A frog is a frog?

I have a special love of fishing plastic frogs. It dates back into the early 1970’s when as a young man I used to row my flat bottom Jon boat out into a huge marsh that was just off Lake Ontario in New York. With a bait casting reel mounted on an old fiberglass rod and heavy mono line I caught my first “frog” fish on an…

Baron 49 from Ultimate BassI have a special love of fishing plastic frogs. It dates back into the early 1970’s when as a young man I used to row my flat bottom Jon boat out into a huge marsh that was just off Lake Ontario in New York. With a bait casting reel mounted on an old fiberglass rod and heavy mono line I caught my first “frog” fish on an original Bill Plummer Super Frog. The water was calm and I was able to see everything as it happened. Was anchored in a clearing in the middle of tall reeds next to a small patch of scattered lily pads. The water was about three feet deep, crystal clear and still. I made a cast to where the pads and the reeds met. Following the directions that came with the Super Frog package I let the bait sit still for a few moments and then gave it just a slight tug. A big Largemouth swam in slow motion from under the pads to the frog, then tilted upward for a moment as if to study the frog. I let the frog sit motionless, as I was afraid any motion by the boat, the frog or me would scare the fish away. After what seemed like hours of waiting I took the tip of my rod and ever so slightly jiggled it. The frog did a little wiggle and its legs barely had started to move when the Largemouth with a flick of its tail exploded upward on the Super Frog. I was sitting there in awe watching the entire event and almost forgot to set the hook. Actually I jumped near out of my skin when the water exploded and set the hook from flailing the air with the rod as I thought the little Jon boat was going to tip over.

For those who have never seen a Bill Plummer Super Frog, they were ahead of their time. These frogs were made of a dense foam material with two flat, kinked rubber legs and a weedless weighted hook that was in the bottom of this very good looking frog imitation. You fished the Super frog very slowly and they looked more like a frog sitting and swimming then any of the newer baits we use today. The down side was they were very fragile and after a few bites they tore easily especially if a toothy critter thought they were an easy meal. Over the years the company has changed hands and the quality of the frogs diminished.

Since those early days I have grown very fond of fishing floating frogs like the Snagproof Tournament Frog and the new Spro popping frog. When the newer models of buzzing frogs like the Zoom Horny Toad, Stanley’s Ribbit, and the Rage Toad came out it opened a whole new world of frog fishing. It has been a passion that has lasted several decades without any drop in my enthusiasm. I get just as excited today as I did years ago when frog fishing. My close fishing friends say I am an adrenaline junky that needs his froggy fix on a regular basis.

A question asked of me was, “are all frogs created equal when it comes to Northern Largemouth Bass versus their cousins the Florida strain?” Plus an additional question is waters with Smallmouth Bass, will they and do they react differently then Largemouth Bass to these frogs? Luckily I get to spend as much time on the waters in Florida as I do here in New York and being a fisherman who takes note of what is happening year after year I actually had some answers.

Many anglers that have had the chance to fish both New York and Florida waters have noticed there are many similarities. While New York waters like Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are quite vast areas of water. The back bays and marshes look a lot like fishing the shallows of Florida with reeds, milfoil, hydrilla, lily pads, plenty of matted cover, and an abundance of clear water. These are perfect places to fish both a buzzing or floating frog.

Back in the 1980’s when fishing Bass tournaments, the floating frog was not used much. It was considered by most anglers to be too slow of a way to fish. As for myself I always had a supply of Bill Plummer Super Frogs on hand that I used when looking for a kicker fish. These baits produced bigger than average fish in the 70’s and 80’s in NY, down the East coast and on Florida waters as well.

So much for days of old let’s talk about today and the newer frog baits that are available and how well they work. Another thing that New York and Florida also have in common is there are times and places where the water is flat and calm and have plenty of openings in the pads and weeds. For me this is the time for the Horny Toad. There is something about the quiet pitter-pat of the small legs that will drive a bass crazy no matter where I have fished it under the same calm conditions. Color varies a little at times, but for the most part a black Horny toad works everywhere. It does not hurt to have an assortment of colors just in case. For example in Florida this Spring I was getting a few hits on black, but at the suggestion of a friend tried a Junebug Horny Toad with Chartreuse legs and the bass would climb over each other to kill it. This color Horny Toad did work on the northern bass in New York this Spring as well.

If the wind is blowing and there is a light chop on the water time to put up the Horny toad and get something that makes a little more noise. The Stanley Ribbit gets it’s turn and for the most part this has been the best all round buzzing frog bait. The little paddle feet make a tremendous amount of noise for such a small bait. One of the best parts of fishing the Ribbit is its ability to locate fish…..IF you are paying attention. A few years ago in Florida while learning how to fish the Ribbit I would see a bass follow or take a swipe at the Ribbit without getting hooked up. I learned very quickly to throw a soft stick bait right back to the place where I saw the fish and many times would catch the bass with this follow up method. Color has not meant much on the Ribbit. I feel the sound is what gets the bass going with these little loud baits both in New York and Florida.

