Frog and bass

Frogs can be super effective anytime big bass are holding around heavy cover in the shallows.

I love frog country.

It's a backwater flat with scattered pods of lush vegetation coming to life in the warm April air of another Texas spring. Stands of thick buck brush and button willows budding with tender green leaves offer even more valuable cover on high spots and along shorelines where the water is shallow enough to wade.  

It smells just as fishy around here as it looks.

Sunrise is barely an hour old and the bass are biting as light drops of rain dimple the slick surface. My friend Shady McGuire just landed his sixth fish of the morning. The feisty two-pound buck bass pounced on a soft jerk bait and raced the opposite direction like a stingy kid who found the chocolate bunny on his first Easter egg hunt.

Yamamoto Senkos have been getting plenty of attention, but the quality has been on the skinny side thus far. Thinking there has to be a better way, I reach for a Stanley Top Toad and turn it loose on a long leash.

The hollow body frog lands belly down next to a clump of buck brush and I give it a light twitch as the ripples begin to settle. A bush shakes a few feet away and a wake bulges the surface as a head-hunting largemouth moves in for the kill on what appears to be an unsuspecting meal.

The strike is swift and violent. Rather than "slurping" the bait as they often do, the bass goes airborne and lands on top of the frog with its big jaws agape.

It's takes some doing, but I finally manage to wrestle the thick-shouldered lunker through the dense jungle of cover and into the boat. Plump with eggs, the fat female pushes six pounds -- not giant by any means, but a solid example of quality of fish you can expect to fool on occasion when you take Kermit for a stroll in good frog country.

Kermit is the generic name sometimes used to summarize the wide variety of frog-style lures made popular in bass fishing circles more than decade ago. Fishing with them can be a wild and wooly game built around a predator/prey relationship that has likely been around since the beginning of time.

Fatal Attraction

Frogs rank pretty low on the aquatic food chain. Bass rank close to the top. They genetically programmed to kill stuff, sometimes just for the hell of it. And they love to eat frogs, sort of like cats like to catch mice.

When Kermit goes in motion across a grassy flat or stand of lily pads, the temptation is sometimes more than a burly largemouth can stand. A true lunker won't hold much back when the dinner bell rings, either. In fact, the strike can at times be so vicious that might be heard from a considerable distance on a windless day.

For the Love of Frogs

If it sounds like frog fishing is fun, that's because it is. Though it doesn't work all the time, the results can be truly addictive when it does. I'd rather catch a single six pounder on a frog than a dozen two pounders on a Senko, any day.

FLW Tour pro Jim Tutt knows the drill well. Tutt has been a bass junkie for years. When it comes to fun fishing, he ranks Kermit high on the hit list of lures in his arsenal.

"There really isn't anything else like it," Tutt said. "When the frog bite is on it can almost be like playing self defense out there. Frogs can be money in a tournament situation, too."

When and Where They Work

Frogs typically get the most play during spring, summer and fall, when there are plenty of bass holding around aquatic vegetation, flooded bushes, lay down logs, boat docks and other stuff  they can use as shade or ambush spots to attack shad, perch or other unsuspecting forage.

They can be effective over open water, too, but tend to shine the brightest when fished in 1-3 feet of water around cover that may be too dense to penetrate with some other styles of baits, particularly topwaters.

"Bass hate a topwater," says former bass pro and veteran luremaker Lonnie Stanley of Huntington. "The beauty of a frog is it 100 percent weedless and it allows you to get into some really tight spots where you wouldn't dare throw another topwater. Plus, the action drives the fish crazy."

Frogs For Thought

There are a passel of frog brands on the market and two basic styles -- buzz frogs and  hollow bodies.

Most soft plastic buzz frogs are designed to swim across surface using a steady retrieve and they sink when idle. Some are equipped with boot-style feet that churn the water like a buzz bait; others have flat feet that produce more of a subtle "pitter-pat." Running frogs are ideal around clumpy hydrilla beds or scattered pads, or when used as a buzz bait trailer.

Hollow bodies have an open body cavity that traps air. They float when idle and work best around thick cover with a stop-and-go retrieve. Some have silicone strands for legs and feature a pointed nose designed for walking side-to-side like a Zara Spook. Others have a cupped nose that casts spray and creates a popping noise when twitched on the surface.

Stanley/Hale Lures captured the best of several design traits in their hollow body Top Toad and Poppn' Toad. Both are fitted with the same legs and boot-style feet as company's popular Ribbit buzz frog. This allows lure to be fished like running frog without sacrificing the floating advantages of hollow body.

Geared For Bear

Frog fishing is 100 percent about power. All tackle including hooks, line and rod should be heavy duty for gaining leverage on big fish quickly in thick cover.

The Hook: Most premium hollow bodies come pre-rigged with a heavy-duty double hook. There are several double hooks on the market designed for use with buzz frogs, some of which are built around specific body designs. Among them are the Stanley Double Take, Gambler Double Trouble and Owner Double Toad Hook.

Rod: The ideal frog rod should be at least seven feet long with a heavy action for optimum power, a long handle for extra leverage and a fairly fast tip for to aid in launching long casts.

Braided Line: Braided line with a breaking strength of 50-80 pound test is ideal, especially when fishing around heavy cover. Braid resists abrasion, doesn't stretch and will actually cut through most vegetation like knife. This helps prevent fish from burying up in grass and getting away prematurely.