Catching bass on frogs or toads is probably one of the most, if not the most, exciting ways to catch all species of bass. I’m not sure if it’s the anticipation of the strike, or the explosive way a bass will attack a surface bait, but when it comes to frog type baits bass seem to think they have to take it to the moon when they strike. These strikes have woken me out of cabin fever dreams that cause me to sit up in bed shaking with adrenalin; I’ll have to walk it off at two in the morning to be able to get back to sleep. Ask any angler about the “Frog” bite and you’ll see and excitement like no other.
First lets cover one thing. In general bass fishing conversations, a ‘Frog’ is any top water bait that will float on the surface and normally has a hollow body; however, some manufacturers are now also making hard body frogs. Some examples of a frog would be Spro Bronzeye, Strike King KVD Sexy Frog, or Snag Proof Original Frog. A ‘Toad’ is usually made of soft plastic and requires you to provide a hook. Normally they sink and require a steady retrieve to keep it on the surface, they usually have legs or feet that kick and make noise as the bait is retrieved. Examples would be Stanley Ribbits, Zoom Horny Toads, or Gambler’s Cane Toad. For reference check out the frog page on the Monster Fishing Tackle Website
Frog and Toad fishing, while exciting, can also be some of the most frustrating. The strike to hook up ratio can be depressing. There are days when a frog or toad is simply a search bait and the majority of strikes will require a follow-up bait to catch the bass. However, when the bass are keyed on these baits, it creates the days that bring us back day in and day out. These are the days that are called catching and not just fishing!
For years Snag Proof had the market cornered on weedless frogs, only because there were no competing companies making them. Starting at the turn of the century anglers started realizing that there were big bass under the acres of hydrilla covering many of the nations lakes and rivers. I’m not saying that some anglers didn’t know this already, but it was a well kept secret and novice anglers didn’t want to hassle with the equipment and frustration associated fishing matted vegetation. Tournaments started being won by anglers using the available frog type baits fished over vegetation. Like with any bait or technique, anglers started taking notice and so did the manufacturing companies.
Hollow body frogs and toads became standard equipment for anglers wanting to fish very heavy vegetation. But the hook up ratio and options were both dismal at best. Companies started building better baits with double and sharper hooks, softer material with collapsible chambers, streamlining the bait for better performance, adding weight for casting longer distances and allowing the bait to sit in the water in a position that improved the hooking abilities of the frog. Even color schemes of these baits has gone from very basic to the most intricate of detail.
Fast forward to present. There are more frog imitation options than an angler can use in a season. With so many options, it gets very confusing to know what to use when. Should I use a frog or toad, should I fish it fast or fish it slow, should I even fish with one of these right now?
There are no hard fast rules to fishing frog imitations. Just about the time I figure something out, the rules change. There are no rules in bass fishing, period! However, I have developed some general rules that I live by. First and foremost, I like to be the first person on the water to find that there is a frog or toad bite happening. This usually means I’m going to have several fruitless hours of trying, but I have learned that, under the right conditions, I can get bass to bite a frog when the water temperatures creep into the upper 50’s. Those conditions are, first you must have a warming trend of at least 3 days. You must have cover, either grass, brush, or wood. Finally, the sun must be shinning; this keeps the water warming. Again these are not rules but my observations of when I can get a bass to take a frog. Being the first angler on a body of water to offer this presentation, generally does two things. First is, you’ll be presenting a bait that shallow fish are not accustom to seeing already. Second, I generally catch bigger fish with a frog.
Fishing a frog when the water temps are this cool means that you need to put the fast action you were getting last summer out of your mind. It’s not going to happen right now. So many anglers pick up a frog or toad and start whipping it around like the last time they fished one, which was probably September to November depending on where you live. This was fall and fast retrieves meant explosive action; that simply is not going to happen now. You have to slow down and expect fewer strikes. The bonus to fishing a frog this early is the strike zone is smaller making it easier to cover water. When looking at a shoreline or flat, only key on the specific areas that a bass might hold. Instead of working the whole shoreline you can simply work, laydowns, over stumps, or through a brush pile. This time of the year, there are not expanses of vegetation to dredge through to find the hot spots. On a side note, if your fishing an area that you know will load up with vegetation, you can really improve your summer fishing by making note of where these hard objects are before the grass covers them up. After the grass gets thick, these hard objects are still key things bass will use; knowing where they are at can put bass in your boat.
