5 Tips for Summer Frogging5 Tips for Summer Frogging Frogs should be a big part of your summer arsenal whether you’ve got slop on your waters or not. Here's how to master it.
In deep clear reservoirs of central Arizona, you may not think of a frog as your first choice for a topwater bait. However, Max Hernandez has loaded the boat with nice fish on a Spro frog, even without fishing slop or weeds. Fact is, a frog is a great topwater bait in any lake, weeds or no weeds. If you find some heavy cover, you don’t have to switch baits – you already know that frogs are designed to skim right over that stuff without getting hung up. Frogs are great, and there are a few things you can do that will make your frog fishing even more successful – pick the right lure, control your casts, use the right equipment, pay attention to current, and master the retrieve.
CHOOSING A FROG
Hernandez picks Spro Bronze Eye frogs because they have fantastic hooks and soft collapsible bodies that let those hooks do their job. But what he really likes about these frogs is the way they’re made – they’re not flat on the bottom, they’re rounded, and that means he can skip it, walk the dog, bounce the nose down, or do anything else he feels like doing with it. The legs on these frogs (he was throwing Nasty Shad color, by the way) are strands of spinnerbait skirt material – they merely suggest legs, but that’s all it takes. You can replace the leg material if it gets chewed up or even if you just want a different color. Instructions are on the Spro website at www.spro.com.
As for color, the main thing is to choose something the fish can see. At Saguaro in the summer, the water can be really green, and the Nasty Shad color shows up nicely. On cloudy days he favors darker colors. Sometimes what the fish do makes no sense – Max has caught dozens of big fish at night, with no moon, on white Spro frogs. Since they stay on top, it’s the silhouette that the fish need to see, more than the color. So choose a frog that will show up nicely against the sky and the tint of the water. One more thing – every few casts, Max grabs the frog and gives it a few squeezes to get any accumulated water out of it so it floats well.
CONTROL YOUR CASTING
Max is one of the most precise casters I’ve ever seen, and that kind of precision takes practice. There’s no shortcut to this: you just need to get out there and make cast after cast after cast. The shorelines where Max fishes are riddled with rocky cracks and crevices, as well as small areas of tules. These small crevices may be only a foot or so wide, and they will be off at an angle. The goal is to cast that frog directly to the back of that little cut. Max gets the frog on the water actually touching the shoreline most of the time. If you have to cast and recast, landing the bait in the middle or out in front of the cut, you may as well just skip that one. The fish on these clear waters are pretty savvy, and if you start beating the surface and then trying again, you’re probably not going to get bit.
Fortunately, casting is something you can practice even if you’re not on the lake. Set up some targets in your back yard or even out on the street if that’s all you’ve got. If you’ve got a pool, that’s a bonus – float some rings on it and practice casting to them. In the yard or street, start out with bigger targets and reduce the size as you improve. What you’re going for is muscle memory – pretty soon, your body will just take over and you’ll be casting precisely with no effort at all. Some people recommend using cups as targets, but that teaches you to land the lure a few inches above the surface. Try flatter targets – paper plates, rings from ring toss games – stuff like that. Ideally, use the actual frog when you practice. The hooks are designed so they don’t hang up, so you should be able to cast it at rings and such no problem. To protect the hook points, cut the erasers off a couple of pencils and stick them on the hook points. If you possibly can, get up off the ground so it’s more like actually casting from the deck of a boat.
This practice will really pay off when you’re on the water and you want to put a frog in a four-inch gap in the tules. Once Max has the frog where he wants it, he reels it back pretty steadily, twitching the rod up and down a few inches. It’s almost like walking the dog, and the Spro frog is perfect for this retrieve. You’ll need nerves of steel at times – you can see big bass following the frog, and it’s hard to control yourself, but you need to wait until you feel the fish to set the hook.
THE RIGHT STUFF
Because a frog is designed to get big bass out of heavy cover, the hooks are beefy. Still, it’s easy to get a hookset because the body of the frog is so soft and thin. But those big hooks take power to drive home, so you need equipment that can do the job. Max uses a 7’6” medium heavy fast tip flipping stick. This rod has plenty of backbone for good hooksets, and the tip is soft enough to let you cast the frog with precision. Spro frogs have 4/0 Gamakatsu EWG hooks, so all you need to do is keep the points touched up. Braid is a must, so even if you hate braid, suck it up and spool some on. Max uses 50- to 65-pound-test braid, and goes up to 80 if there are lots of tules. Because braid has no stretch, it’s ideal for transferring power from the rod to the hooks.
A rig like this doesn’t have to be heavy, and in fact, it’s worth it to pony up for a high quality rod. A good frog rod should have lots of backbone and power, but you want it to be light and balanced so you can throw all day and not get worn out by noon. Two or three hundred dollars sounds like a lot of money for a rod, but the Big Fish pot in your local tourney will probably cover that. So go to Dobyns Rods at dobynsrods.com and check out the DC 766FLIP. Read the reviews. This rod is $260 and worth every dime.
There are lots of lakes that have current moving through them – in fact, nearly every lake has current, but you just don’t notice it. The fish do, though. Saguaro Lake is one of the Salt River chain of lakes in central Arizona, and it’s a pump back lake. This means that twice a day this lake has a LOT of current. In the morning water is sucked in the direction that would be upstream if the river weren’t dammed, and it can flat out move at times. In the afternoon, the water is dumped back into the lake from Canyon Lake, which is upstream, and this generates power for the cities around the lakes. The point is, this creates quite a bit of current, and fish pay attention to that.
If the current is really strong, fish will find an eddy behind a rock or something and just hang out. They’ll face into the current and just wait for a snack to drift along. If you’re fishing against the current, you won’t be as successful as you would be if you used the current to your advantage, simply because the fish don’t see your bait coming. Max uses the current, fishing his frog in the same direction that the current is flowing, and making sure to work it skillfully around the rocks and over the eddies where big fish hang out. Tules don’t stop the current, so pay attention even when you’re practically flipping the frog to the reeds.
There are times when the current is so strong you can see it, and other times it is subtle. Like a hunter tossing a bit of fluff in the air to see which way the wind is blowing, watch the surface for floating leaves and bits of stuff to see if, and which way, the water is flowing. It will really help you catch more fish.
MASTER THE RETRIEVE
Max works the Spro frog effortlessly, and you have to really watch him to figure out what he’s doing. He leaves a bit of slack in the line when he’s working it, and that lets the frog move side to side a bit. He doesn’t really move the rod side to side, he just twitches it up and down – it’s that little bit of slack line that lets the frog’s head shake from side to side and give it that enticing walk. If he’s working a very small cut and wants to keep the frog in the strike zone longer, he just reels a tiny bit more slowly, still keeping that little side to side motion.
If you’re working a frog over a bunch of slop or even a mat of floating debris, keep the same motion. I know some people move it quickly from open pocket to open pocket, but the fish can sense and see that movement even when the frog is on top of a bunch of stuff. Keep the steady movement so the fish knows where to strike. Most of the time, you’ll want to fish it fairly slowly, but that doesn’t mean it’s a slow bait to fish. Cast precisely, walk it over the bass zone, then reel it in and re-cast. You can cover a lot of water with a frog, and your odds of getting a big fish on this bait are very good. Frogs should be a big part of your summer arsenal whether you’ve got slop on your waters or not. If it works in the central Arizona reservoirs, it will work where you fish.
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