There are Ford guys and Chevy fanatics, and there are folks who prefer Coke and others who are diehard Pepsi drinkers.
Are you “lovin’ it” at McDonald’s, or do you prefer to “have it your way” at Burger King?
Fans strongly support their favorites without much gray area — and the same can be said for popping corks.
Whether you select a beefy, cone-shaped model outfitted with beads and washers that calls specks in like a dinner bell or a lemon-shaped cork that redfish seem to love, allegiance among anglers is strong for their go-to choice.
“I like something that makes noise. I like a cork that you can pop hard and make a big splash with,” said Capt. Bill Lake of Bayou Guide Service in Dularge, La. “I absolutely hate fishing with those oval corks.
“I don’t like them one bit. It doesn’t make any noise whatsoever.”
Lake prefers tight-lining swimbaits and soft plastics when targeting trout, but when he uses a cork — typically in April and May and then again in October and November when the shrimp are moving near Dularge — he likes the Vudu rattling cork paired with a Vudu shrimp.
“I feel popping absolutely does attract some fish, without a doubt,” he said. “The Vudu has a good pop to it. I hardly fish anything else.”
Down in Venice, Capt. Owen Langridge of Big O Fishing Charters described himself as an old dog who has learned new popping corks tricks.
He didn’t think corks made much of a difference, but now is a believer in “big, fat corks,” especially for bull reds out of Venice, La. He described them as rounded on the bottom with a scoop on top and outfitted with titanium wire, brass beads and stainless steel washers.
“Over the years, I refused to buy them because I wasn’t going to spend that kind of money,” Langridge said, noting corks in this price range typically go for $6 to $7. “But that big, fat cork makes a deeper sound than all the rest. It’s deeper because it’s big.
“Instead of going pop-pop it goes gloop-gloop. Bull reds out of Venice feed primarily on mullet, and when they jump and come back in the water, they make a gloop-gloop sound instead of a pop-pop sound. Maybe that’s the difference.”
The Paradise Popper by Bomber, Bass Pro’s Inshore Extreme and H&H make similar models that Langridge recommends.
“I don’t think the cork makes any difference at all on regular-sized reds or speckled trout, but on bull reds over 27 inches, I definitely think it makes a difference,” he said. “I’ve gone to that big, fat cork for everything now.
“It’s the only cork in my boat.”
He actually experimented with different corks rigged with identical purple-and-chartreuse soft plastics tied off at the same distance on the same trip, and the results were eye-opening.
“We boated 21 bulls in about four hours. The two guys that were using the Paradise Popper cork caught 18 of the 21,” Langridge said. “The two guys using the old-style cork caught three. Everything else was the same.
“I never thought the cork would make such a difference.”
Despite the sticker shock, Langridge said these corks really last, especially if you’re using braided main line with a mono leader.
“If a fish breaks it off, he’ll break the leader and he won’t break that braid. So you will never lose this cork,” he said. “The manager of the local Walmart sporting goods section has been using the same cork for about four or five years.
“It’s so old and beat up it’s turned white, but he’s still catching them. If you do your homework, you can use it for the rest of your life.”
Capt. Kris Hebert of Kris Fishing Charters in Lafitte, La., is a fan of the H& Cajun Thunder cork.
“I find it attracts fish,” he said. “When you tie it using PowerPro braid on the top and mono on the bottom, you get a lot better hook set and land more fish using them.
“When you use a clip cork fishing redfish, I find it pops the line a lot more.”
Capt. Jacques Laboureur, with Jakamo South Fishing Adventures out of Shell Beach, said he prefers the smaller version of the H&H cupped cork with the titanium rod that sells for around $4 at Puglia’s.
And he said the perceived time-saving aspect of a clip-on cork isn’t always worth it.
“A lot of my guide buddies prefer the clip-on egg-shaped ones because they can change depths real quick,” Laboureur said. “But those tangle so much more that the amount of time you spend untangling lines compared to the amount of time it takes to change the length of the leader — I think I’m way ahead of the game there.”
Capt. Ryan Lambert of Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras was the only guide interviewed who said he liked both cylindrical corks and the lemon-shaped models.
“It depends on what I’m fishing and what bait they’re on,” Lambert said. “If they’re hitting live shrimp, I like a longer cork with a rattle.
“If they’re eating bigger fish, then you want that kuh-bloop, kuh-bloop with that lemon-shaped cork. That lemon shape is really, really good on redfish. There’s something about that — I don’t know what it is — but that sound really attracts them.”
Corks are especially useful near the Mississippi River in areas where saltwater and freshwater mix, he said.
“When the tide comes up, you’ll have the muddy river water and the saltwater will come underneath that river water because it’s heavier, and you’ll have dirty water on top,” Lambert said. “The bait hanging below that cork helps you stay in that strike zone in that green water better.”
So the popping cork debate rages on. Whichever model, size and color you choose, here’s hoping you see it disappear often on your next trip out.