By Ken Poor
For many years I would throw an artificial frog for a few cast, every now and then, and then it went back into the storage tray. Then I started fishing with a guy that always had a frog tied on the end of a rod and he would catch bass with them. To make matters worse the bass would often be big ones. Now make no mistake, I will steal a person’s techniques if they are catching fish with it, especially when they are fishing in my boat. On the other hand, it is common knowledge that it is difficult for an old man to ask a younger person for help.
On one of those rare occasions when I must have been feeling sorry for myself, I found the strength to ask him “what the hell is going on” and then I asked if he would like to show me what I was doing wrong with the frogs or if he would like me to throw him and his frogs out of my boat. The tips he gave me are a part of this article, of course I had to make a lot of adjustments to them to improve my frog fishing capabilities. If you can muster up the patience to fish them, and really learn to use them, you will probably always keep a frog rigged up on a rod when you are on the water.
Every angler knows that if there is a weed bed with frogs around, there will be bass in the area waiting for the dinner bell to ring. Frogs are an important part of a bass’s forage base and it should be no real surprise that lures resembling frogs will catch fish. In South Carolina where I currently live, although lures which resemble frogs will catch bass almost any time of the year, mid spring through mid-fall is prime time to be fishing with them. To be more specific, when water temperatures start to rise into the 60-degree range and the weed beds start to develop bass and frogs will be there.
As water temperatures continue to rise, bass move along shorelines or wait in ambush spots, with cover such as logs, piers, and weed beds in search of a meal of frogs. The bigger and thicker the weed bed or cover the more frogs it is likely to hold and the more bass that are likely to be in the area. Any spot with a combination of cover such as weeds and wood are prime areas to key on. While all weed beds will attract bass all weed beds are not created equal. Some weed beds are more attractive to bass than others. Small weed beds will only hold one or maybe a couple of bass. Massive weed beds can hold good numbers of fish.
The big weed beds with rooted plants such as water lilies or free floating plants have a relatively open area below the surface. Bass live in the area below the surface and feed on frogs that move around on the surface. Pay attention to the types of plants where you are catching fish. Bass will often move from one type of weed bed to another depending on the feeding opportunity they provide.
When fishing with a plastic frog, you are supposed to be imitating a real frog that is moving around in a weed bed. Take the time to very quietly watch the real frogs in the area you are fishing. This can be done from a boat or from shore.
Frogs are always very nervous and are aware that they could become a meal anytime they are in the water. When they are not being chased, their movements in the water are extremely slow and deliberate. The only splashing a frog makes is when it jumps from the shoreline into the water or when a bass is chasing it. When watching frogs pay attention to the size, shape, color, and types of frogs in your area. When you select a plastic frog to buy, it should match, in terms of size, color, and shape, the types of frogs that you are seeing in the area you are fishing.
Plastic frogs come in a wide variety of styles, sizes and shapes. Styles include hollow body, soft body, and hard body. Each manufacturer claims theirs’ is the best type of frog for catching bass in certain conditions. They all catch fish and you should experiment with all of them and decide which one you are most comfortable using.
The floating hollow-bodied frog has a weight and double hook built into the body with the hook tips exposed. The better quality ones closely resemble a real frog. They are made from soft rubber or plastic, normally they will have legs and/or a skirt and are relatively weedless. Floating hollow bodied frogs cast very well and are ideal for working the surface of the thickest weed beds.
Soft body frogs are a solid piece of plastic and are usually worked Texas rigged with the tip of the point tucked just under the surface of the lure to make the set-up weedless. If you use a worm hook to Texas rig a soft body frog, make sure the hook gap is big enough that the frog does not over fill the gap and prevent you from getting a proper hookset. Several hook manufactures sell frog hooks in various sizes and types.
Texas rigged a soft plastic frog can be fished over thick weed beds, around small isolated patches of weeds, in stump fields, along the sides of logs, or piers and any other place that may hold bass. The soft plastic frog is designed to be cast out and worked slowly on the surface or bulged just below it. If you pause during the retrieve the frog will sink and this makes it an excellent choice for working open pockets in weed beds.
The hard body frog has a solid body made from either plastic or wood and are available in a variety of sizes and colors. They can be fished in open water or around sparse weed patches, along edges of weed beds, along trees laying in the water, and around piers. Some hard body frogs look amazingly like real frogs and others such as a Hula Popper or the Jitterbug are not so anatomically accurate, but can be very effective for catching bass.
Using the right rod, reel, and line will help you to get the bass’s head up, bring the fish under control, and work it into the boat even in the thickest weed beds or brush piles. When you are fishing heavy weeds or brush, if a bass can get deep into cover, it will tangle your line and that fish will be gone.
The three things your frog fishing equipment must have are a rod with a fast tip and plenty of backbone, a high speed reel with positive anti-reverse, and a good quality super line. If you are fishing sparse cover you may be able to use a lighter test super line. Just to clarify, in this article I will use the term super line to refer to either braided or fused line.
A good set-up would be a 6 ½-foot medium/heavy to heavy-action bait casting rod with an extra-fast tip with a high-speed reel spooled with 20 to 30-pound test braided line. You need the heavy equipment to get a proper hook set and horse fish out of thick cover. The high speed reel with a good drag system will help you keep the bass’s head up and maintain control of the fish during the retrieve. There are two important reasons for using super line. First, super line has incredible strength which is important when fishing heavy cover and second it has zero stretch.
When you are fishing with artificial frogs and you set the hook, you need to expose the hooks in order to properly set the hooks in the mouth of a bass and then immediately get that fish under control. If there is any stretch in your line, the frog will pop out of the fish’s mouth and it will be gone. When you are fishing thick weed beds you don’t want to give that fish an inch and super line is an important part of the strategy. Keep in mind when you tie on a lure with super line, always use the Palomar knot.
When an angler sees a big bass explode on any surface bait instinctively, they will lean back and set the hook. The problem is with frogs, if you set the hook to fast it will pop out of the bass’s mouth. The secret to fishing with frogs is learning to wait until you feel the weight of the bass before you set the hook.
Once you feel that weight, then lean back and set the hook hard. Make no mistake, it is not easy to overcome the instinct to instantly set the hook when you see a bass attack your frog. It takes a lot of control, practice and a conscious effort to wait that critical second. Most good frog anglers will have a method of waiting to set the hook, mine is to dip my rod tip and take in slack line until I feel the weight of the fish. It works for me, and so far I haven’t had to throw anyone out of my boat.