Let’s Look Back – Tackle Industry Friends Part 3

As you can see in this picture, that Hula Popper I threw into a hole back in pad cover minutes ago is still fishin' all by itself.  If you've taken good care of its Hula Skirt your lure is going to do the same thing the one in this picture is doing.  Don't lay your rod aside no matter how long the lure has been out there.  You just never know when the water might explode.  Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

As you can see in this picture, that Hula Popper I threw into a hole back in pad cover minutes ago is still fishin’ all by itself. If you’ve taken good care of its Hula Skirt your lure is going to do the same thing the one in this picture is doing. Don’t lay your rod aside no matter how long the lure has been out there. You just never know when the water might explode. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I doubt anybody knows quite as much about specific bass baits as the guys who come up with them in the first place.

In last month’s column I mentioned having had the chance down through the years of getting to know personally some of the nation’s leading lure makers. I’ve always felt pretty darn lucky to have had that opportunity.

I also mentioned that one of the guys I’d always wished I could have met, but didn’t, was Fred Arbogast. Fred, of course, was the guy who gave us lures ranging from the family of Hawaiian Wigglers to familiar surface baits like the wondrous old Jitterbugs and Hula Poppers.

I didn’t get to connect with Fred because he had almost come and gone before I wrote my first piece about bass. Now I’ve been around what sometimes seems almost since the fall of the Roman Empire. Actually, I entered the scene away back in 1923 but Fred, an expert bait caster besides heading up a terrific lure company, was already a national bait casting champion in 1922, 1923 and 1924. He passed away in 1947.

I’ve also mentioned that while I hadn’t managed to personally meet the creator of the Arbogast bait family I did get to know and even do a little promotional work for the second owner of the same company. That good guy, as I’ve also already detailed, was a fellow named Dick Kotis.

There’s another aspect to all this that I haven’t mentioned. Once I got acquainted with Kotis I also had a chance to ask questions and get ideas from some of the guys who were actually at work putting certain of the Arbogast lures together.

One such individual was a fellow named Toby Shopper. I’m not certain exactly what Toby did with and for Arbogast. I do know it was a couple of ideas he provided me with that served to make me even fonder of throwing a lure that I’d already fallen deeply in love with. That lure was the Hula Popper.

From what I observed in more than three decades of covering professional bass tournaments all over the country, my beloved old Hula Poppers never did get the attention I thought they deserved. The stuff those pros were throwing was most often the latest and most publicized. And if those brand new creations didn’t immediately get action they went back in the box and the pro went tearing off to another part of the lake like his tail was on fire.

You’re not usually going to make that pay off with those beautiful old Hula Poppers the Arbogast Company provided. What I kept hearing from the people who produced it was the lure simply can’t be fished slowly enough,

Toby Shopper provided me with a couple of Hula Popper ideas that I’ve been using ever since. They permit me to fish the lure in cover that I’d been passing up early on. They’ve also let me do a better job of hooking the bass that I get to hit.

I fell in love with the Hula Poppers early on.  This picture shows a much younger Stan holding one of the reasons why I feel as I do about them.  Also note the rods in this picture that are all rigged with early day Ambassadeur 5000 reels.  The reels shown were among the first brought into the Pacific Northwest away back in 1951.  I did demonstration casting with them for the first time at the annual outdoor show at the old Pan Pacific Aditorium in Los Angeles in April of 1952.  Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I fell in love with the Hula Poppers early on. This picture shows a much younger Stan holding one of the reasons why I feel as I do about them. Also note the rods in this picture that are all rigged with early day Ambassadeur 5000 reels. The reels shown were among the first brought into the Pacific Northwest away back in 1951. I did demonstration casting with them for the first time at the annual outdoor show at the old Pan Pacific Aditorium in Los Angeles in April of 1952. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

The primary change Toby made in a Hula Popper he sent me once was in the hooks. He removed the rear treble hook you’ll find on the standard lure with a larger sized double hook. The double hook was attached so the points rode upright. There was no third hook point pointing down and in the best possible position to hook anything that might be in its path.

Shopper had also clipped off the one point of the treble hook that was located on the forward belly of the lure. Once again this hook was installed so it’s two barbs pointed up. As the lure was maneuvered the water pressure tended to cause the two forward hook points to snug up against the belly of the bait. Like the big double hook on the rear, that helped it avoid the constant snag-ups so common with trebles in and around heavy cover.

Another point Toby kept emphasizing was to always pay very close attention to the lure’s Hula Skirt. He said keeping that skirt in good condition was absolutely essential. He urged me to make darn sure that the thin rubber strips that made up the skirt hadn’t all dried out or were sticking together. My own extensive experience with the lure since I’ve been following his advice proved him to be dead right.

What never does seem to sink in, especially where some of my good friends in the pro ranks are concerned is that those doggone little Hula Poppers with fresh skirts are “fishing” even when they’ve been just setting out there in a hole in the cover far longer than most of us can stand it.

It’s doing so because the ends of those little Hula Skirt strands are curling and twisting just from the slightest water movement. Ain’t no self respecting bass gonna sit still for that all afternoon.

If you’ve never done it before, check the condition of your Popper’s skirt and drop it into the water alongside your boat. Observe what it does with or without movement.

I remember reading ages ago in one of the very early books on bass fishing about an experience the book’s author detailed regarding an experience a guy with a Hula Popper had where time is concerned. It came while this angler was throwing a Hula Popper into the waters of an abandoned coal mine pit that held a population of largemouth bass.

That tale might have been in the early book Robert Page Lincoln did on bass but I’m not sure of that. At any rate, what this guy did was cast his Popper to cover and just leave it alone. He had checked his watch when his lure hit the water.

If my memory isn’t playing tricks on me, the story told how about 15 minutes or so later a bass that weighed 13-pounds came boiling up from the water of that abandoned mine to just knock the living hell out of that beautiful old Arbogast bait.

Do you remember that I said Dick Kotis, the second owner of Arbogast lures, told me about successfully fishing a Hula Popper? I detailed it in last month’s column. Kotis travelled all over the country fishing with anglers who were using his company’s lures.

“Stan,” Dick told me, “the most successful angler I ever watched throw a Hula Popper was a guy from Tennessee. He fished that thing so darn slow I couldn’t stand to be in the boat with him.”

Now you’re not gonna start taking 5 to 15 minutes between casts if you decide to throw a Hula Popper and I’m not either. But by golly I’ve had some unusual experiences following the guidelines both Kotis and Toby Shopper provided where that lure is concerned.

Watch for next month’s column. I’ll detail a couple of them for you. Could be they’ll surprise you as much as they did me.

-To Be Continued-

  • Andy Williamson

    Thanks, Stan. I have often thought, years ago when certain people/lawmakers were trying to outlaw the depthfinder, if they REALLY wanted to “save the fish” they should have tried to outlaw the rubber skirt/hula skirt.
    I also like to listen to Dick Kotis explain tips and tactics on a old, small, yellow floppy record I have.