Pulling Hawgs Out Of The Grass
Bass fishing has been the cornerstone of modern-day fishing. Now, I’m sure that is starting you all talking, so let me explain myself.
In the past 40 years, fishing has taken off and, thanks to an organization called BASS. The Bass Angler Sportsmen Society is the brainchild of an insurance salesman from Alabama named Ray Scott.
Bass tournaments have spawned walleye, crappie, muskie, offshore and just about any sport fish swimming around. Without bass tournaments back in the day, I’m sure the fishing industry would just be a few guys trading tackle in their kitchen.
Scott had this idea of running bass tournaments. He wanted one organization whose sole purpose was to promote bass and bass fishing. Along the way, BASS spawned magazines and TV shows. Today’s outdoor programing pretty much started with bass fishing shows.
Then came the increase in the tackle industry, which started full-bore specialty items, including bass fishing from rods to reel to hooks to hard baits to spinners to plastics. The boom in fishing boats all started with bass fishing. Today’s live wells in boats all started when Scott wanted to keep bass alive and released back into the body of water from which they came.
The design of today’s boats stems from the first days of bass tournaments. From hull design to the layout of the boat itself to motors, the bass boat has revolutionized the world of fishing boats.
So, in my mind, bass have changed world of fishing.
There are many different lures designed to catch just bass that can, on occasion, catch other species. Jig and pig have, and will, catch muskies and mature walleyes. We use the same crankbaits that smallie catch walleyes. The same small jigs in the spring that we catch crappie has netted their fair share of spawning bass and the list goes on.
One lure that primarily catches bass is the plastic frog. Frogs have been used to catch bass for years, but today’s plastic real-life frogs aren’t your grandpa’s plastic frogs.
Wherever bass live, so too do multiple species of frogs, and there is nothing bass like more than a mouthful of fresh frog. Unfortunately for these amphibians, bass like to hang out in the same areas as they do too, so they cross paths often and it typically doesn’t end well for the frog. But this is great for bass fishermen because using frog lures can provide some of the most exciting bass fishing there is, because it’s a top-water bite at the finest.
There are many different lures out there designed to mimic a frog, from topwater poppers-style frogs to crankbait-style frogs. For today, let’s just discuss good old-fashion frogging. This is a style of bass fishing where you’re throwing soft hollow-bodied frogs in to the thickest of floating vegetation.
That’s the biggest advantage of frogging. You can literally cast these lures anywhere. One of the first things noticeable about frog lures is that the hooks face upward and rest flush against the body. In addition, they float so the hooks never come close to the weeds under them. You can freely drag a frog across lily pads and other surface vegetation with no worries of getting hung up.
With an innocent little splash, the defenseless amphibian belly-flops into the drink. Powerful legs kick and recoil, scooting the frog forward. The critter pauses, resurfaces, bulging eyes betraying looming danger. Webbed feet dangle invitingly, soft white belly tantalizing, almost taunting. In one explosive instant, the water beneath the creature drops like an elevator; an unseen predator opens its jaws with the vacuum force of a plunging 5-gallon bucket. With a big whoosh and a steel-door snap, poor little critter meets his maker, so to speak.
In the bass-eats-whatever-it-wants-to-world, it’s tough to be a frog. Even tougher, perhaps, for a new artificial amphibian, freshly metamorphosized and minted by the bass bait artists for years. Just about all soft plastic companies make frog baits. I recently discovered Z-Man Fishing, the maker of Leap FrogZ. Hatched with a hollow, super collapsible vinyl body, the Z-Man’s Leap FrogZ puts itself in immediate danger every time it slaps the water’s surface. Z-Man offers two different “species,” a Walking Frog and Popping Frog. With these two different baits, anglers are ready for any frogging situation, with each specific frog baits featuring subtle and lifelike or aggressive and loud surface actions respectively.
Huge fan from way back, Major League Fishing star Luke Clausen, contributed several valuable assets to the design of the new pro-grade topwater frog. Among them, a precise, easy to retrieve anatomy. “One cool attribute frog anglers will appreciate (is) we molded both versions of the Leap FrogZ with a deep-V belly that acts like a rudder to carve the surface and empower easy walk-the-dog retrieves,” says Clausen.
Clausen also calls attention to the frogs’ hollow, super-soft body, which collapses with minimal pressure, activating the custom, heavy-duty double hook. “We forged this special frog hook with the perfect, slightly ‘open’ angle to yield super-high percentage hooksets. Hook points are keenly sharp, right out of the package.”
Further elevating the Leap FrogZ’ performance, Clausen and Z-Man constructed the bait with a fully sealed eyelet to prevent water from entering the cavity, while a rear drain hole sheds excess moisture. “These fine-tuned assets allow the Leap FrogZ to float higher in the water and perform at the highest level,” adds Clausen.
Extra-long, multi-colored silicone legs are remarkably suggestive of actual amphibian appendages and webbed feet slowly trailing down as the frog rests, folding back, articulating and flaring when the legs kick and stop.
Silicone is actually a pretty amazing imitator of frog legs. Out of the package, you have the choice to fish the Leap FrogZ as is, or to trim the silicone to your own requirements. If need be, one can trim the legs all the way down to just an inch and a half, particularly when bass seem to be short striking and keying on the legs rather than the body. Fortunately, this frog is designed and built so well that trimming the legs doesn’t dampen its side-to-side walking action one bit.
Remember, too, that bass might not always interpret the bait as a frog and actually, throwing a black-bellied pattern around shallow cover. In open water, when bass are keying on shad, a white bellied bait excels, switching it by throwing a bright chartreuse belly around sunfish schools.
When bass are really on fire with a large strike zone, I pick up the walking version and cover water with a faster retrieve. The walking frog is also the one you want for fishing over heavy vegetation mats.
At times, you want to work the bait with long pulls. Other times, bass prefer short little moves forward, almost like hops and stops. The key to activate the bait lies in the slack line you provide before and after each twitch of the rod tip. Many anglers think a frog only produces in vegetation. Actually, a frog draws strikes from bass in open water. With baits like the Leap FrogZ skip really well under overhangs and docks, which are two more awesome places to fish it.
For bass with smaller strike zones, the popping version of the frog bait work great. When trying to locate a big bass it’s best to zone on smaller areas, and the popping frog works perfect. The popping-style bait walks and bubbles on top, stays in the strike zone longer and calls bass to the surface without too much forward motion. I will pull the frog trick on post frontal fish, in spring, around beds and near isolated reed clumps, anytime I’m casting to specific targets and catch bass by working it right on top of their head.
We all hear anglers complain about missing blow-ups on frogs. The FrogZ has built the Leap FrogZ so soft and with so many little goodies that I have discovered hooksets just aren’t an issue with this bait. Even the paint application is top-notch on the FrogZ baits. It doesn’t wear off or even show signs of abuse after a bunch of bass have chewed on it.
Froggin’ is a ton of fun and produces fish. If you don’t have frogs in your arsenal, take the time and pick up a few. With a little investment and time, learning a new technique can and will produce fish.