Those Frustrating Frogs

Sam Bevard -

Duckweed had been a problem in my favorite fishing hole since late spring, but on Thursday this week the jungle of tiny surface plants had finally made it unfishable. Only intermittent patches of open water remained and phalanxes of the stuff defended the entire shoreline, making a full retrieve of most any lure impossible. No wonder the pair of gigantic grass carp—the largest live fish to which I have ever been relatively near—were so fat and also ineffective at devouring all the largesse at their disposal. I have been close to these beasts when they surfaced near the bank and it was almost scary.

Weeds in ponds and lakes are wonderful—in moderation. They offer structure to target with lures, cover for fish, and protective shade. But they often take favored fishing holes out the mix for the summer and early fall seasons. Many topwater lures work great over submerged weeds when the surface is clear, but surface weeds defeat most everything. In the case of duckweed—tiny flat plants with dangling roots—unless so numerous as to cover a pond altogether, winds can change the pattern and open parts of the water from day-to-day. I had not been able to fish this entire pond all summer.

A couple of lure options can allow us to fish over weeds. One is a weightless Texas-rigged worm. The other option is the frog.

Frogs are a prized natural food for bass but I suspect many bass live long lives and grow large without ever seeing, much less getting to eat one. The best bass ponds are usually quiet at night; the best frog gigging holes are those small puddles where there are no fish. Yet when a bass spies a frog lure, its thought processes would probably go something like this: “I’ve never seen one of those before but I know it’s something I really want to eat.”

I have never caught a bass on a frog but I have successfully used frog-colored lures such as the Helin Flatfish and Heddon Tiny Torpedo, neither of which would work in the duckweed mess that confronted me. Nor would buzzbaits, the Jitterbug, or the marvelous Ploppers. But I had in my tackle arsenal three frog lures—two of which I had bought and one I had found. For readers who are not anglers, frog lures are usually made of rubber and are buoyant. Instead of dangling treble hooks they have a pair over the top bedded lightly into the rubber back—imagine the trigger and middle fingers pressed together and bent at the big knuckle. This arrangement makes them virtually weedless; they can ride freely over and through anything that grows in water except a solid bank of cattails.

Various professional anglers put their endorsement on frog lure products, but I have never read an account of a pro who relied on the frog to win a major tournament, though I admit that my reading of such events is limited. If the frog imitates such a tempting natural food even more vulnerable than the real thing, why is the frog not a strong lure choice? I suspect it is because the construction of the frog that makes it weed proof also renders it almost fish proof. A treble protruding from the frog’s rubber belly would nail Mr. Bass but it would also grab the green slop and make the frog as useless in weeds as any other surface lure.

The fishing calendar tells us that this past week was not a good one for fishing. Add to this the heat factor and it was not a great time to be out if catching fish was your main motive. Yet when I began tossing a very realistic frog lure onto the duckweed mats, bass began to rise to it. In an hour I had around 10 strikes but only two contacts long enough for the fish to snatch the frog under into submerged weed beds and pull loose leaving me with only the frog and a wad of gunk. As far as I could tell all the other strikes, which were right through the carpet of duckweed, were total misses on the part of the fish.

It is hard to hook and hold a fish on a frog lure. Hook position is the primary glitch and I would theorize that the frequency of the fish taking in not only the soft lure but also a mouthful of glop also interferes with hooking. I had no strikes when the frog passed through patches of open water, indicating that the fish were hanging out entirely under the weeds in shade. That I was not also in the shade might indicate that I am not as smart as a bass.

I have access to another pond that water hyacinths (“lily pads”) cover entirely. Most of the bass one catches there early spring before the weeds emerge are small, but I have snatched two 16-inch largemouths from it that were built like weightlifters. Bass from this hole are a gorgeous deep green. I’m thinking of trying to run a frog in this puddle, but landing a fish of any size might be a challenge because water hyacinths have deep sub-surface stems.

People with experience at frogging say that hesitation before setting the hook is key to getting solid hookups with frogs, but the fish must actually make a successful hit before this can work. I certainly motivated several bass to attack under conditions when their inclination was to be inactive, but they were off their game and mostly missed the target. I want to learn to fish the frog. It would be another option when surface weeds are closing off all others.

Sam Bevard Bevard