I stick with a frog until the water temps reach above 60 degrees. Some tell me this is a mistake, working a toad in a warming trend can be as effective as the frog down in the upper 50’s; however, I haven’t experienced that. So I stick with the frog, using a walk the dog type action I work the bait up to any hard object that I can. Then I try and bounce the nose of the frog off that object. With some practice, you can get a frog to nose up to a stump three or four times before it comes on around it. After each bump of the nose, I let the frog sit for at least 5 seconds. Doesn’t sound like long but it will wear you out with anticipation. I like to visualize a big old bass laying at the base of the object just eyeing the frog for the best opportunity to strike. Something I continually think about is that a bass likes to take prey head first. Everything in nature goes down easier head first, fins and legs all fold backwards. So in thinking about that bass watching your frog, it’s going to be thinking about the best angle of attack. By keeping the nose on the object, your making that bass fill up with anticipation just like you are. If you can build the suspense long enough, when the nose of your frog clears the object, a bass can’t help but pounce like a cat that’s been watching a gopher hole all night long. This early season frog bite, when it’s working, will last all day. Don’t put it down because the sun come up; the sun makes it better. Once these hard objects start casting shadows, the strike zone gets smaller and with pin point casts, working through the shadows, you can dial in a pattern.
Just like with the frog pattern I like to be the first person to know a toad bite is happening. When the water is in a warming trend and has reached the sixty degree mark it’s time to start testing the water. Most lakes and rivers that have vegetation will start showing signs of this vegetation surfacing. This is also the time that bass can be in all stages of the spawn. Your pre spawn bass will destroy a toad buzzing across the surface. Long casts that cover as much water as possible are important to catching numbers of fish. Because of the water temperature, bass are roaming looking for food while migrating to spawning flats. Because the bass are spread out, this is the perfect time to switch from the frog to the toad. A frog simply can’t cover as much water as effectively as a toad can. I still like to find hard objects to run a toad by, bass love cover; however, long casts parallel to the bank will also be effective. There are two bonuses to finding a toad bite this time of year. Big fish hate things buzzing across the surface. Old time anglers will tell you that a buzz bait used to be a number one big fish bait; the toad has some of the same attributes. A second bonus, if you can get the bite running parallel to the bank you can scan the shallows and look for bedding bass at the same time.
Once the spawn is over, and the summer patterns evolve, the frog and toad patterns become a favorite among anglers everywhere. The secret is out, and the element of surprise is now gone. Working a frog or toad, for me, becomes a search bait. I have several theories as to why the strike to hook up ratio with frogs and toads goes down. I have come to believe that bass become timid after being conditioned to them and the extra vegetation detracts from visibility. For these two reasons, I believe the hook ups go down. So this is when the follow up baits come out. When getting strikes in vegetation I like to follow up with a punch type bait, when getting strikes in more open water I’ll use a fluke if they hit a frog, or a spinnerbait if they hit a toad. With both the fluke and the spinnerbait, I’ll cast past where I got the strike and pull the bait to it fairly quickly, then once in the vicinity of the strike I kill it and let it flutter a few feet. This is very effective at getting a follow up strike, so be ready.
The mechanics behind working a frog or toad is really pretty simple. Don’t over think it, we have all seen frogs jump across the lakes and rivers. The easiest presentation and usually most effective is to try and imitate those movements.
With a frog, I like to cast just on the shore or past the target. Then with two or three pops of the rod tip make the bait jump across the surface like a real frog. With most hollow body frogs, this is easiest to achieve with the rod tip pointed at the water and pop the rod tip towards your feet. If that didn’t draw a strike, I’ll make sure I have plenty of slack in my line and continue with the same presentation until I’m well past my target or a few feet from shore. Two to three pops, let it sit, repeat. Another effective presentation is to “Walk the Dog” with your frog. With slack in your line, again keeping the rod tip low, with slow, steady pops of the rod tip (still towards your feet) you can get a hollow body frog to move side to side. Sometimes you’ll need to do this quickly sometimes slowly, let the fish tell you want they want. Those are the only two presentation I use with a frog. That said, I have seen people catch bass on hollow body frogs by simply casting them out and using a steady retrieve. If I’m looking at a pattern of this nature, I’ll opt for the toad.
