BY ROB MAGARGAL
As springtime moves on, summer gets rolling and the days become longer, the water temps start rising and the grasses start growing. This has a definite effect on the bass feeding habits. They like the ambush areas the grass gives them for their early morning feeding. They like the shade it gives them from the heat of the day. It allows them serious protection from the sun’s bright rays. It allows places for insects and bugs to sit and relax, which in turn becomes another hunting ground for the bass.
This is when many fishermen start dreaming of crazy explosions and violent blowups in the pockets and along the edges of these areas. But come on, let’s be truthful, we all think of explosions and blowups all year long. It just really becomes reality once summer actually hits. Who doesn’t like when the proverbial drain plug is pulled and the lake opens up and a huge flushing sound happens at the point of the blowup.
It’s heart pounding stuff, right? Heck, I’m getting pumped up a bit just writing this.
This leads me to the beginning of this article. Should you be using a frog in those situations, or using frog techniques with other baits?
Frogs? Are they all the same? Does every manufacturer make the same frog? In a way, yes, and in a way, no. If you line up four of the most popular frogs, they all kind of look the same, yet there are some differences, and these differences can be a huge factor in why one gets blown up on and one does not – or why one snags up so easily and one does not. Beyond that, it’s where its fished. That’s a huge reason as well. Not every frog is designed to be fished in the same way or in the same spot. Just because its a frog does not mean its the right one for that particular area.
Length, width, height and weight all matter. Shape, hook size, hook type and the material the frog is made from matters as well. Some frogs walk the dog better than others, while others will hop over debris and cover better. Then there is popping frogs or the combination of popping/walking. Manufactures are even making ½-ounce frogs that are half the size of what we usually see. That can have an advantage when used in the right place and time. Some have tougher bodies while others are extremely soft. To be sure, serious frog fishermen have their favorites. And I have mine as well.
I prefer a slightly stronger material for the body of the frog. It’s mainly based on where I like to fish them. That slightly tougher material for the body keeps me from snagging up as much as I would with a softer-bodied frog, especially when I have the frog crazy deep back under a bush or back into a hole, and I need to work the bait back through the debris if the fish does not blow up on it. This also means I have to rip lips when setting the hook. I just can’t hold back.
When thinking about frogs, the gear matters greatly for the size and type frog you are tossing. A 7’6” heavy action rod with 65-pound braid is going to have a tough time tossing a super lightweight, smaller-size frog. You need the full-size frog in that 3/8- to ½-ounce weight class. However, there is a time and place for that smaller frog so never leave them behind, yet the gear matters greatly for each and every technique. We’ll get to that later when speaking of other baits.
Most everyone has seen a frog being used or has used one. Topwater trash bait is my word for them. Hop them, pop them, walk them… skitter them. The sky’s the limit on how they could be used at any given time or circumstance. And that alone right there can be the main issue with frogs. Just because you tossed it out and brought it back does not mean you are working it right to get bit. Or that you are tossing the right bait in the right area.
The right technique is huge. The right time of day is major too, especially on different bodies of water. There was a spot for me last year that looked oh-so froggy… Everyone who knew about it tried to get to it fast, right at first light. The area got pounded early and often. However, only a few had success early. For me, 2:00 p.m. until sundown was my “go-time,” and that’s when the dinner bell rang! The afternoon back there was remarkable – but still, only if you used the right baits and the right techniques.
The right area on the lake matters: time of day, type of bait and so on. Now add yourself into the equation as the person making all these decisions. You can hear about a frog bite.. That bite could be in a very isolated area of the lake. If you don’t know where that is, then there is no real frog bite. So you go out and pound the shore for four hours and have zero blowups. Your buddy is out there and has 6 nice fish in three hours on frogs. It’s just not as easy as toss it and you’ll get bit. Now of course, you can get lucky, so yes, just tossing around could get you one. But knowing “how, when, where and why” truly matters with this particular bait.
This all also comes down to the gear being used. It’s a recurring theme many times when speaking to other fishermen. Tossing frogs, realize you’ll be hung up a bunch and/or snagged up a bunch, and that’s why 50- to 65-pound braid on a nice stout rod matters. It pops it off of a branch where a lighter rod or shorter rod may just hang you up worse and/or then ruin the spot from shaking everything up around it.
