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Whopper Ploppers… I can’t remember there ever being a lure that was more talked about or been on the receiving end of so much hype. I can’t speak about its mystical powers when it comes to largemouth, as I haven’t had enough experience with it in that regard but for river smallmouth….believe the hype. Since its release, that lure has been responsible for more of my 20”+ smallmouths than all of the other baits in my tackle box combined and has been a key bait in many of my high tournament finishes.

I have no problem admitting that I’m a tackle junkie and my whopper plopper inventory borders on obsessive. I have multiples of just about every color in every size (75,90,110,130). After a lot of experimenting I don’t believe your color choice makes much of an impact. I think it’s the sound they produce that is there real fish drawing power. The fish are only seeing the bottom and a small portion of the sides so I think it comes down more to what you are confident in. My top choices are Bone and Monkey Butt. Bottom line, I throw Bone in low light conditions and a more translucent color (Monkey Butt) in brighter light conditions.
I wanted to put this article out before summer but with the release of the new 75 size I held off so I could get familiar with it first. For the most part, you need to experiment each outing to see what the fish want best. The 90 is the more subtle of the sizes and its “plopping” sound isn’t as loud or as deep as the others. While the 75 is a much smaller offering than the 110, there sound is very similar due to their tail size. The 130 is the biggest, loudest, and deepest sounding of the bunch. Here’s my take on it: If I’m fishing a body of water that has good quality size fish the 110 is my first go to. If the fish are just “popping” at it I’ll switch to a 90 or 75. If the body of water doesn’t hold a number of bigger fish I’ll start with a 75 or 90 and switch to the other if they are just “popping” at it. I don’t throw the 130 very often for river smallmouth because I don’t feel the landing percentage is very high with it compared to the smaller options. I’ll only throw it during the fall when the fish are most aggressively feeding and only on water that holds trophy size fish. I also will not use it during tournaments because of its lower landing percentage.
The first thing I do with every plopper is install a size 2 or 3 split ring to the line tie and then a size 4 ball bearing swivel to that. This prevents the line twist these lures are notorious for creating. I keep to the smaller ring and swivel sizes because I want as little weight as possible on the front of that lure. You want that tail section sitting down so it’s kicking up a lot of water. Next I change out the hooks. I use Mustad Triple Grip Trebles for all 4 sizes. For the 75 I use size 2, the 90 size 4, the 110 size 2, and the 130 size 1. To help increase landing percentage on the 130, I add an additional split ring to the front hook to give it a wider twisting range of motion when a fish is thrashing that heavy lure around, less chance of it pulling the hook out of its mouth. If the fish are taking the lure but you can’t get them to hook up, take a red sharpie and color around the bottom of the lure where the front hook is located to give them a target to bite. You’d be surprised what a difference that can make.
I’m probably a little unconventional when it comes to my set-up for throwing ploppers. Keep in mind I’m talking about going after river smallmouths where the added factor of heavy current plays a major role in my gear choice. I only use mono and nothing less than 16lb with 20lb being the norm. I’ve lost way too many big fish on braid from them pulling the hook in current. I use a high speed baitcaster to pick up line fast, 7.1 and higher gear ratios. I’m very picky about my rod choices for these lures. You need something with a soft tip to allow the fish to get the lure good and also to keep the fish buttoned up while battling them in current but also a strong enough back bone to get them out of the current. I had a custom rod built for me by Jim Dutt at Smallie Stix that I use exclusively just for the 75, 90, and 110 sizes. If you prefer not to go the custom route, I’ve found that rods built for crankbait fishing work best, a Med to Med/Hvy Mod-Fast for the 75, 90, and 110 and then a Med/Hvy to Hvy Mod-Fast for the 130. These rods are very forgiving and will greatly increase your landing percentage.

– Bill Durboraw