Sac-a-lait fishermen are singing their praises
Got a Poppa Chop?
If so, chances are you are using the fine-hair jig and catching sac-a-lait on the creation Paul “Chopper” Viator and his wife Angela make at their home in Delcambre.
Each jig is hand-poured, hand-tied with cow hair and packaged two to a small, clear plastic sleeve. There are 161 different color combinations, Angela says about the artificial lure that has been a real go-getter in Southcentral Louisiana.
Bill McCarty of Morgan City, a St. Mary Parish School Board member and avid angler who provides fishing reports each month for the Louisiana Sportsman, has been touting Poppa Chops for sac-a-lait fishing success in each edition for months.
“Itâ€™s a great bait. You will be impressed,” McCarty said.
At the time, he was catching sac-a-lait on blue/white Poppa Chops in and around the Atchafalaya Basin.
“Iâ€™ve been using them for a couple of years,” McCarty said. “A buddy of mine put me on to them. Those Poppa Chops work so much better â€” so much more lifelike in the water.”
Besides Paulâ€™s friends who order them, Poppa Chops are sold only at two sites: Ivyâ€™s Tackle Box in Morgan City and Gayleâ€™s Texaco in Maurice.
“We started doing this quite a few years ago as a hobby,” the 58-year-old Angela said. “We started making them for friends and family. Itâ€™s all we can do to keep up with two stores and keep up with friends and family. A lot of people say, â€˜Why donâ€™t you expand?â€™ Itâ€™s time-consuming.”
“I really was not planning on making the jig to sell them,” Paul said, noting he knows about 100 diehard sac-a-lait fishermen who swear by them and use them exclusively. “Itâ€™s kind of exciting.”
Angela said the original mold they made makes the difference in catching fish because the jigs are different from other sac-a-lait jigs. That and painstaking work with each individual hair jig.
“He prepares the little head on the hook. Iâ€™m the painter,” Angela said. “I paint no less than 300 at a time. I have them ready when he gets home.”
Paul, 56, said he can tie between 20 and 25 of his hair jigs an hour on his special leadhead, which brandishes a quality hook.
“I wonâ€™t (shortchange) a jig,” he vowed.
Each Poppa Chop is intricately designed, tied and painted, as youâ€™ll notice as you tie one on to the business end of your fishing line. Each one weighs about 1/32-ounce, although Paul wonâ€™t divulge the exact weight.
Paul, a diesel mechanic by trade, said he likes to fish for sac-a-lait in the Atchafalaya Basin from the Duck Lake area to West Fork to the Grand Lake area, including the Checkerboard. Sac-a-lait and other panfish in the nationâ€™s last great overflow swamp gobble up Poppa Chops.
“I think itâ€™s the way they fall,” Angela said. I really think itâ€™s the way we make the mold. It falls just right for this area, the Basin. I think it has something to do with that.”
The inspiration for the Poppa Chops traces back many years to the days Paul worked as a diesel mechanic for Gulf Coast Premix, whose owner also owned Dependable Dodge on U.S. 90. The man who delivered fittings to GCP, he recalled, was the son of Red Fowler, who made the highly popular hand-tied Red Fowler Jigs in Texas.
Thatâ€™s when Paul began getting lessons on hand-tying hair jigs for sac-a-lait.
After a while, Red Fowler Jigs got harder and harder to find, he said.
“A lot of people couldnâ€™t get ahold of those jigs. We couldnâ€™t get them any more,” Paul said.
Soon the niche was filled by the late Irwin Bouley of Lafayette, who Paul reverently refers to to this day as Mr. Irwin. After Paul met up with him, the rest is history.
“Thatâ€™s who he (Paul) learned from,” Angela said. “He loves tying those jigs. He really enjoys making them. Heâ€™s been fishing a long time.
“They do work real good. If I can catch fish (on them), anybody can.”
The veteran outdoorsman from Delcambre, who also hunts, would watch Bouley tie hair jig after hair jig for hours at the craftsmanâ€™s home in Lafayette. The key, he learned, was to get the weight of the leadhead right so it would fall slowly, thus tantalizing sac-a-lait whether hungry or not.
Paul and several of his close friends used Stumpy Bayou Jigs. About four or five years ago, Paul decided to try his hand at making a hair jig.
He said Donald Gaspard of Abbeville helped him experiment with molds that would turn out a leadhead that allowed a hair jig to fall slowly like the Stumpy Bayou Jig. Gaspard, who has a sac-a-lait in the Top 10 of the Louisiana Outdoor Writers State Records, used Stumpy Bayou Jigs before eventually getting his hands on Poppa Chops.
“He helped me make a jig like Mr. Irwin,” Paul said of Gaspard. “I wanted to fish with a quality jig just like Red Fowler and Irwin.”
Gaspard, a 62-year-old Halliburton employee in Berwick, said he caught his Top 10 fish, a 3.05-pound sac-a-lait, on a Stumpy Bayou Jig in April 2005 while fishing in Lake Verret near Morgan City. On the plaque with the mounted fish is the inscription, below his name, weight of the fish, date it was caught and where it was caught: “In memory of Irwin Bouley.”
“The jig that Chopper has is similar to Irwinâ€™s jig,” Gaspard said. “They (Viators) have the best jig on the market. I fished with all of them. You canâ€™t beat Poppa Chop Jigs. They last a lot longer. The paint donâ€™t come off. They put three coats of paint on them.”
For more information on Poppa Chops, call the Viators at 337-321-1525 or 337-523-0110.
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