One of the funnest ways to fish for bass, bluegill, & other warm water fish is on top with a popper. Unlike a dry fly, where you want your presentation to be drag-free, the key to a popper's success is the motion you give it. As their name implies, you need to give them a "pop" on the water to attract the fish from both the noise & the movement.
There are many ways to fish a popper & you should experiment. Different retrieves on different days in different places will work at different times. How's that for a definitive statement?!!?...but it's true. There are some general guidelines to go by when fishing poppers but you'll have to let the fish decide what they want on any given day. That's what makes it so fun & challenging. Just like trout fishing, you have a mystery to solve if you want to consistently tie into good smallmouth bass & other warm water fish.
Below is a short video showing you how to do a couple types of retrieves with the poppers. Fishing with poppers is more intricate than just tossing it out there & ripping it back in. There's reasons for what good popper anglers do. Just a few points:
1.) There are many different types of poppers: cupped face, flat faced, bullet shaped, etc. Each one will move on & through the water differently & there's a time & place to use each one. Plus, how you hold the rod, where you use each one, etc will all be different. You don't fish a flat faced popper the same way you would a bullet shaped one.
For example, in the video the presenter is using a frog popper, but that doesn't look like frog water to me. I'm sure he would have gone into that had he had the time & his focus was on the retrieve anyway, but it goes to my point that popper fishing isn't just mindless fishing.
2.) As a general rule, the deeper the water, the louder the "pop" needs to be....but not always. Sometimes you need a slow retrieve, other times you need a quick & loud one. It all depends on the conditions.
3.) The key to popper fishing, just as in all fly fishing, is to imitate a living source of food for the fish. Sure, you might catch a few fish by just chucking your popper out there & popping it, but careful selection of the popper, choosing the right approach, & forming a plan before you cast - just as in trout fishing - will lead to catching warm water fish more consistently.