How To:

Popping Cork Rigs

Author: Bullbuster Team

Thinking Of Using A Popping Cork Rig?

Photo by #BullbusterAmbassador Outcast Sportfishing

If you’re serious about catching redfish, speckled trout, tarpon, and snook you need to be using popping cork rigs. These rigs have stood the test of time, and though they seem relatively simple—they have their place in every serious anglers toolbox because they are very effective when used properly. 

What is a Popping Cork Rig?

Popping cork rigs are pretty much exactly what they sound like—they are made of cork that is cupped at one end to create chugging and popping sounds that imitates the sounds baitfish, crab, and shrimp make. The sound the popping cork creates lures hungry predator fish to strike.

Popping cork rigs are usually set up with a float made of either cork, styrofoam, or plastic measuring about 2” to 6” in length.

What Makes Them So Effective?

Popping cork rigs work because the cupped float produces the chugging and popping sounds while causing a commotion in the water. This noise simulates baitfish that are surface feeding so hungry predatar fish are likely to come and investigate. When they see the bait hanging below the cork they are likely to strike.

The rig is also very easy to use which makes them great for beginners.

What You Need for the Rig

  • Popping Cork

  • Leader (fluorocarbon leader works well)

  • Braided main line 

  • Jig Head (1/16 ounce) or #2 circle hooks for live bait

  • Bait (can be artificial or live bait)

Choosing a Popping Cork

Popping corks are available in a huge number of shapes, sizes, and colors. 

The size of the popping cork has to match the size with the weight of your lure or bait. The popping cork has to be big enough that your bait still stays floating.

Weighted corks are better when you have to cast longer distances. But unweighted have the benefit of settling faster so you can begin your retrieve. 

The best color will depend on where you are fishing. More neutral colors like green, white, or black tend to be good for clear waters. Some anglers prefer brighter colored popping corks because they are much easier to see, so you can work your lure better. If you’re fishing with others and you are all using popping corks, many people choose to use different colored ones for each angler so they don’t get their lines confused.

How to Setup the Rig

One of the most important things with setting up any fishing rig is to match your gear to the fish you’re after and for where you are fishing.

If you’re fishing where there are smaller fish, you can get away with a lighter 15lb leader. But if you’re looking to land big fish you may want to go with something as high as 30lb so they don’t cut through the line easily.  

Leader length is also important. If you’re fishing shallow areas you can get away with 15 to 18 inches of leader. But for deeper waters you will need 3 to 4 feet of leader. Just don’t go too long or it will be difficult to cast.

To set up the rig properly your main line needs to be tied to the top of the popping cork. The top is the side that isn’t weighted. We recommend using a palomar knot to attach your main line to the cork.

The weighted side of the popping cork is where you attach your leader. A trilene knot is sufficient for attaching the leader. 

When you tie the end of your leader to your jig head, tie the knot extra tight so that the jig head sits a little horizontal. This will help your bait appear to fall naturally and entice more fish to strike. 

What Bait To Use

The popping cork rig works great with artificial lures, live bait, or dead bait. Common artificials to use with this rig are Berkley gulp or soft plastic shrimps.

If you’re going to use live or dead bait, shrimp, sardines, mehanden, muller, or other small baitfish work well. 

Where to Cast the Rig

Popping cork rigs work best in calmer waters but can also be effective on windy days as well. They shine in dirty waters to attract fish with the popping sounds when vision is limited. 

You can use them around grassy flats, channel edges, sandbars, shell bars, creek mouths, around docks and piers and more. The versatility of the rig is one of the things that makes it so powerful because it can be used effectively in a variety of situations. 

Casting the Popping Cork Rig

One of the biggest problems beginners have with casting this rig is that the line tends to wrap around the cork if you’re casting it like you traditionally cast artificial lures. Avoid short snapping overhead casts with this rig or you’ll end up with a tangled line. The key is to keep the rod tip low and swing out to your side casting it similar to how you would hit with a baseball bat.

Retrieving the Rig

The best retrieval method ultimately depends on where you are fishing. The most common ways to retrieve it are: a fast retrieve, twitching retrieve, or drifting.

If you’re going for a fast retrieve you will just cast it out and retrieve it similar to how you retrieve a topwater lure. 

If you’re doing a twitching retrieve, cast it and let it sit for a few seconds, or up to a minute and begin your retrieving.

You can also drift this rig out behind you and let the waves create the popping. Just make sure you are going slowly if you want to drift this rig. 


Popping cork rigs are incredibly simple to set up and use. They work great for inshore fishing species like redfish, speckled trout, tarpon and snook. They can also be used effectively year round, which is why you need to start using them now. 

If you’re new to fishing and look for more basic fishing tips check out these resources:

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