March 22, 2022
You typically hear a splash, a pop, an old-school Batman style “BAM!” That’s the thrill of topwater frog fishing—the explosive strike.
I heard nothing; didn’t see anything either. I just happened to look to my right when my peripheral vision caught the motion of pro angler Ish Monroe setting the hook.
I knew he was throwing a frog into the “right” kind of spring habitat—a hodgepodge of emergent grass interspersed with random pad clumps, all tucked into a quiet little pocket—but I just wasn’t noticing the activity I expected to be hearing in a frog-tossing environment.
And that’s the thing—for us, it’s recreation, excitement; for a bass, it’s just breakfast. If the situation requires a crowd-pleasing blowup, no problem. But if a big prespawn fish is lurking near the bedding zone, or if a chunky mama that just moved up is looking for one more meal before locking down for baby-making business, a frog is the perfect little protein bar.
That’s why a frog always deserves a spot on the deck of anyone hunting southern spawners.
Hold Your Ground: Prespawners roaming around the bedding zone perimeter will come get a frog, but once the fish move up to bed, their attack window shrinks. That’s why it’s wise to learn to walk a frog in place.
Do this by fishing the frog on a slack line. Give it a short snap, wait a couple seconds, then snap it again. Continue this cadence to make your frog nose side to side with barely any forward motion. The taunting display is sure to irritate a bedding bass.
Stick Around: Bed fish often grab bottom-oriented intruders just long enough to drag them out of the bed. Same goes for topside threats, but here the fish are more likely to boil or “blow” at the frog.
When this happens, dead stick the frog and leave it in place as long as you can stand it. Make the fish stare at this bold party crasher that didn’t seem to get the hint. A wound-up fish will usually unload on the frog the second you give it a little twitch, but don’t be surprised if the fish runs out of patience and drops the hammer on your frog.
Line It Up: Whether you’re casting at a visible bed or blind fishing a likely bedding area, be award the line slap—a sharp downward motion—can spook fish. Cast past where you’re actually aiming, stop the cast before the frog hits the water and hold it with a tight line. This allows you to slowly lower the line onto the water without a heavy slap.
Also, if wind and boat movement create a bow in your line, you’ll find your ability to effectively work your frog and set the hook greatly reduced. Fix this common mistake by raising your rod tip to lift the line, reeling up enough slack to pull the line tight and then laying the line flat so you have a direct connection to your bait.
A frog presents an appealing profile right out of the package, but a couple of easy adjustments can improve its effectiveness.
Sound Off: Inserting BBs or buckshot into a frog’s hollow interior (through the leg holes) makes the bait especially annoying to bedding bass that value their solitude.
Pimp with a Limp: Trim one side of the frog’s legs about an inch shorter than the other so when you walk the frog, it favors that longer side, which puts more drag on the bait. This erratic motion mimics wounded prey and that’s always an easy sell.
Open Up: For maximum efficiency, use pliers to bend both sides of the frog’s double hook outward. Since thicker mat fishing typically comes later in the year, you can afford to sacrifice a little of the bait’s weedless design for the benefit of increasing its fish-snaring ability.
Tackle And Tactics
Lighter spinning tackle certainly has its place during the spawning season, but this is not it. Considering that frogs excel around cover, you want to be loaded for bear. That means a 7-foot, 4-inch to 7-foot, 6-inch heavy-power, fast-action rod and 50- to 65-pound braided line.
At the moment of truth, when a bass attacks your frog, remember this: Initially, the best response is no response. Of course, you have to set the hook, but if you can discipline yourself to wait a couple of seconds after a frog bite, you’ll catch more fish.
Too often, we see the take—whether it’s an adrenalin-pumping explosion, or a subtle slurp—and immediately snatch the rod back. If the fish gets the bait, fine; but when excitement clouds our timing, we jerk too soon and pull the frog away from the fish.
Best bet, take a breath, reel down until you feel the fish’s weight, then lay the wood to ‘em. One last tip: Work your frog with your rod tip down. Not only does this keep the frog tugging downward to press into any vegetation, it also allows you maximum range of motion for an effective hook set.