Most bass anglers know that bass are opportunistic feeders. Almost anything that can fit in their mouth, whether it swims, crawls, slithers, hops, or flies, chances are it’s on the menu for aggressive bass.
Big bass have big appetites, but they will not typically chase prey down for long distances.
With this in mind, most lures on the market today focus on two primary food sources for bass: shad and other forage fish or crawfish and worms. Our ability to imitate food sources bass eat will increase our opportunities to catch more fish, especially when the bass are not concentrating on shad or crawfish.
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Forage species other than shad and crawfish are found with far more frequency along the shoreline than in open or deep water. Some of these species can include frogs, snakes, birds, dragonflies, mice, rats, muskrats, and baby ducks, all of which a largemouth will try to devour.
These species are aware of the danger of getting too close to open, predator infested water and will stay where they consider themselves safe: in the cover along the shoreline, in overhanging vegetation, and on top of thick mats of grass.
Our challenge is to get a lure into the types of cover these food sources inhabit without snagging every branch and stem of grass. Depending on which part of the country you’re from, this class of baits is known as rats, frogs, mice, and toads, among others. For simplicity, we’ll just call them frogs.
The hollow body frog bait has evolved tremendously over the past decade. Some have realistic legs, while others have strands of rubber that imitate legs. Some have props, while others have paddle-type legs. Whatever type you decide to throw, there are a couple things you need to know before tossing one into the water.
Certain types of frogs were designed for certain applications. The two most common types of hollow body frogs are the “walking” type and the “popping”.
Walking frogs like the Spro Bronzeye and Koppers Live Target, are two excellent choices. These frogs are known fish catchers and I have done extremely well with both brands. The Spro Bronzeye and LiveTarget frog have realistic color patterns to match just about any type of forage base as well as numerous frog patterns.
Hollow body frogs really shine when you can “walk” them back and forth. You achieve this action by adding sequences of twitches and reel turns. It takes practice, but once you master the art of “walking” a bait, you will catch more fish.
A known secret to get your frog to walk better is to trim one leg of the frog shorter than the other. Cut the leg at a slight angle and trim any excess strands. You now have a perfect walking frog ready for battle.
Since most of your frog’s lay and wait motionless along the shoreline, that is where you want to be throwing your frog. When fishing a pond or lake that has readily available vegetation and too thick for other lures, look no further than the hollow belly. Cast your frog up on to the bank and work it back to the boat.
When you encounter mats or vegetation, try making your frog smack down onto the mat by tossing it up a little higher than usual. This will make your frog appear on the mat like it just jumped from shore into the lake. This drives bass wild! I’ve witnessed bass taking frogs this way in nature and it has happened to me many times. So try it out next time your around thick, mucked, mats.
If the cover is sparse, a walking type frog will be my first choice with series of twitches and pauses, allowing the bass to come key in on your frog’s location above them. Once the frog moves past the cover or weed edge, you can reel up your frog and make another cast.
When the frog bite is hot, you may walk your frog all the way back to the boat and catch fish. Other times you’ll have to tease them out of the thick stuff!
On the other hand, if you have really “cheesy” mats of vegetation, the kind you could pull apart and wonder how they would hit a bait from underneath, you’ll want to spend some time making multiple casts on these, figuring out where the bass are hiding.
I have had considerable success with throwing my frog up high and allowing it to crash down on the mat, letting bass underneath know its time to eat. Sometimes bass will explode on your frog without ever moving it, other times, you’ll need to work for them.
Hooksets on frogs are the trickiest for people to master. Sometimes a bass wont engulf your frog all the way, they will smack at it to see what it is. Other times they will completely take your frog from you and its time to swing for the fences. You MUST wait though. The biggest mistake I notice people making is setting the hook too soon.
Instead, try your best to give the bass a two-second pause before slamming back on him. If you jerk too fast, you will probably take the frog right out of his mouth.
Color selection isn’t too difficult with frogs, since you’re only trying to imitate one thing. On brighter days with clearer water, I’ll choose a white frog or something with green patterns. On darker days, I opt for a black or brown frog to let the bass key in on the silhouette better. Just keep it simple.
So you want to fish a frog but there is subtle chop to the water? Look no further than a popping frog.
Designed just like the original Heddon Pop-R, the popping frog is a newer model that allows bass fisherman to still fish a frog in the wind, when a traditional walking type frog wont get bit.
These baits have a cupped mouth where the line-tie sits and offers the bait great noise action like a popper.
The Spro Bronzeye Popping frog is an excellent choice. This frog comes with super strong hooks, which is important when frog fishing. The mouth on this frog is perfectly cupped to allow chugging, popping, and walking applications.
Whatever brand you choose in the popping frog realm, you will find that the popping model gets more bites when the wind comes out to play. The bait simply moves more water, allowing bass to find it easier.
The Right Gear Matters
Whatever frog style you choose to use out on the water, you MUST have the right gear for this style of fishing. You will get burned more times then not if you do not have adequate gear. You wouldn’t take a knife to a gunfight, so think of it that way when frog fishing.
Since frogging is usually done around the heaviest, nastiest, cover available on the lake/pond, your line selection should be braid. Start with a minimum of 50-pound braid, I like to use PowerPro. I find this brand very reliable and strong. I have only broken off a frog fish once due to knot failure. This line has zero stretch, and that’s what you want.
When you hook a fish that buries underneath a mat, you’ll want that extra power to be able to turn the fish before it buries you too far underneath the mat, and slice through the vegetation to get the fish out.
If you’re still frog fishing with a medium-weighted rod, you can probably get away with it in open water, but once the fish move into the heavy stuff, its time to beef up. I recommend a heavy or extra-heavy weighted rod.
You’ll want one light enough that it won’t wreck your wrist after three hours of walking a frog and has a very soft tip, which allows you to make very accurate, long, casts. Having a rod with plenty backbone will save you many heartaches and lost fish.
Bass pro Chad Morgenthaler offers tips for catching shallow bass around vegetation.
Lastly, you’ll want a high-speed ratio reel. Frog fishing is not for the slow paced. You need to be making tons and tons of casts, sometimes picking up a lot of line. That’s where the high speed reel comes in.
Having a high speed reel will enable you pick up slack line quick after a bass nails the frog and catch up to him to turn his head before diving deep into the weeds.
More likely than not, they will bury you and you’ll need a heavy rod and the correct line to even get them out.
If you can get the right equipment, get it. You wont be disappointed. Frog fishing is an absolute blast. Seeing a bass “wake” underneath a frog is probably one of the coolest things you’ll see in bass fishing, the other is the bass blowing up on it!
Just remember the proper setup to use, and give them a two second pause. Hold on!
Until next time, tight lines!
Note: This article was originally published in October 2015 in Game & Fish magazines. Click here to subscribe