Perhaps the most exciting way to catch stripers & bluefish when fishing with lures is using a popper. Poppers come in many sizes and shapes. They are usually made of hard plastic or wood. What they all have in common is a flat or blunt front that is designed to make noise and throw water when retrieved along the surface. Utilizing this attribute is essential for them to be successful.
Poppers should be used anytime except in the dark of night when other surface lures such as Danny-type surface swimmers are more appropriate. Usually poppers are fished with a moderately fast retrieve, with rod tip held high. This will keep a popper moving along the surface at a variable rate, which is essential for it to be effective (most of the time). The standard retrieve involves using a snapping motion with the rod while retrieving at a steady pace. Always keeping a tight line to the lure is very important, otherwise a fish my hit when slack is in the line and not be hooked. The more splashing and surface commotion from the lure, the better.
Sometimes an aggressive “pop-and-stop” with a few seconds between pops can be very effective, especially when the stripers are being finicky and rising to the lure but missing it. Poppers cast around tightly packed schools of baitfish such as menhaden (pogies or bunker) or mackerel can be absolutely deadly.
It’s important to wait until you feel the weight of the fish when it hits before setting the hook. Rearing back and trying to set the hook at the instant a fish crashes the bait can be maddeningly ineffective. Using a no-stretch braided line helps in this versus monofilament, which stretches and may make hook setting very difficult, especially at the end of a long cast.
Poppers are also great to use in windy conditions, versus lighter swimming plugs because their mass and weight tends to counteract the force of the wind.
Poppers from various manufacturers sink at different rates so be sure to begin your retrieve as soon as the lure hits the water unless you know the popper you’re using will float. If that is the case another technique borrowed from freshwater bass fishermen can be extremely productive. After the lure hits the water, let it settle for ten seconds or so, then give it a forceful pop; repeat, next time with a shorter amount of time before the pop. Then begin a steady popping retrieve. This will almost always get a fish that has approached when it hears the initial pop-and-stop to commit to crashing the lure with almost shocking violence.