The following words are printed in bold type on the back of every Scum Frog lure package:
WHEN A FISH STRIKES, WAIT TWO SECONDS BEFORE YOU SET THE HOOK.
It's sound advice but hard to follow when the eruption of a bass taking your lure creates a washtub-size hole in the water and your reflexes scream at you to yank back on the rod hard enough to dislocate both shoulders. That's what makes frog-lure fishing so much fun--especially at this time of year, when vegetation has matted on the water and weedless frogs are about the only lure that can be used successfully.
**WORKING THE WEEDS **
Even on a good day, you probably won't hook more than half of the bass that strike. Weedless frog makers constantly look for ways to improve the hooking percentage.
The Scum Frog (662-327-4548; www.scumfrog.com) is one of several hollow soft-plastic baits that easily slide over thick vegetation and sloppy algae. The stout double hooks curl tightly around the back of the bait, where they are shielded from snags. When a bass nabs it, the body compresses and exposes the hooks.
Scum Frog's Trophy Series, their latest line, has lively silicone strands protruding from each side of the frog that mimic legs. A brass weight fixed to the bait's rear increases your casting distance and makes the frog's head sit higher in the water. This posture looks more natural and increases the likelihood that a bass will engulf the hooks.
The Boze Sumo Frog (626-968-3782; www.naturefriend.com) is similar in design and comes in 5/8- and 3/8-ounce sizes. It has recently become a hot item among West Coast anglers. With its bulging eyes, lifelike body, and long flowing legs, this is one sexy frog.
Snag Proof's Wiggle Wog (800-762-4773; www.greatlures.com/snag), their newest lure model, has a more rounded body and a paddle tail that grabs the water and makes the bait wobble when retrieved. It's the only weedless frog out there that has this action.
Mann's (334-687-5716; www.mannsbait.com) improved their original Rat by making it bigger, inserting rattles, and adding a free-swiveling weedless trailer for more hooking power. The newer version is called the Super Rattlin' Rat.
MAKING SOME NOISE
Weedless poppers generate more commotion than the standard narrow-nosed frog versions and may be a better choice to fish open pockets of water within the vegetation.
A very good one is the Weedless Popper by Scum Frog. Its large, cupped face really pushes water.
The award for the most unique weedless frog bait goes to Scum Frog's Two Tiny Toads. It consists of two petite 3/16-ounce TinyToads rigged one behind the other on a stiff 12-inch wire leader. If a bass hesitates to blast the leading frog, the trailing frog gives it a second chance. Fishing this duo also lets you show bass two colors.
Whatever type of weedless frog you use, vary the retrieve speed and action, just as you would with any top-water lure. I've seen days when I had to jiggle and rest a frog in one place for 30 seconds or more to coax strikes. On other occasions, bass wanted the bait scooting over the grass with quick foot-long pulls and short pauses. Bass usually plow through the salad to engulf a frog, but sometimes they won't strike until the bait slides into an opening or off a weed edge.
Even at a hookup rate of 50 percent, you won't hear me complaining. I wouldn't miss those savage strikes for anything.****
FALL FROG FINESSE
Although he is better known for his crappie fishing expertise, guide and tackle designer Sam Heaton has fine-tuned a technique for catching lunker bass on weedless frog lures in waters from Florida to Minnesota.
Heaton claims that these baits produce best in the fall, when yellow blooms sprout on milfoil mats. "I almost always fish light colors, like white and chartreuse," Heaton says. "I can see light frogs better when a bass strikes and misses, and that stops me from jerking the rod. If you let the bait sit right there in the water and jiggle it a little bit, the bass will come back and take another shot at it."
To improve his strike-to-catch ratio, Heaton exchanges the heavy stock hooks found on most frogs with a thinner wire Mustad double hook. A stiff flipping rod and 50-pound no-stretch braided line ensure that the hook points dig deep. --M.H.