Brandon Coulter of Knoxville, Tennessee fishes the FLW Tour. 2013 marked his first year back fishing the PAA Tournament Series for about 3-4 years. “It was nice to be back fishing the PAA again,” said Coulter. He had a great season and finished 5th in the PAA Angler of the Year (AOY) race.
Coulter’s one of a resourceful handful of East Tennessee aces that flip a Rebel P70 Pop-R into heavy cover as if flipping a jig. He’s made two top tens on the FLW Tour flippin’ a Pop-R, and he had one prized Pop-R that netted him a cool $70,000 until the plastic around the back hook hanger split.
Another FLW Tour veteran, Craig Powers of Rockwood, TN is credited with inventing this technique. Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, TN also flips the Pop-R a lot, and when DeFoe fished the FLW Tour, he roomed with Coulter.
“I knew those guys were catching fish on the Pop-R,” said Coulter. “As I learned a little bit about it, I began throwing the Pop-R on my own and started to figure it out.”
Now that Coulter has learned what makes the Pop-R work so well, he uses it all he can. One thing the Pop-R has going for it is its large size. “As a pro, you learn what your advantages are over the rest of the field, and if I can catch them flipping the Pop-R, it is usually a little better quality fish than you’ll get with a trick worm or something else. So I’ve learned that it’s to my advantage if I can catch them on the Pop-R, they’ll be a little bit better fish,” Coulter revealed.
“Plus if you say you caught them on a Pop-R, everybody just goes out and throws a little Pop-R off the end of a point. Most guys aren’t flipping it right into the bushes and in the shade where bass are holed up,” smiled Coulter.
The First Key to Pop-R Success
The first key is to get your hands on one. The Pop-R that Coulter speaks of is the almost 50 year old Rebel P70 Pop-R circa 1965. In fact, you better get several so you have enough to make it worthwhile to invest the time to learn them.
There aren’t many of the old ones available any more, and there are more pros on the FLW and even on the Bassmaster Elite Series that have learned not to pass them up if they ever see any on eBay, at a winter tackle show or wherever.
The Second Key to Pop-R Success
Once you have one or two, the second key is to master the P70’s innate ability to cast extremely well in tight corners, using a backhand roll-cast to land it quietly under overhanging cover. The P70 has some weight to it and casts like a dart.
In terms of lure modifications, there are none. Coulter simply adds a #2 treble to the belly and a #2 feather treble on the tail.
Experienced anglers know the importance of flipping a jig right on a fish so the strike happens immediately on the fall even before the jig reaches bottom. The same principle applies equally to flipping the P70 right on a fish. “I’d say 90% of my bites if not more come before I ever move it or on my first twitch. When you make the right cast and it lands quietly on his head…what they do is kind of sidle up underneath it as it sits there. They swim up and look up at it, and they usually crack it right away or on the first movement it makes,” emphasized Coulter.
The Third Key to Pop-R Success
Being able to walk the P70 in place is the third key to its success. Other poppers (including the “new” P70 that Rebel offered in limited numbers a few years ago) either don’t have the weight or they don’t set in the water with the tail way down. “That tail posture is the reason you can walk a P70 (not pop it) in place without moving it forward so that you can keep it near a fish-holding object for as long as you can. Other poppers sit flatter on the water, and when you twitch them, they move out about a foot,” summed up Coulter.
“The P70 typically gets going when bass are guarding fry in late spawn. The areas that parental bass use to
protect fry are not the same as the nest areas. Once the fry become mobile and have enough vigor to be ushered off the nest, bass will move them into protective cover such as emergent tree tops and brush. The ultimate is to have only two or three emergent bushes along a protected bank because that’s where they’ll move all the fry and concentrate them there.”
The bite peaks during post-spawn which is when bass leave the fry, and the Pop-R is at its best,” Coulter tells us.
“I’ve actually been able to catch them pretty good during the spawn itself; if you roll-cast the Pop-R in there nice and quiet, right on the beds when they’re spawning, they’ll blast it.”
The bottom line however is that P70 mavens will flip one anywhere, anytime from mid-spawn through late fall. About the only time they’ll not use it is in windy weather. Fish don’t key in on it very well in the wind.
Line, Rod and Reel
As mentioned, the main cast to master is a backhand roll cast that’s pinpoint accurate and makes a very quiet entry into the water. To execute this cast, Coulter likes a short rod handle that doesn’t get in the way.
He uses a custom 6 footer made by a local rodmaker and designed with the help of Craig Powers. It’s a medium action rod. “You don’t want a heavy stick for this,” warned Coulter. “The medium action helps you cast it very precisely, and since you have treble hooks, you won’t pull those trebles loose during the fight.”
Coulter favors 15 lb McCoy (or any 15 lb mono). He knows that others use 20 lb test. “The castability of 15 is great and there’s just not a lot of trouble with fish breaking off since you have them on such a light rod,” Brandon explained.
Once Coulter has walked the Pop-R out into the open past the edge of cover where most others normally start fishing a popper, Coulter reels in to flip again. He always looks for a follower before he reels in, and even if he doesn’t see a lurking fish, one may still be there. To trigger a strike, he’ll walk the Pop-R by making it more aggressive, twitch it hard just a single step, and that usually gets a reaction. If not, Coulter reels in and flips back into tight cover where others may only consider flipping a jig.
Make a New Year’s resolution to get a vintage P70 Pop-R somewhere somehow, and practice flipping it into nasty cover so you’ll be ready and waiting when late spawn comes to town. That’s prime time to open up a can of old Pop-R whoop bass.
– Originally posted at www.fishpaa.com/2013/12/dont-open-until-post-spawn/