Pencil Poppers

An angler shows a speckled trout hooked and landed on a Pencil Popper.

A Jacksonville, Fla., fisherman has been smiling ear to ear ever since Cotton Cordell Lures downsized one of his favorite artificial lures for speckled trout: the Pencil Popper.

“They always had a real big one. It was fine for tarpon or big (jack crevalle), but a little too big for trout and redfish,” Chris Holleman said.

Holleman was talking about the 7-inch Pencil Popper, a 2-ounce topwater known, at least in and around Florida, for putting fish in the boat. Ditto for the 1-ounce, 6-inch model.

Holleman, a Cotton Cordell pro staffer, had clamored for years for an even smaller model and got it when the artificial lure manufacturer recently introduced the C64, a 4½-inch, ¾-ounce Pencil Popper. It’s been game-on ever since and bad news for speckled trout, redfish, stripers, bass, musky and especially snook.

“Snook require a more durable lure like this one. It’s likely to become a favorite among snook enthusiasts,” Holleman said.

Make long casts

There are multiple reasons for its success, he said.

“Basically, in my opinion, it’s the longest-casting, topwater walk-the-dog style lure that there is. It’s very well-balanced. It seems to pick out the big trout in the bunch,” Holleman said.

How does he know? Holleman, 48, is a 13-year veteran game warden for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission who also guides part-time and loves to throw the smaller, silver/black back Pencil Popper into mullet milling on the surface along the St. John’s River, the Intracoastal Waterway and all of its tributaries.

Fishermen now have three sizes of Pencil Poppers to choose from (top to bottom): 41/2, 6 and 7 inches.

“Typically, where I throw it is in the middle of schools of mullets already getting crashed by trout,” he said. “Fish seem to pick that out among all those mullet. Oh, yeah.”

Pencil Poppers are notoriously effective as walk-the-dog-type topwaters. They have something else going for them, too, he points out, noting that the concave mouth catches and throws water to create a disturbance on the surface.


“We can walk, it but it also has a concave head and pops, too,” Holleman said.

Pencil Poppers sport solid hardware, including black nickel No. 2 treble hooks and strong split-rings. Tarpon are known to straighten hooks and split-rings on some walk-the-dog topwaters, but not the Pencil Popper, he said.

For sure, it’s a go-to artificial lure for Holleman, who specializes in light-tackle inshore fishing trips for his Blue Cyclone Inland Charters.

“I particularly like to throw it over the top of oyster mounds as the tide is falling, right before they uncover, and then right when they first cover up (on a rising tide). Then, we have a lot of marsh grass islands to fish. It also works well around spoil outlets,” he said.

His favorite time to coax speckled trout into biting it is early in the morning or as the sun goes down and, he said, at night, when he catches bigger trout around spoil islands and other structure.

“I do a lot of night fishing. They’re going to find that lure,” he said.

Pencil Poppers have given Holleman and others plenty of thrills. He used to throw a bone Zara Spook religiously until he got his hands on the Pencil Poppers.

The 41/2-inch Pencil Poppers apparently are gaining more and more popularity along the Florida coast.

More than a trout lure

“They’ve always been well known for striped bass fishing. Now that we’ve got one, I’m sure the word will get out,” he said.

“It’s a great lure if you get into big jack crevalle. It’s sturdy, and it holds up.”

For more information on the C64 Pencil Popper and other Cotton Cordell Lures, visit

About Don Shoopman 534 Articles
Don Shoopman fishes for freshwater and saltwater species mostly in and around the Atchafalaya Basin and Vermilion Bay. He moved to the Sportsman’s Paradise in 1976, and he and his wife June live in New Iberia. They have two grown sons.