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No Water, No Problem: Hawgs Hit Frogs in No Man’s Land

hawgs hit frogs
Brandon Hua

When the weeds are high and the water is low, there are fewer options more effective than a frog.

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The first thing that comes to mind when most people think of bass fishing is the spring spawn. Bass are eager to restore their energy with warming water after being dormant during the winter. They move towards the shallows and stage out their territory. Then, the aggressive spawning fish protect their nests and it’s lights out.

Post-spawn summer bass are as much a challenge as they are in winter. When they’re already exhausted from defending their young and doing their mating dance all summer, the temperatures reach triple digits, the oxygen levels drop, weeds from the bottom grow tall towards the surface and floating weeds blanket the water, leaving little room to even cast without bringing a wad of vegetation back to the boat. This is when most bass anglers just throw in the towel.

However, in mid-late summer, another mating season is occurring. Frogs are roaming the shoreline to lay eggs and spawn the next generation of tadpoles. The mats of floating weeds are inviting to these amphibians, and as the summer progresses, bass in the post-spawn stage are regaining their energy, feeding with the intention of storing energy for the coming winter.

Donnie Dunnigan shows off a late summer largemouth
Donnie Dunnigan shows off a late summer largemouth

During the early fall, frogs are feeding on hatching aquatic insects and become a quick upgrade in the food chain for lunkers lurking the shoreline. Having not just a frog, but a small selection of the right frogs can really extend the season for bass fishing well into the changing phases of deciduous leaves.

By the time the submerged weeds have reached floating mats on the surface, a frog is the only feasible option. There’s several options for frogs in varying sizes, but a realistic color pattern and size that matches the local fauna is a good start. Depending on your technique, a frog with a pointed nose and a rounded belly will be better suited for “walking the frog” in open water and bobbing through weed mats. Designs with a flat belly tend to make this technique more difficult.

A popping frog can also add an extra element of disturbance. The sound will aid fish in finding the bait when the sunlight begins to fade away. The blunt nose of popping frogs is slightly more difficult to work in heavy cover than the pointed-nose models.

Cary McLaren fooled this bucketmouth on a popping frog
Cary McLaren fooled this bucketmouth on a popping frog

Soft plastic frogs can be Texas rigged with a single hook and fished like buzzbaits to trigger strikes from active fish and cover a lot water. Most of these models have legs that mimic swimbait paddle-tails. Because they don’t float in a stationary position, much like a buzzbait, you have to hold the rod tip high and rip them across the water when they hit the surface to get them on-plane. Having a hollow-bodied frog on a separate rod to cast as a follow-up bait can draw strikes from fish that blow up on a soft-plastic frog and miss.

As for the hollow-bodied frogs, the Live Target models have very detailed, realistic profiles, and are designed specifically to sit with the nose higher above the water, making them easier to walk or bob. All hollow-bodied frogs will retain water and will require some regular maintenance to squeeze it out as you’re fishing. Some brands will flood out quicker than others, but the Live Target models have a less rigid plastic body that not only increases hookups but require less maintenance.

livetargetfrog
Live Target Lures Hollow Bodied Frog

The features of this particular frog won “Best of Show” at the ICAST sportfishing trade show in 2010, and it’s distinct characteristics have proven it to be far superior to it’s counterparts. Live Target Lures also makes an array of similar topwater models that mimic mice and sunfish that are must haves when it comes to topwater lures.

powerpro-max-cuatro
Max Cuatro is a significantly thinner, high strength braid perfect for cutting through thick weeds

A heavy duty, low visibility braid tied directly to the bait is essential for pulling fish from heavy vegetation. Worn lines that have faded can be coated using a sharpie to dim the commonly light faded coloration that comes with use. Waxing the line is un-necessary, as keeping the line above the surface will create a disturbance that distracts from the action of the frog. Using a smaller diameter braid tends to cut not just through weeds, but the water. Wetting the line a little with a few casts in open water will draw the line closer to the frog to sink slightly, focusing more of the water disturbance with the bait itself.

A heavy, fast action rod in the 7′-7’6″ range with a sensitive tip and good backbone will aid in popping or “walking the frog” techniques. Any rod designed for casting plastics for bass will perform well at hooksets. Setting the drag a little higher than usual is helpful to keep bass from burrowing into weeds, but you should expect to lose a few fish. The deeper bodied hollow frogs with rounded bellies also allow for a wider-gap on the hooks, which will also increase your hookup ratio.

Brandon Hua shows off a nice largemouth in fall weather with leaves on the ground
Brandon Hua shows off a nice largemouth in fall weather with leaves on the ground

The double hook setup of most hollow frogs will bend out of shape after a few snags in the bushes and limbs, as well as the occasional hookset on a hawg. To keep the body of the frog in place, and keep the double hook from bending out of shape, slide the body of the frog slightly up the shank and wrap some braid around the area where the two hooks meet underneath the frog, then add a touch of super glue. If you want the nose to sit higher in the water, you can also use a wrap or two of leadcore braid for this method to add some weight to the back of the frog.

That double hook setup is designed to be a highly superior weedless rigging, but tends to prohibit proper penetration on hooksets. Slightly bending the points out from the body of the frog with a pair of pliers will aid in sticking bass in the gullet. Most strikes are vicious, but some bass tend to strike at frogs like a great white or a killer whale hitting a seal. They’ll play with their food. Fight the urge to set the hook immediately and make sure the bass has actually taken the bait down before laying into them. Some strikes will tighten the line instantly and make it crystal clear the fish is hooked. Either way, you want to avoid having slack in the line so you’ll be able to tell the difference immediately. Shortening the silicone legs slightly will also prevent short strikes. You can also employ the use of trailer hooks if the type and density of cover permits.

Lake Fork Frog Tail Hooks from VMC will improve your hookup ratio on double-hook set ups that come standard on most hollow bodied frogs
Lake Fork Frog Tail Hooks from VMC will improve your hookup ratio on double-hook set ups that come standard on most hollow bodied frogs

Varying the cadence of your pops and twitches will present fish with an opportunity to strike. Most fish will follow the movement of the frog into a pocket, at the edge of a mat, or even out into open water before striking. A cadence of 1,2,3….1…2…3…….1…..2,3…1,2,3 will give the fish ample opportunity to strike, but very little time to think. Don’t just let the frog sit there. Think like a frog. You’ve slowly wandered out to the edge of the grassmat chasing bugs out into open water, then you realized that the hunter has become the hunted. Panic… like a frog. Then pause for a moment, because panicking is exhausting, and you need to catch your froggy breath. There are few takes as exciting as a bass exploding through vegetation to grab a meal.

NEXT: 7 MUST-HAVE TOPWATER BAITS FOR BASS

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No Water, No Problem: Hawgs Hit Frogs in No Man’s Land