Who doesn't like fishing poppers? For saltwater or fresh, it's just plain fun. Although constructing a popper yourself requires a bit more work than tying most flies, in the end you might save a little bit of money and there's a good deal of satisfaction. In this first video we'll show you how to construct a popper and in the second video we'll show you how to finish it.
I like hard styrofoam bodies such as Wapsi's Perfect Popper bodies. They have a hard outer coating and a channel already cut to accommodate a hook. Wapsi also has a really nice series of popper hooks that complement the bodies well. Or, if you prefer, Mustad makes exceptional stainless steel popper hooks.
Most all hooks meant for poppers have a kink in them to prevent the hook from rotating in the body. I like the hooks to lie all the way down at the bottom of the channel and the kink prevents this. So what I do is mark the location of the kink on the popper with my thumb and then, with a screwdriver, push in to create an indent to accommodate the kink. Use a clean screwdriver as a rusty one will mark the foam. With that done you can see the hook will rest in the bottom of the channel. A plain old emery board works great for clearing out the channel and allowing the hook to lay perfectly in place.
Once you have things looking right, place the hook in your vise. You're next going to apply Zap-a-Gap to the inside of the channel and then secure the popper body to the top of the hook. Hold it tight for a few seconds while the glue sets. What you're doing is basically spot welding the popper body to the hook. More permanent adhesion is needed and will come later.
Now, to fill in the rest of the channel, cut a small strip of white craft foam. Give it a little pull and stretch to temporarily thin it out. Carefully mix a small batch of 5 minute epoxy. Here I'm using Z-Poxy from the same folks that make Zap-a-Gap. Just make sure you have equal parts and mix them very well. A bodkin and a sticky pad is all you really need. Scoop up some of the epoxy with your bodkin, and with the popper inverted in your vise, apply a liberal coating to the channel of the popper. Try to get the channel walls completely coated. You can then slip the thinned craft foam sheet all the way down into the channel and wipe off the excess epoxy that squeezes out. The idea here is to get that foam sheet all the way down to the hook so it completely fills the channel. With this done, set it aside to dry. I usually give it about 20 minutes.
When the epoxy's dried, use a hobby knife with a fresh blade to remove the excess foam. Be very careful doing this. It's easy to cut yourself with the knife as well as stab yourself with the hook. Often the two happen simultaneously. Get as much foam removed with the knife as you can. Now here's a cool little trick to really seal up the craft foam. Squeeze out a small amount of Zap-a-Gap medium onto a sticky pad. With your bodkin, apply a thin film on to the craft foam. Don't forget the front and back ends. Then, using a craft foam scrap, rub the Zap-a-Gap into the foam. What this does is harden the craft foam which allows you to do further, more accurate trimming with the hobby knife. This isn't an essential step but it's one I like to do. To really finish the seam, give it a light sanding with the emery board.
And there you have it, a foam popper with the hook held firmly in place and the channel filled, all ready for paint, tailing material, eyes and a finish coat.