hey, thanks for the tips and advice. I just got a new rod/reel combo 5wt tonight which I need to try out.
I used to use a cheap martin 5wt with the old poppers and then slapped together an 8wt ebay special that is probably too heavy. Hopefully I can relearn how to pop and catch some fish again. ha I still like catching bass on clousers/buggers but nothing beats the top water poppers for me.
navy- I usually pop with rod tip itself with a gentle pull and try to keep the rod lower to prevent pulling the popper out of the water.
jim- some of the betts poppers I have do have too much paint but I don't think I have even tried them yet figuring they'd just dive. the tip of my line has been sinking pretty bad on my 8wt and a little on my cheap 5wt, but once it does I usually give up trying to pop anything.
these south bend famous poppers are the closest I can find that are like the ones I had success with.
dit- I do use fluoro now but its a pretty short piece and I had same problem with mono. I'm guessing now material was what made the difference. I thought those were balsa or other light soft wood but I couldn't say unless the cork is different from whats used in a rod handle. I agree with scaring them as I see it happen when I do manage to pop them now, before it just seemed so easy and gentle.
pisc- the old ones I had seem like you describe and looked really rough. they also had a large hook relative to I see on most of them now although the south bend poppers aren't tiny.