Most southern anglers know how to use live shrimp as bait, but many also enjoy fishing with artificial lures. Is there any chance a fake shrimp could prove to be just as effective as the real thing? Your gut response may be “no way,” but check out what happens when we spent a day fishing a Savage Gear plastic shrimp under a popping cork rig—and yes, we will show you the technique we found most effective.


Ready to give it a shot? Here are 10 tips that will help you catch more fish, when you hit the mangroves with a popping cork and a plastic shrimp lure.

  1. Make your initial cast as close as possible to the mangroves. Often the fish are just a foot or two from the shore.

  2. Work the cork with a single pop, then a series of several pops, to see which action is more effective at any given time. You may get more strikes one way or the other, depending on factors like the current, light levels, and the mood of the fish.

  3. The corks have a plastic bead that slides up and down on top. When the cork rights itself after popping, the bead falls and clicks on the top of the cork—and this noise helps call in fish. So between pops, always wait for the cork to right itself and make that clicking sound.

  4. Let the cork rest for three to 10 seconds between each series of pops. Usually, this is when you’ll get hit.

  5. The moment the cork goes under, set the hook. The fish will figure out the shrimp is fake pretty quickly, so you only have a second or two to get that hook into it’s jaw.

  6. This technique works best with braid fishing line, which allows for faster hook-sets.

  7. One of the big advantages of using an artificial lure with this technique is that you don’t accidentally rip the bait off the hook when popping vigorously (a big problem, with live shrimp). However, the plastic lure can shift around on the hook. Check it between every cast, to make sure the hook’s still in the proper popping position.

  8. Different colors and patterns work better on different days, so be sure to carry a selection of plastic shrimp. When you’re not doing much catching, try changing to a different color.

  9. Use a two to four foot fluorocarbon leader beneath the popping cork. Depending on the size of the fish you’re after, 20 to 30 pound test is usually about right.

  10. Though the concave cork out-performed the round one when we were fishing, rounded popping corks do have their moments. In very calm, still waters, concave heads can cause such a commotion that they actually scare the fish. This is when you’ll want to use the rounded ones.

Written by: Lenny Rudow
With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld,, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.