March 02, 2017
While tossing traditional treble-hook topwater bait can be frustrating when a lake’s waterline is backing its way into shoreline willows and grass, a hollow-bodied plastic frog is tailor made for such a situation.
During spring of 2015, as record floods inundated my region of the country thanks to El Nino, I happened upon an early-morning spot I just knew a bucketmouth bass had to be lurking.
Problem was, there was no way to get my usual array of a Pop-R, a Zara Spook, a buzzbait or a spinnerbait back in there.
But when I tied on a black and red Booyah Pad Crasher frog, a 4.5-pound bass nailed the plastic version of Kermit almost as soon as it hit the little pocket sitting back in the newly flooded vegetation.
As I wrestled the bass in, I grinned big as I lifted the fish out of the water and thought that most people weren’t even awake yet after falling asleep to a night of storms and rainfall beating on the roof.
Veteran California bass angling pro Ish Monroe is himself a big fan of tossing a frog into vegetation-choked water during the early mornings of late spring.
In fact, so adept is Monroe at the tactic, after years of fishing his trademark Snag Proof Ish’s Phat Frog and Ish’s Poppin’ Fattie Frog on the tide-influenced California Delta, he has used frog fishing to become highly successful back east on the sport’s three main circuits (Bassmaster Elite Series, FLW Tour and Major League Fishing).
But while early morning is a prime time for late-spring frogging, Monroe told me in a previous conversation it’s a mistake to put the frog away after the early bite has come and gone.
“Most guys put it down too soon,” said Monroe. “As soon as that sun gets up, they put it down.
“Sometimes, the best bite times of the day (on a frog) are on up in the day.”
Monroe pointed to his experience at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic a couple of springs ago on Lake Fork in East Texas.
In that particular event, Monroe found his best success on a frog later in the day during the 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. time frame.
“You’re not going to get a lot of bites at that time, but the bites that you do get are usually the biggest ones,” grinned Monroe, who has landed double-digit bass on the frog.
“It’s the heat of the day and they’re usually under the thickest part of the mats (and vegetation) and throwing that Phat Frog over the top of that stuff is usually when you catch the big ones.”
What about frog colors? For late spring, Monroe opts for either a Papa Midnight black frog, a Da Man white frog or a Sexy Ish that is somewhere in between.
If you’d like one more option, Monroe suggests something that might resemble a bluegill, which are typically spawning in late spring and drawing the attention of hungry bass.
What about tackle selections for Monroe’s frog fishing? Day in and day out, Ish is fishing with frogs using a 7.3:1 Daiwa baitcasting reel, a 7-foot, 4-inch extra-heavy Daiwa frog rod and 65-pound braid.
While frog fishing is one way to catch a late spring fish in high, stained water, another way is to flip flooded vegetation and bushes.
So says Bassmaster Elite Series and Major League Fishing pro Andy Montgomery.
Keep in mind an angler needs to pay attention to whether or not bass are being caught on stuff being inundated by rising water or on stuff typically sitting in the wet stuff.
“Yeah, there are some bushes that obviously stay in the water, that live in the water such as willow trees,” said Montgomery. “But there are also bushes that the only time they get into the water is when it floods.”
One day it’s one type of bush that’s producing, the other day it’s the other one.
“That’s the thing,” said Montgomery. “You’ve got to figure out what the fish are on and that’s just trial and error.
“I don’t know if there’s a certain time if they are on one better than the other. Actually, sometimes they are on both, especially when you find bushes mixed in with willow trees. And when that’s the case, you just flip it all.”
Like most productive fishing patterns, the fish will clue an angler in to what will work best on a given day.
If, that is, those anglers will pay attention to the various clues that a day’s worth of bass-catching action can provide.
“Once you figure out what to key on, what’s going to be most productive, then you can save a lot of time by concentrating on those key areas to give yourself a chance to get more bites throughout the day,” said the South Carolina bass pro.
“I wish there was a secret, one thing that I know where they get on one better than the other,” added Montgomery.
“But there’s not, it’s just trial and error. You flip both until you figure out which one you’re getting the most bites on.”
And when you figure that out, you run the pattern and reap the bass-catching rewards.
What bait will Montgomery use when flipping for bass in rising water?
“For the most part, when you’re flipping bushes, it’s better to flip a soft plastic since you’re not going to get hung up as much,” he said
“If you flip a jig in there, even though it’s got a weed guard, it’s going to have a tendency to hang up.”
As for colors, think light colors that will imitate any threadfin shad that might still be up shallow during their late-spring spawn.
And of course, toss some darker-hued soft plastics imitating a bluegill and other sunfish often found swimming in the newly flooded stuff.
What about gear? Montgomery likes to use a 7-foot, 6-inch heavy power Daiwa flipping stick and a 7.3:1 Daiwa baitcasting reel for his flipping endeavors.
“You want a high-speed reel so that way when you get a bite, you can take the slack up really fast and get a better hook in the fish,” he said.
What about the line?
“If I’m flipping real isolated stuff, I’m flipping with 20-pound fluorocarbon,” said Montgomery.
“If I’m flipping right into the heart of the bushes or some really thick stuff, then you’re going to go to 25-pound fluorocarbon.”
The bottom line is late-spring rainstorms around the country can cause higher than normal lake levels and more stained water than anglers might encounter at other times of the year.
But armed with a good attitude, the right equipment and the proper baits – in this case, either a frog or some soft plastic to flip the thick stuff with – the payoff can be a memorable day of bass fishing.