Bass hop to hit buzzing frogs
By John N. Felsher
All year long, some bass stay shallow where thick weeds give them protection from predators and cover to hunt.
Even in hot weather, some lunker bass burrow into the thickest cover they can find. In clear lakes, grass may grow extremely thick, even in deep water. Anglers can probe the edges, but cannot reach where big lunkers lurk. In many lakes, grass becomes so matted that anglers cannot reach hidden bass unless they throw something weedless.
Few lures can reach bass hunkered down in grass like floating or slow-sinking buzzing frogs. These soft plastic temptations buzz across the tops of matted grass, lily pads or other canopy cover almost without snagging. They combine the heart-throbbing excitement of topwater baits with the fish-finding abilities of buzzbaits and the weedless advantages of Texas-rigged soft plastics.
“In places where people can’t even get a Texas-rigged worm to go through the grass, a Stanley Ribbit easily hops across the top,” said Lonnie Stanley, a five-time Bassmaster Classic veteran and legendary lure designer from Huntington, Texas. “I’ve caught big bass on it in very shallow water covered in grass so matted that no other bait could work in that spot. People can work the grassy edges with other baits, but a Ribbit goes right to where the big ones hide, in the thickest cover.”
Rich in protein, frogs comprise a significant forage base in many lakes and rivers. Often rigged weightless, these soft, lifelike lures look natural as they skitter across impenetrable salads. Bass see these baits silhouetted against the sky and slobber to attack them.
“Frogs are one of the primary forage species for bass,” Stanley said. “If a bass could order its food off a menu, it would probably pick crawfish first, frogs second and shad or bream third. Frogs give bass plenty of protein.”
Rigged with a 3/0 to 5/0 wide gap hook inserted into the body, a Stanley Ribbit buzzing frog looks, feels and sounds like a live frog jumping across the water surface or over virtually any cover. It creates realistic kicking action with its uniquely designed feet when buzzed over grass tops with a steady retrieve. The kicking legs and feet nearly duplicate the sound of buzzbaits, but soft plastic frogs can run effectively in matted grass where anglers would never dream of throwing buzzbaits or spinnerbaits.
For a buzzing steady retrieve, toss a frog across thickly matted cover, such as hydrilla, water hyacinths or lilies. Hold the rod tip high and crank the reel slowly to make the bait buzz across the surface with the legs providing sound and action.
“A Gulp! Frog has enough size and bulk to cast without a weight, but it skitters across the grass,” said Ken Cook, a former Bassmaster Classic champion from Meers, Okla. “I use heavy braided line on a heavy rod for throwing frogs. In open water, it makes a bubble trail like a buzzbait. That gives tremendous action when fishing light hydrilla or milfoil. Bass explode up through the grass to attack it.”
Anglers can also use the “hop and pop” method. With this method, work a buzzing frog almost like a conventional topwater bait. Let it sit on the surface for a few moments and then pop it vigorously. Let it sit again until the concentric rings clear and then pop it again. The commotion simulates a live frog splashing across the surface. This method works effectively in places where lily pads grow thick or matted grass can support the weight of a frog.
In patchy cover, try the stop, sink and go approach. Cast to a likely spot and let it remain briefly motionless. Depending upon hook size and cover thickness, it might sink slowly. Pull it a couple feet and let it rest again. Let it twitch and sink into pockets a foot or two before “crawling” it over new pads or grass. On pads, let it sit briefly. Then, ease it off the edge to sink into another pocket.
Pull a frog up to a hole in the grass and pause to let it sink,” Cook explained. “Gulp! is not made of plastic. It’s biodegradable. When fish get a taste of it, they swallow it. It also sinks faster.”
Since these soft plastic baits feel like natural frogs, fish may hold onto them longer than they might hold conventional hard topwater baits or spinnerbaits. Therefore, give lunkers a bit more time. When a lunker hits, drop the rod and wait a couple moments until the fish tugs on the line before setting the hook hard.Although most anglers use buzzing frogs without weights, some anglers attach small weights and fish them almost like wacky worms, letting them sink next to grassy edges, stumps or dock pilings. Others use them like traditional Texas-rigged plastics or attached to Carolina rigs.