Panfish

Part Two


Fine Wine Means Great Poppers!

by Randy Fratzke


The heady flavor of fine wines, a California Chardonnay or Merlot, perhaps a German Moselle, Liebfraumilch, or even a Zinfandel. The year unimportant, the color and clarity, lost with the empty bottle. The bouquet, reminiscent only of the occasion. On e common thread, a single, but unique, purpose. Keep your hand on that cork! Not a plastic stopper or a screw on top for this connoisseur of sparkling beverages! It has to have a real, 100%, Cork or it stays on the store shelf!

A snob, you say? Nay, not I! Merely a lowly angler who is, as usual, in need of raw materials and resources. From the corks of these wines come some of my finest pan fish poppers! Using a single edged razor blade or an "X-Acto" knife, a single wine cork soon becomes several smaller pieces of cork. Then using fine grade sandpaper, usually 150 to 200 grain, the pieces are smoothed, rounded and tapered into the shape of a popper. Once the shaping is completed, comes the first "water test" where the future popper in placed in a small cup of water to determine it's "heavy side". Mark the top, and slit the bottom about the way through the cork. (If you slip and cut all the way, no problem, either glue them back together or open another bottle of wine!)

Insert a popper hook into the slit at a slight angle, with the eye of the hook higher than the barbed end. Be sure to leave enough shaft between the end of the cork and the curve of the hook for the fish to find the barb, and glue, or epoxy, closed. (Note a "popper hook" is a specially made hook with a series of bends in its shank to keep the hook from turning inside the popper.

Gently, hold it together with a clothes pin, a small clamp or a rubber band until dry. Once the glue is set, use some wood filler or paste to fill in any air cell holes in the surface of the popper and let that dry. Give it a final sanding and it's ready for the finish!

Finishing these little poppers is as easy as making them. Start by sneaking into your kids room and stealing his set of enamel model paints and a disposable brush. You'll need to apply several base coats to seal the cork and get a good, smooth finish. I usually set up a production line on my table with a fish line strung across something to hang the poppers on by the hook while they dry.

I make all different colors, some with two toned top and bottoms, some solid, always a few "frog patterns". The really small ones can be made into cricket and grass hopper patterns. Don't forget big, scared looking eyes on the poppers, right at the water line. These can be painted on or "store bought" dolls eyes, or cut from mylar adhesive backed foil.

By drilling very small holes in the sides of the poppers, you can also add "feelers" or rubber legs by inserting rubber band strands (or buy "live rubber" material from a supplier) and coloring the strands with a permanent color marker.

You can tie on a few marabou feathers to the hook shank, or use some stout hackle feathers that have been knotted for leg joints for bendable" legs. The shapes, designs, colors, and patterns are really endless. And the cost......the expense of the bottle of wine you enjoyed with the good company of friends!

So remember, when you're at a formal restaurant and the wine steward asks if you'd like to sniff the cork, be very discerning, perhaps the bottle was from an "off year", or just a bad vineyard, you may have to have him open several bottles before the bouquet is right for your palate. After all, when your selecting the wine for the dinner, more than your reputation is on the line; there may also be a nice fish at stake in the future of that bottle!

Randy Fratzke

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