By: Abe Smith
Frost on the pumpkin doesn’t mean it’s time to put the frogs away. Late fall is a great time to catch bass on hollow body frogs, and here’s advice from the best fishing pros in the business on getting the most out of your autumnal amphibian angling.
Elite pro, Zell Rowland, is well known as the dean of all things topwater, and he often fishes a hollow body frog during fall. Two of his favorite froggin’ targets are docks and grass mats.
“I love to fish frogs around boat docks and floating docks,” he said. “A wooden dock with lots of cover is perfect for a frog. I prefer docks that I can throw under, those where I can make my presentation under the dock.”
If the dock fish aren’t home, Rowland looks to weedbeds as an alternative. He focuses on the healthiest-looking beds of hydrilla or milfoil, or better yet, a mixture of the two.
“I think a lot of the fish that live in these areas hardly ever leave the vegetation,” says Rowland. “The question is, ‘How deep will they be?’ Will they be in 2 feet of water or in 4 to 5 feet of water…or more toward the edge of the vegetation in 8 to 10 feet? The biggest challenge an angler has to overcome is finding that selective depth.”
He pays special attention to areas where hydrilla intersects with lily pads, or where Eurasian milfoil meets hydrilla. Certain mixes often hold significantly more fish than others, but those mixes might also change, too, with the season or even day to day.
“I look at everything around the area when a strike occurs,” Zell said. “If I get two or three bites in, say, 20 minutes, I will key in on that exact type of area. Once I determine where I’m getting most of my strikes, I won’t waste any more casts in unproductive water.”
Zell also keeps careful notes on the location of that vegetation for reference after it dies and retreats from the surface. Even though lily pads die off as winter encroaches, the stems still hold bass. Likewise, hydrilla and vegetation may retreat from the surface, but there’s often still plenty of cover a few feet down.
Few lures in the bass angler’s arsenal are a better fit for the habitat they are designed to work in than the hollow-body frog. A specially designed dual hook cradles the hollow frog bodies of the Booyah Pad Crasher and Poppin’ Pad Crasher with hook points tucked against the bait. That design allows the frogs to move through moss and thick vegetation and up and over fallen timber without snagging.
“The Booyah Pad Crasher catches fish when they are in shallow water and in heavy cover,” says legendary angler Bill Dance. “There aren’t many baits you can throw into a log jam or on top of matted vegetation, and because of the shape you can easily skip it under docks or overhanging trees.”
Accomplished frog anglers impart a walk-the-dog action to their frogs. This side-to-side action is effective when quickly covering a spot of open water, but also adds another benefit. By giving a single twitch, the frog darts at a diagonal instead of straight ahead, allowing anglers to more thoroughly work a piece of cover or keep the bait in the shade of a dock longer.
“The Pad Crasher comes through mats of vegetation and is pretty easy to walk,” says Alabama guide Jimmy Mason.
Mason fishes frogs at least 10 months out of the year, and even though he’s often on grass-covered Tennessee River impoundments, he’s always on the lookout for a hidden spot to skip the frog into, such as marina stalls and overhangs. He uses the regular Pad Crasher when fishing on top of the grass, and a Poppin’ Pad Crasher when he wants the surface disturbance of a Rebel Pop-R in snaggy, open-water areas.
“A frog sends off significant sound waves, and it’s a more attractive sound than other lures deliver,” says Dance. “It’s a ‘calling bait.’ Unnatural or unfamiliar sounds will spook fish, especially in shallow water, but the Pad Crashers sound natural. I like the Poppin’ Pad Crasher when I need to get their attention. At times, they can call fish from a distance you wouldn’t believe.”
Both Dance and Rowland say that anglers need to try a variety of retrieves every day to determine what the fish want. One day it will be slow with plenty of pauses, and the next it will take a constant walk-the-dog retrieve. As Rowland always says, the bass will tell you what they want. You’ve just got to listen.
Seasoned froggers know that size matters, too and that bigger isn’t always better. Alabama’s Lake Guntersville delivers some of the best big-bass action in the country, yet veteran anglers often prefer to “get small.”
“One thing that is important on Guntersville is small frogs,” says Mason. “Old timers have been cutting the legs off of their frogs for years to cut down the size. But the smaller Pad Crasher – the Booyah Pad Crasher Jr -- is deadly. I always have multiple colors of the Pad Crasher and a Jr on when I’m fishing. Sometimes I will miss a fish on the Pad Crasher but come back and get it with the Jr.”
He keeps his color selection simple, primarily using white and black frogs when fishing the grass and opting for shad-type colors when walking the frog in open water.
“The Booyah Pad Crasher is one of the top frogs among pro anglers today,” says Rowland. “I can’t tell you how many guys on the pro tours ask me if I have a frog they can borrow.”
Here are a seven frog fishing tips from the pros:
- As fall wears on, look for the greenest weeds possible. Dying vegetation doesn’t hold as many bass.
- Listen for quiet “pops” to key you into a productive grassbed. The sounds are bluegills slurping bugs and other foods from the surface and close-to-surface weeds.
- Docks become more productive when the sun gets high. Shade is one of a dock’s main attractions, so the more intense the sunlight, the better docks get.
- Use braid when frog fishing grassbeds, but a mono or copolymer for open water.
- Open spots in a big grassbed indicate that a bass has blown through that spot to get at something on top.
- Follow-up quickly when you miss a blow-up in a grassbed. That bass has just shown you where it is. If it won’t hit the frog again, try an unweighted YUM Dinger.
- Trim one of the Pad Crasher’s legs shorter than the other to make it walk easier.