Something I like to mention when working a frog, keeping your rod tip low to the water allows for better hook ups. Since you have to move your rod so far to set the hook (from the 7 or 8 o’clock position to the 12 o’ clock position), this gives a bass a split second to take the frog before you try and snatch it away from him. Always set the hook up, never to the side. By design you want to use the leverage against the bass to collapse the frog, this is done by trying to pull the bait up against the roof of their mouth. Setting the hook to the side, limits how effective this collapsing works.
With a toad, it’s as simple as casting it out, and a steady retrieve. Well, not really. There are things you can do to generate strikes. Many times it is simple, using varying speeds with a steady retrieve until you find what the bass will strike. You can improve your strikes by giving your bait some action other than the built in legs or feet kicking. I like to experiment with twitches and pauses to see if I can generate a reaction strike. Casting past targets, I’ll simply retrieve the bait by them. If I don’t get a strike, I’ll repeat the cast. This time as the bait approaches the object I’ll twitch the rod tip to cause the toad to jump or speed up as it comes by the target. This can cause a watching bass to strike out of reaction. If that still doesn’t provoke a strike, the next cast will be to the same target, but once the bait reaches it, I’ll pause and let the toad sink a few inches and then rip it back to the surface and continue the retrieve. The point here is that if you have a very likely target and don’t provoke a strike on the first cast, when frog or toad fishing multiple casts can produce some very large bass.
With a toad, you’ll normally have your rod tip higher to help keep it on the surface. It is vitally important to maintain your retrieve after a strike until you ‘feel’ the bass. Setting the hook when you ‘see’ the strike, more often than not, will result in a missed hook up. Feel the bass before you set the hook.
Just as many different frogs and toad on the market, there are different rods that we can use to fish them. I personally like the Dobyns Champion Series 735c for my frogs. It has the back bone necessary to pull large bass from thick vegetation, and just enough tip action to launch a frog across large mats of vegetation. For my toad applications, I like to step down in power to the Dobyns Champion Series 734c. This rod is a little liter with more tip action than the 735c, which makes it easier to cast smaller toads especially if there is a breeze. My reels for both applications are the Shimano Curado “D” series. Considered a dinosaur of a reel by most, it’s a 7:1 gear ratio and has a very large spool capacity, capable of holding plenty of line. Braided line is a must, not only for strength, but for its ability to cut vegetation. When fishing lily pads or sparse coon tail type vegetation, a large bass and braided line will cut the stems as it zips across the water. If you’ve ever had a large bass locked up in vegetation that you couldn’t reach, you’ll understand this benefit. Plus braid is light and makes it very easy to walk the dog with a frog when necessary.
I touched on the water temperatures I like to throw these amphibians in; however, water color is also a factor. Water color can help you determine whether to throw a frog or toad or neither. If you have very muddy water, neither will produce many strikes. Unless, you have thicker vegetation. Vegetation filters the water, and bass will thrive in and under it. Typically the water between the vegetation and the shore will be cleaner, and bass will load up under it. This makes for a great scenario to throw a frog. I prefer a frog in this situation, so I can let it sit near holes or light spots in the vegetation. With stained water, I have found that the frogs work better. Usually with a medium steady retrieve, unless there are hard objects to work the frog against. In clearer water, the toad starts to shine. The steady retrieve of a toad allows bass to see it coming in clearer water. As with any bait, the clearer the water the faster the retrieve to prevent bass from getting a good look at it. I believe this is part of the eat or go hungry theory. In clear water, a bass may think, “If I can see it, so can bubba, and I don’t want him to beat me to it.” Just a guess but it works for me.
One last thought on fishing frogs or toads, rising water is a fantastic time to choose frogs and toads, as the water rises in the spring bass will move up with it. Shallow bass, in this situation, are feeding on anything that moves. The rising water is usually flooding brush and other objects and the weedless attributes of frogs and toads are perfect for fishing this flooded cover. If you have a warming trend in the spring and the water is above normal pool, get ready for some explosive action.
Catching bass on a frog or toad is exciting and addictive. It can also drive a sane man to the point of breaking a rod over his knee and kicking a depth finder to the moon. Be patient and enjoy the explosion, practice waiting before setting the hook. Fishing with a frog allows you to mimic a prey that you and the bass can and have seen in its own environment. It’s fun and should be kept that way. If you go into your next frog fishing expedition with a man against fish outlook; knowing that you’re going to win sometimes, and the bass is going to win sometimes, you’ll have a much more enjoyable day on the water.
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