STORIES OUT THERE FISHING By: Keith 'Catfish' Sutton, WorldFishingNetwork.com 7 Effective Tips for Catching Bass on Topwater Frog Lures When bass are hiding under matted vegetation, weedless topwater frog lures are hard to beat for hooking up with chunky largemouth bass Lures resembling frogs often catch hot-weather bass when nothing else works. (Jack Bissell photo) Following a bass fishing trip with buddy that produced a pile of big bass, including a 6- and 7-pounder, soft-plastic and foam frogs now accompany me any time I fish for bass in lakes with dense beds of water lilies, milfoil, hydrilla and other aquatic vegetation. I’ve been a topwater fanatic for years, but no other variety of topwater baits I’ve used – not prop baits, not stickbaits, not chuggers or buzzbaits or crawlers – outperforms these funny-looking critters when bass are stationed beneath matted vegetation. Cast one into the worst tangle of weeds you can find, and you can maneuver and dance it right back out if a bass doesn’t clobber it first. Frog lures come in various shapes and sizes. Some consist of a foam body molded around a single ventral hook with a wire or plastic weedguard. Most, however, feature a hollow body of soft plastic and a large double hook that curves up over the lure’s rear end. The hook points ride out of the water and are protected by the lure’s body, which snugs up against the barbs. This design permits the lure to skim easily over the most troublesome weeds. When a bass hits, the lure’s hollow body collapses, exposing the hooks. The Right Gear The best tackle choice for froggin’ is a 7 ½-foot flipping rod with 25- to 30-pound-test, high-strength, low-stretch line. The long rod permits you to hold the tip high, helping the lure glide over weeds and allowing you to impart a titillating action. Strong lines resist abrasion and withstand the heavy-handed tactics needed to pull bass from thick weeds. Color Choices Many anglers prefer dark-colored rats and frogs such as frog-green, black, brown and gray, believing they are more visible to bass. But in my experience, white, chartreuse and other bright colors are more easily seen and worked, and these, too, have proven bass appeal. I also prefer bright colors because, when a bass hits the lure, you must instantly determine whether or not it has the lure. Topwater fishermen too often set the hook before the lure is engulfed. Retrieves The most successful retrieve used with frogs is what my bass-fishing buddy deems “the hip-hop retrieve.” Cast the lure back into an expanse of lily pads or onto a mat of vegetation. If you can make it land on top of a pad or near a hole in the vegetation, so much the better. Let it lay there a few seconds, then flip it a fraction of an inch at a time, allowing nearby bass to feel the vibes produced by your twitches. If an actively feeding bass is nearby, it may bust the lure right then and there. If no strike is forthcoming, it’s possible the fish is lurking underneath, waiting for the creature on the pad to jump off. And that’s exactly what happens next. Hop the lure into the water, give it a jiggle or two, then keep it still. Have your rod tip low and prepare for a smashing strike because this will usually produce it. Big bass waiting nearby can’t resist. Stop and Go If a bass doesn’t come busting through the weeds, begin your retrieve, swimming your lure around, through and over the vegetation. When it reaches an opening, speed up, swimming the lure at a fast pace. Then, about halfway through the pocket, stop your retrieve momentarily. If a bass has been watching the lure, this might coax a strike. If it doesn’t, start swimming the lure again, stopping in pockets and repeating the process. This start-stop action often triggers strikes. Twitch and Repeat If a bass swirls and misses, and the lure hasn’t moved too far from the hole, let the frog sit a second, then twitch it. This time, be ready. If you try setting the hook and miss, throw back to the blow-up and prepare for another strike. Or cast past the hole and retrieve along the same track. A bass may strike three or four times before getting the lure or giving up. The Proper Hookset Even when the lure disappears, it’s best to hesitate a second until you feel the fish or see your line moving off. That’s the time to set the hook with enough punch to overcome the dampening effect of the weeds. It’s also important to get the bass’s head up out of the water so you can battle it on top of, not beneath, the weeds. If you don’t apply some muscle, the bass will bury itself in the vegetation, either tangling your line and getting off, or requiring you to get wet to retrieve it. Time of Day and Weather Unlike other forms of topwater bassing that generally work best near dawn and dusk, frog fishing trigger startling strikes throughout the day, especially from early summer through early fall. Often, the best action occurs at high noon under intense heat, sometimes in water as shallow as two to three feet. The best days for action are overcast with little wind. Wind hurts casting accuracy with these lures, and can blow heavy line and a lure sideways during a retrieve. Wave action seems to dampen the frog’s triggering action, too, as it does with other topwater lures. Rats and frogs sometimes produce under less-than-ideal conditions, too. I once fished an Arkansas impoundment when the air temperature was 40 degrees and the water temperature was 56. My partner started out fishing a chartreuse frog over the tops of some elodea, retrieving the lure with quick jerks that produced little spritzes of water. I figured he’d gone off the deep end until a huge bass nailed the frog beside a stickup. My buddy did everything right, waiting until just the right moment to drive home the hook. But the bass did a loop-de-loop around the snag and snapped his 20-pound line. I learned that day that it pays to fish frogs anytime bass are hiding in dense vegetation, waiting to ambush their prey. You may miss many that strike, but those you bring in will be memorable catches.