We all have fond childhood memories of using a cork or bobber, watching it bounce a little then go down. It is probably most angler's first memory of catching the fishing bug.
When I first started fishing, bait was always the ticket. I remember looking at plastics and wondering what would eat this piece of plastic. When I started kayak fishing, I took pretty much the same bank, boat and shore knowledge and attitude with me. I loved fishing with a cork and live shrimp. The kayak got me to where the fish were and I'd throw out my pet shrimp on a cork and let him do his thing.
As I grew as an angler, I really wanted to learn to fish artificial lures. To learn, I joined “artificial only" redfish tournaments in Texas. After a few tournaments and hearing the guys speak at the weigh-in, it turned out that the go-to set up was Gulp! and a popping cork. I was really confused. I wondered how that all worked. Normally I would just throw my live shrimp out and again my live shrimp would do all the work. The cork just keep him suspended.
The combo of a popping cork and artificial works a bit differently than a cork with live shrimp. When "cork popping" with live shrimp, I was alway a little hesitant to pop the cork too hard and lose my expensive live shrimp.
When "cork popping" with Gulp! or artificials, you have to pop the crap out of it. The popping actually imitates game fish feeding. If you do sporadic pops and consciously try to imitate fish feeding, it sounds a bit like this:
Fast pop pop, pause, fast pop pop pop, long pause, pop. You vary the pops and vary the pauses.
This attracts the fish and keeps the artificial moving, popping up and then sinking down. Underwater, it acts like a nervous bait that is fleeing from a predator. If a predator is around, the combination is often irresistible and triggers a reactionary strike.
If you are using Gulp! or adding an oil scent to the artificial -- well, it’s a triple whammy with movement, noise and smell to seal the deal.
In muddy waters, the predatory fish can't rely on vision alone, the cork hits their other senses: sound, smell and vibrations. In the muddy marsh waters in Texas and Louisiana, I always have a popping cork, a 20-pound flourocarbon leader cut to the appropriate depth and a jighead with a Gulp!. I adjust the length of the leader and the weight of the jig head based on speed of the current and the depth.
In this short video I clip I was fishing out in Louisiana. I catch a nice bull popping the cork in the second (and last) sequence. Watch the rod tip right before the hookup and you can see how you get the popping action. Notice you have to wind down fast to get out the slack and set the hook once the cork disappears.
Talk about disappearing. The clip starts off with about the quickest bite you could ever get. I was drifting into some reeds, planning to work the cork parallel to the reed line. As I was about to cast, I heard a rustling in the reeds directly in front of me. I thought it was a small gator but I didn't see anything. I immediately pitched it where I heard the noise. The Gulp! got picked up on the fall and I caught my dinner!