Saturday, July 27, 2019

Not All Pencils Created Equally

Here is just a sampling of some of the pencil poppers I have
used recently. Top to bottom: Left Hook, Guppy, Gibbs
In the last month I have had a fascination with pencil poppers. Like most fishermen, I love seeing a big fish come up from the depths and blast a surface offering, and that has happened to me on many occasions lately.  If you've ever had a thirty or forty pound striper hit a surface plug such as a pencil popper, you realize that it is one of the most exciting and heart pounding events in all of fishing.
The pencil popper is a unique plug. Most fishermen will agree that it is the very best casting plug you can use so if you are looking for distance, this is the plug to use. But, if you have ever used a variety of them, you quickly learn that all pencils are not created equally.  Most look about the same with their skinny necks and fat rear ends which give them that long cast, but beyond that they all take on a personality of their own depending on the brands you use.
As many of you know, I make most of my own wooden plugs, but when it comes to a pencil I've found out that my homemade models are far inferior to the pricey commercial brands.  I've bought up a number of wooden pencils of various brands in the 2 3/4 to 3 1/2 ounce range and have found noticeable differences in all of them.  Some cast better than others and it has little to do with weight.  Remember, too, the outfit you are using will handle an ideal weight to cast.  Go beyond that weight and it just doesn't work as efficiently.  My 10 1/2 foot heavy St. Croix Mojo is good up to about 3 1/2 ounces.  Beyond that, the rod is staining and the cast is less efficient. I will say, though, that the trend is toward bigger plugs here.  I've seen some big dudes with stiff, heavy duty rods casting 4 and 4 1/2 ounce pencil poppers, and they are casting one hell of a distance.
In fast moving waters, many fishermen prefer flat bottomed
pencils saying they track better.  Here is a flat bottomed
Guppy pencil popper.
Most pencils also work differently in the water. In fast, moving water, many fishermen prefer to use the flat bottom pencil popper claiming it tracks better in the current.  I would tend to agree with that. In regular surf conditions, many prefer the round bottomed pencils. But, movement also depends on the fisherman here.  Unlike most of the "dummy plugs" out there that require nothing but reeling in, you need to impart the action on the pencil with short pulls of the rod tip to give the plug its back and forth and dipping movements.  Once again, they all dip and move a little differently due to the weighting of the plug, the buoyancy and how the fisherman moves it.
So far this summer I have used a number of different brands of wooden pencil poppers, and overall, they have all been good.  I've used Gibbs, Guppy, Left Hook, Lights Out and my homemade models. All have their pluses, but I really have no favorite.  The one that casts the best sometimes doesn't have the best action. Some cast and work better in a stiff wind.  Others sink faster.  Some float. It's simply a matter of trying different models and seeing what works for you and your equipment.