Before I began devoting so much of my time on the water to chasing muskies, I would fish any puddle, lake, or stream and wait to find out what was in there until after I caught them. I didn’t have much money to spend when I was young, so I used hand-me-downs, lures other fishermen had lost, and the seldom few I would get on my birthday. Most of the time I had no idea how to use the baits, but I’d cast the heck out of them until I figured out a way to make fish eat.
Growing up, Dad would paddle me around small quiet lakes at night and I’d cast black jitterbugs under the moon. The sound of the bait gurgling and the feel of its wobble taught me how to control my retrieve under darkness, a lesson I can’t emphasize the importance of enough.
I got my first plastic frog from a small duckweed-covered pond with lily pads scattered from one end to the other. The bait was several feet from shore blending in with the color of vegetation, but I saw it floating and wasn’t about to leave it behind. I used the hook of another bait to fish it out and quickly tied it on. My only experience fishing topwater was a slow and steady straight retrieve, so that’s what I did.
I remember fan casting for a lengthy period, making sure to cover new water with every cast, which was made easy by the lines in the duckweed. After a while, I grew frustrated with seeing how much water I’d covered and still no bites. So on one fateful cast, I sped up my retrieve to hurry the bait in – I was going to change it up. SMACK! I got bit!
As a fisherman, one of the golden principles of success is replicating what worked before to see if it was a fluke, or if you’re on to something. After releasing the bass, I moved down the shoreline and started fan casting again and drawing lines in the duckweed over new water. I kept the momentum of the bait fast, but not too fast that a fish couldn’t catch up to it, just fast enough that it imitated a mouse or a frog making a break for the security of the shoreline. Several casts in and I rolled one, but missed. The very next cast back to the area and there she was – big fish on!
And so began my love for frogging.
This chunk daddy bass devoured the frog tossed the author tossed from the dock.
As a musky fisherman, I’m constantly trying new things to manipulate lazy followers into aggressive eaters. This way of thinking doesn’t end with musky, it applies to all gamefish. Bass are hunters and occasionally they’ll stalk their meals. The problem with moving frogs slowly is you’re providing time for a lazy follower to find something they don’t like, or if they’re full and still digesting, perhaps you’ve woken their curiosity more than anything.
By speeding up your retrieve you’re creating a sense of urgency and provoke a reactive response to feed. If your time on the water is limited, seeking active and aggressive fish can be the difference between a day of catching fish and day of casting practice. The lazy fish can be enticed to strike too, it just requires you, as the angler, to slow down and finesse your approach.
In the underwater world, it’s every fish for themselves. By nature, fish are designed with natural camouflage patterns to help them blend in with their surroundings. While we get to go restaurants and grocery stores to pick our meals from menus and sales racks, fish play hide-and-seek all day, every day. In other words, if a meal presents itself the fish innately makes a split-decision to eat, or go hungry.
How to Work a Frog
Like most anything, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. At the beginning of this article, I reminisced about my first experience casting a plastic frog – that speed was the ticket to getting bit. While I maintain that speed on the surface will draw more strikes than moving slow, adding some action to your retrieve can really make bass strike.
The splashdown serves as the dinner bell or maybe it’s the breakfast bell depending on the time of day you’re fishing, regardless, it’s the loudest part of the cast and will always draw the most attention. I used to let the bait sit for a second or two after initial splashdown, as if the frog fell from the beak, or talons, of a bird flying overhead. I imagined a sequence of events and tried to enact them with every cast.
“A heron is flying by and dropped the frog from its beak.” The lure splashes down at the end of a cast.
“The frog is stunned from the free fall and belly flop.” I let the bait sit still on the surface for a couple of seconds.
“The frog regains its composure and makes a break for cover.” I quick swim the bait to the closest lily pad in line with the boat and let the bait sit for another moment.
“The frog is tired.” I twitch the rod tip in a cadence to imitate the actual motion of a frog swimming, pausing from time to time, then continuing.
The technique above is fun and imaginative, but it is overthinking the mind of a fish and it gets away from the theory of speed igniting reactive strikes from aggressive fish. I’ve since morphed my approach to a completely different retrieve. As soon as the lure splashes down I get right into fast-twitching my rod tip with short snaps while keeping up with the reel to pick up line and keep the momentum of the frog moving closer to the boat. I’ll pause in an open hole in the weeds for a second, but then I’m right back to the speed I left off on when I pick up again. I can honestly say I’ve seen more fish boil and wake from thirty-feet out as they rush the bait to suck it under than I can even compare to with the slow methodical approach from the imaginary storyline above.
If you like to catch bass and you haven’t tried frogging yet, head to the closest sporting goods store and pick up a pair of Spro Frogs. You’ll need two – one to lose and another to keep you fishing.