By Trevor Knight
The past three years has seen a rapid increase in the popularity of those artificial amphibians we collectively call hollow-bodied frogs. They have been responsible for several tour level wins including a Forrest Wood Cup. With this increase in popularity, there has also been an increase in the variety of frogs offered by lure manufacturers. However, like all other lures, hollow-bodied frogs are tools, tools that must be used properly to receive the maximum benefit from their use.
Here are a few dos and don’ts that should help increase your success with Kermit and his friends.
1) Always use braided line. Whether you are fishing mats, open water, muddy water, or ultra clear water, you need to throw your frogs with braid. The hook up ratio with braided line is far greater than with mono simply because there is no stretch, which results in more force delivered with the hook set. After the hook set, you still need to get the bass in the boat, which means you have to stop the bass from burying in the cover. Braid cuts through vegetation like a knife and helps turn the fish towards the boat and away from the cover. Even in open, clear water, bass will strike a frog used on braid. I would recommend 65 lb. braid for all frog fishing applications.
2) Focus on the frog the entire retrieve. Many anglers say you should wait till you feel the fish before setting the hook after a strike. If you employ this method you will end up losing some of the biggest bass that hit. While you do not want to set the hook as soon as you see a blow up, waiting till you feel the fish could leave you with nothing more than a big wad of grass. There are times when a bass will strike and start heading towards the boat. If this happens you won’t feel the bass and by the time you realize it, the bass has you wrapped up around a bush or buried in the grass. You want to watch your frog like a hawk. When you see the frog disappear set, and set hard. When the frog disappears then you know the fish has taken it under. Odds are that if you still swing and miss, the fish was either a small bass that grabbed the legs or it was a pike or bowfin.
3) Speak softly and carry a big stick. Another way to increase your hook up ratio is to use a big rod. You want to use a rod that is 7 to 7 ½ feet long. I prefer a medium heavy action rod with a soft tip. The soft tip helps load the rod and make longer casts. The long rod allows for more line to be moved during the hook set, which is critical if a bass hits at the end of a long cast.
4) Burn it up. Match the big rod up with a super high speed reel. I opt for the 7.3:1 gear ratio that is found on the Quantum Tour KVD, Energy PT SS, and Reax PT Burner reels. The super fast gear ratio allows you to take up more line with each turn of the handle, which helps with hook sets on long casts and it helps you get the bass up on top of the mat and ski him to the boat before he has a chance to fight back.
5) Do not add rattles. A lot of anglers suggest adding rattles to a frog to enhance the attraction of the lure. The frog already moves a lot of water and makes a lot of commotion on the surface. A rattle does not really help that much. The bad thing about adding a rattle inside the body of the frog is that it can severely decrease the hook up ratio because the rattles does not allow the body of the frog to collapse and expose the hook points like it is designed to do. Whatever increase in strikes that you might gain by adding more sound to the frog, you will lose twice as many fish that hit the bait due to hampered hook exposure.
6) Experiment with retrieves until you find one that works. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when fishing a frog is that they work the bait with only one cadence all of the time, and if they do not get bit they put the frog down. As with any topwater bait, you have to experiment with different retrieve speeds until you find one that works. I usually start with a slow walk-the-dog cadence with pauses whenever I get to a high potential area. I gradually increase the speed of the cadence to the point where the frog is almost running across the surface. Sometimes they want it fast, and sometimes they want it slow. The cadence that the fish want can change from day to day and even hour to hour.
7) Never fish a frog straight out of the package. The first thing I do with a frog when I take it out of the package is alter the rubber legs. Normally, they come out of the package way too long. I like to trim the legs down about an inch on one leg and an inch and a quarter on the other. This uneven symmetry helps make walking-the-dog much easier as one side tends to drag more water. Another option is to tie the end of each leg in a knot. This actually creates a little more vibration from the legs as you work the frog and even makes the ends fan out more giving the appearance of frog feet when the frog is at rest. One more trick is to remove the rubber legs and replace them with rabbit fur. The rabbit fur legs give the frog a different look that highly pressured bass may not have seen before.
8) Don’t be afraid to bust out the spinning rod. Not all of us have mastered the art of skipping a frog on a baitcaster. I have found that when fishing docks or overhanging trees, I can skip the frog farther and more accurately with spinning tackle than with casting gear. You still want to beef up and use a 7 foot medium heavy rod with a 40 size spinning reel and braided line. It sounds counter-intuitive, but trust me, spinning gear has a place in frog fishing.
9) One final tip I can offer is to bend the hooks out slightly if you are having trouble hooking fish on the frog. You only need to slightly bend the hooks out, maybe a couple degrees. This exposes the hook points a little bit more allowing the points to sink into the fish more easily. If you bend the hooks out too much, then you will find yourself snagging more often.
Hopefully these tips will help you become a better frog fisherman resulting in more fish in the boat and less heartache from missed opportunities.