Besides strictly tossing a frog in these situations, you can also use other baits and fish them as if they were a frog, because sometimes, it’s truly not the frog that they want. You can toss a frog for hours and not get blown up. Yet, you may toss a weightless 4-inch paddletail bait like a Strike King Perfect Plastic, and it can be deadly. Toss it and swim it back like a full-on weedless buzzbait over grass or over laid down wood or tules… trust me, it’s a fun bait to fish. The hook-up ratio can be less than desired with one offset hook, yet it’s one of the only baits you can really fish in that manor. And it is absolutely deadly on grass edges.
Once again, here is where having the right gear matters. Drop down to 30- to 40-pound braid and a 7-foot medium-heavy rod with a casting reel: still plenty strong and does not have the tendency to snag up as easily from how it is set up fully weedless. From the bait being so light, it can be tossed very easily as well. A very stout spinning outfit works for this as well. You can skip that bait really far back under the trees and brush without backlash worries when you’re using a spinning rod. Work that bait out and, SMASH! They’ll crush it.
Same thing with a Fluke-type bait. They too can be dragged over the lay downs and you can gently swim it over the small holes or let it drop into the holes or allow it to fall off the ledges and swim down and get bit on the drop. Many times they get slammed just after falling. I am not talking about trying to use it as you would normally. It is dragging it mainly and not really twitching it as if your were using it in open water. There are many times the fish does not want to go through the trash, it wants it to fall down to them as they’re lazily waiting for a meal.
That’s where the paddletail and Fluke-style baits work their true magic. They can be slowly hopped over the trash as well. Being so light, I feel the fish think they are a dragonfly or lizard, or a large flying insect bouncing on the trash. It is more a finesse style of “frog-style fishing,” yet that’s only until it’s blown up on. Once you’re bit, all bets are off and its rip and tear – get the fish to the boat.
Still to this day, one of my all-time favorites is fishing a Fluke on top of duckweed. Many fishermen feel the bait needs to move water and/or have enough weight to get the attention of the fish while on duckweed, and at times that is true. Yet, I found the fish that are sitting just under that duckweed can feel that Fluke being dragged across that surface. It still makes that trail line, it’s just a lot sleeker profile. You can also work it much slower to give the fish the chance to pickup the movement of the bait.
Sometimes the frog is just too much noise and just too large and makes a bass hesitate on hitting it, therefore the fish does not want to show itself. I have seen that many times with other baits as well. Fish it one foot below the surface, and no bites. Go two feet below the surface and get bit all afternoon. The fish just did not want to come to the surface. Why? Who knows? But I can tell you that many a fish have been landed by using a more finesse-style frogging technique versus straight-up traditional frogging.
Hooks matter big time here. I like 3/0 and 4/0 offset or EWGs depending on the cover. Once again, brand in my view matters yet everyone has their go to hook. I personally like the Owner J-Hook, as well the Gamagatsu G-Lock for how I can make the soft plastic baits extremely weedless while still not having to fully bury the hook. We still want to set the hook. They also have such a nice bend at the hooks eyelet that the baits stays pinned very well while dragging over the trash.
This is also where the smaller frogs come into play, I’m talking 1/8- to ¼-ounce. These are not as stout and the hooks are not as strong, and this means different gear once again. Many times I’ll toss those on a medium-heavy spinning rod, a fast gear-ratio reel and 15-pound braid. I’ll also not be tossing it in every spot I’d toss a full-size frog with a large rod either. Yet, you can still get them in a lot of very fishy spots to be sure. With that being said, I’d still lean toward the soft plastic if wanting to stay trashy.
This can also extend all the way to ultra-small soft minnow baits like a Clone fry or Tiny Fluke-type bait. Spool a medium-heavy spinning rod with 8-pound braid and hold on. Smaller baits flipped in and over the grass mimic a dying a shad on the surface. This can also be a crazy technique, as the line is so light and bait so small. It’s more so an open-water technique, however, it can be deadly when used correctly as a “power-finesse” technique in the grass and laid over vines and such. Match the colors of the dragonflies and slowly work them over the areas. Just be ready to get the fish up and out quickly. Many times the fish jump fully out of the water like Air Jaws to get the bait. Regardless, it is most definitely a cool bite to be sure.
This year, as it warms up and you start bringing out the heavy equipment for frogging, do not forget to keep those other baits in the boat and be willing to shift gears a bit and fish a little differently. You can thank me later.