Bring on the wind and waves and it is now time for the loudest most obnoxious sounding buzz frog of all. The Rage Toad is so loud that I actually saw it scare fish away in Florida and in New York when fishing highly pressured shallow water. However in high winds, choppy water and over deep water the Rage toad is unbeatable. It has a heavy weight body that can be cast into the wind and the paddle feet with the ridges on each that make a lot of commotion. Last summer while fishing over a rock hump on a windy day with choppy water I caught a Smallmouth bass that was over 6 pounds using a green pumpkin Rage Toad. Again color has not seemed to matter much but I am seeing a trend with all the buzzing frogs that darker colors produce slightly better then lighter colors.

While I am on the subject of buzzing frogs I finally found an excellent rod, reel, hook and line setup. It has taken me decades to settle on this combination and for the past several seasons have not seen any need to do the normal tweaking I have been famous for. The rod is a St. Croix Legend, Carolina Rig 7’3” MH, the reel a Revo S with a 6.4 to 1 retrieve speed, and spooled with a full spool of 50 pound Power Pro braided line. The best hooks by far have been Owner’s 5/0 screw lock. I do use a drop of superglue on the wire screw when inserting it into the frog to keep the nose of the frog from sliding down. Plus I add an 8 to 10 millimeter clear glass bead on the braided line above the hook to help keep grass and weeds from catching on the nose of the buzzing frogs. This setup has worked in New York and Florida with equal success.

Now lets talk about the floating frogs that are still evolving and probably will continue to do so. The Snagproof Tournament frog has caught a lot of fish out of the slop and mats everywhere up and down the East coast. It has been my go to frog when ever a floating frog was needed for many years now. Snagproof Tournament frogs work very well over any kind of cover and with the wide gap hooks make for a good hookset.

This year I found a floating frog that did work as well in Florida as the Snagproof frog. It is the new popping frog by Spro. I was not sure if the smaller profile and smaller hooks of the Spro popping frog would hook and hold the bigger Florida strain bass, but after catching several decent size Florida strain bass out of the pads and mats I soon learned smaller can be better. One of the big advantages of floating frogs over buzzing frogs is you can fish a floating frog all day long. Especially over thick vegetation and mats, under docks or overhanging trees, anywhere that there is shade and cover and you want to give a slow methodical presentation. I normally use the same rod and reel as the buzzing frogs, but add heavier 65-pound test Power Pro braided line for floating frogs.

Would like to add a little story about rods for floating frogs. I had been working on this article for several days when I was asked by a good friend to go fishing. He picked me up early on Sunday morning with his 21-foot Trition bass boat in tow and off to the lake we headed. We were not happy when we got to the ramp and the light winds the weatherman had forecast were turning almost gale force, whipping the lake up into whitecaps. There was a small river close to the ramp and we decided to give that a try. I had rigged up a few rods for fishing the open water of the lake and was not really prepared for fishing thick mats of heavy milfoil or pitching into the shoreline of reeds and bulrushes. I decided to try fishing floating frogs using a rod that George Roth had custom built for fishing swimbaits. It is a Rogue BB796 MH blank that George cut to 7 foot 5 inches for me. The rod had a Revo Winch with a slow 5.4 to 1 retrieve reel, spooled with 30-pound test Power Pro braided line on it. I tied on Snagproof Tournament frog and within minutes had a nice two and one half-pound largemouth coming toward the boat. This set the stage for the rest of the day for me and was very pleased with the performance of the George Roth rod. I was able to cast easily and accurately all day long with little fatigue and hooked the majority of the bass that struck at the frogs. The Revo Winch reel did work well to crank the bigger four-pound fish out of the thick milfoil, but was very difficult to reel fast enough to catch up with a fish swimming toward the boat or one headed for deep water. I am going to try a faster retrieve reel with this rod the next time out.

Fishing for Smallmouth bass with frogs is not much different then fishing for Largemouths with the exception that they are not as easy to catch with a floating frog as they are with a buzz frog. While Smallmouth will come into weed beds it is not as common for them to blast through cover to hit a floating frog like a Largemouth. Open water flats, scattered weeds, over rocky humps, and sometimes in shallow water Smallmouth bass will hit a buzz frog with such intensity that it feels like they will take the rod out of your hands. Calling up Smallmouth from water as deep as 20 feet is not unheard of in clear water lakes and rivers. No changes in tackle are needed when Smallmouths are on the feed for buzz frogs.

In conclusion, is there a difference in fishing frogs for Florida strain bass over Northern strain? The answer is there really is not much difference at all. A frog is a frog and a bass is a bass. One advantage to Florida bass is you never know how big it might be, the advantage to Northern Bass is you never know when it might be a 6 or 7-pound Smallmouth.

For me as long as they keep making floating and buzzing frogs I will keep throwing them anywhere I think a bass might be hiding, whether it is in a marshy cove in New York or in a field of lily pads in Florida. You never know when you may need to get your heart started with the explosive strike of a bass going after a frog in the morning like I do. It is better then coffee any day as far as I am concerned.

By Dave DeRemer aka Baron

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