer. Good luck if you think you're going to use one the whole day though! Little known is the Tobi pencil but in my view, this is one of the easiest pencils to use and in my view, one of the best pencils on the market. I have been quite frustrated by Hammerhead as I have been waiting for a production run of the Tobi 169 for a number of years now and ..... well, I am still waiting!


Tobi 169, I Cup, G Cup (from top)

Shell Shaping Lures are not a particularly well known company, producing only a very small quantity of lures each year but their lures are innovative and quite brilliant. In the past, the luremaker was known to disappear for months on end producing nothing. I note, however, that the company seems to have gone into production mode in the last twelve months and the lures, while  rare, are now at least more widely available. The Manatee and Glans are the pick of the bunch with the Glans being my favourite popper. SS also used to make what I regarded as a brilliant pencil, the Harley but unfortunately, this is now out of production.

It is my opinion, however, that the SS lures are not being made to quite the same standard as they once were. Once upon a time, I would not have hesitated to say that their finish was industry leading. Unfortunately, I do not believe that the finish today is of the same standards as yester-year's lures.


Manatee, Glans and God knows what the third one is - I've only ever seen one of them! (from top)


SS stickbaits - the Twister F5, the Twister F3 (from top)


Harley, God knows!, Z-Mame, Bubble-Rise

The one point I will make about Japanese poppers is that they are not all finished to the same standards. I won't make any further comment on it here than that but do not expect that the standard of the finishes to be the same. Clearly, not all Japanese lures are priced at the same levels either. Carpenters sell for a significant premium over the rest of the market but this is driven by the incredibly exhausting program these lures are subjected to.

There are also a few brands which deserve a specific mention which I have not referred to above, particularly FCL Labo and Patriot Design. I will add these when I have time to take photos of their lures. I have used FCLs quite extensively and they are an excellent and innovative product.

There is no doubt that in putting a balanced tackle bag together that we all like to at least have some of the premiums. Personally, I think that it is more important to get a balance of type of lures rather than brands. By that, I mean ensuring you get a balance of poppers, stickbaits and pencils in your kit as your first priority before worrying about brands. Just remember that you don't need to sell the kids to get lures that will perform to a high standard. Also, remember when putting your tackle bag together for a trip that you take into account what you need for that location. For example, some locations are very much more popper conducive than others whilst pencils might be the way to go for some other locations.
Last Edit: April 23, 2012, 12:54:26 AM by Brandon Khoo
If it swims; I want to catch it!

Peter Morris

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Re: Recommendation for poppers
February 15, 2009, 01:00:10 PM
Great info Brandon. 8)

Twas I who mentioned I had the swivel fall out of a blackack stickbait but in saying that the Cubera's were by far the most successful lure for me over in Fiji.I agree they are a well priced lure and get great results.
I have had only the one faulty one.

Certainly my next step up is to buy some of Chris's full scales.
They look like fantastic lures.

Pete




Bwanna Surya

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Re: Recommendation for poppers
February 15, 2009, 02:05:52 PM
A comprehensive sum up....thank you for sharing Brandon...

For beginner like me...your input always valued....

Ewan Macleod

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Re: Recommendation for poppers
February 15, 2009, 04:11:56 PM
Nice read Brandon cheers. For anyone interested in the Adhek range I was looking at the catalogue the other day: http://www.adhek.net/asfeng/popper_catalogue.pdf

Geoff Volter

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Re: Recommendation for poppers
February 15, 2009, 08:10:43 PM
Thanks Brandon, Great wrap up. That makes it much simpler for somebody trying to find their way in the world of GT popping.

Any chance of a similar wrap up on reels? ;D

Luke Wyrsta

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Re: Recommendation for poppers
February 15, 2009, 08:25:12 PM
Very useful post Brandon. Thanks  ;D

Brandon Khoo

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Re: Recommendation for poppers
February 15, 2009, 08:25:46 PM
hell, no.


Thanks Brandon, Great wrap up. That makes it much simpler for somebody trying to find their way in the world of GT popping.

Any chance of a similar wrap up on reels? ;D
If it swims; I want to catch it!

Brock Arifovic

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Re: Recommendation for poppers
February 15, 2009, 09:12:14 PM
OOOOHHHHH Brandon well said, great info to everyone, keep up the good work.

Andre van Wyk

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Re: Recommendation for poppers
February 15, 2009, 11:34:21 PM
Thanks for this Brandon, awesome info....

Now can you post up pics with the names of each popper/stickbait for us all please and give us a breakdown on all of them?  ;D :D ;D

< Andre runs and hides chuckling evily to himself!!! >

HAHAHAHA....

Just kidding Brandon.
Awesome wrap up and obviously put together with a ton of knowledge and thought, and most importantly experience...
My Thanks
To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth...

Jay Burgess

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Re: Recommendation for poppers
February 16, 2009, 12:29:23 AM
Yep, as already mentioned, extremely valuable info there. Thanks Brandon.

Should be stickied Luke.  ;D

Marcus Lee

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Re: Recommendation for poppers
February 16, 2009, 01:55:12 AM
Awesome post Brandon  ;D

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Re: Recommendation for poppers
February 16, 2009, 08:48:42 AM
Great wrap up there Brandon... you make some very interesting points!
<*///><

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Re: Recommendation for poppers
February 16, 2009, 10:32:29 AM
Good stuff Brandon just what i needed.

Mick Cunningham

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Re: Recommendation for poppers
February 16, 2009, 07:29:36 PM
nice collection there  ::) ::)

i bet you have more  ;D ;D

that is a great help.
Last Edit: February 16, 2009, 07:45:22 PM by Mick Cunningham

Chris Young

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Re: Recommendation for poppers
February 19, 2009, 07:21:49 PM
Wow...those SS Lures look fantastic, does anybody fish with them? Are they readily available??
I think if I had one I would frame it and hang it on the wall ;)