The frog days of summer
When you see lily pads during the summer, it's time to break out the frog lures for bass fishing action. (Jim Gronaw photo)

A couple of friends of mine fish the shallow, tannin-stained waters of the Delmarva area catching outstanding bass from those millponds and backwaters on the Eastern Shore.

Their favorite summer pattern has been to fish frog imitations during early morning, evening or cloudy conditions. Even with surface water temperatures running in the high 80's, they continue to smash quality fish with simple, but timely, techniques.


There are few waters throughout our state that do not have frogs living on the skirts of the shorelines. Some have more than others. But in most lakes and ponds that do have frogs, they become a reliable food source for largemouth bass throughout the warm months. This can also help the angler deviate from the standard-issue plastic worm varieties that many fish have become accustomed to seeing.

I first got into froggin' for bass a couple seasons ago when algae blooms and emergent weed growth completely took over several of our favorite bass ponds, resulting in tough conditions and little options. We began to fish Scum Frogs, Ribbit Frogs and Horny Toads on top of the salad, and strikes would come as heart-stopping "blow-ups," as bass would literally blow a hole in the surface growth in an effort to capture what was above their heads, scooting across the surface.

But as exciting as it was, we managed very few hook-ups, and got discouraged.

Our problem was, we didn't know when to set the hook and used too light of line to effectively hook the fish. Once we went to 20- to 30-pound braid and waited to "feel" the fish moving off with our baits was when the success ration turned around. Strikes can vary, as some are explosive and immediate hook-ups, as others are just soft takes and then you feel weight.

I feel real happy when I go five out of 10 of frog strikes.

Perhaps the best aspect of summer froggin' on top of the slop is the fact that most fish are at least two pounds and up, with the chance of much bigger game. Bulky plastic lures tend to give a larger profile to a bass looking up from beneath a canopy of weed growth and surface algae, and often smaller fish abort on an attempted feed. Most of the bullfrogs I have encountered in this state are at least a handful, and it just takes a bigger fish to capture them.

Frogs tend to lie motionless or they are really bookin', which is why powerhouse strikes can come on these lures when they are on the move.

We like two different retrieves on these lures. One is to cast right on top of the gunk and inch your bait across it with short, six-inch twitches. When your lure reaches an open pocket, let it settle a few inches and give it a few sub-surface twitches. Strikes often occur as it falls from an edge of weed or algae. You might see a big boil just below the surface, and this could result in a solid hook-up. Set the hook in the bass's tough mouth and hang on!

Sometimes, bass will blow a hole in the surface slop as you inch it along. When you feel the weight of the fish, set the hook.

Another option would be to fish the plastic frog, like the StankX Buzz Frogz or the Stanley Ribbit Frog as you would a buzz bait. That is, to burn it across the surface and inspire a reactive strike from a bass. This can be a good tactic on the edge of cover. Or, you can retrieve the bait along the edge on the surface, then let the frog sink a few inches as if it were injured. Sometimes the bass will be more inclined to strike a frog below the surface, and at other times they will be right on the surface.

Other frog fishing lures are made by Lunker Lure and Live Target. These hollow-bodied soft plastics are designed to float and feature a "double hook" rigging where the hooks ride upright and tight to the body of the frog to minimize snagging and accumulation of surface weeds. They work especially well in pad fields and on top of surface algae.

Experiment with slow to fast retrieves to find which speed will entice the fish as it can vary from one trip to the next.

There are a ton of frogs on today's bass market. The two we prefer are the Stanley Ribbit Frog in 4 and 5 inch and the Stank X Buzz Frog of the same sizes. Natural hues in olive, green or "baby bass" colors will cover most bases of water color or weed conditions. Fish them on 2/0 or 3/0 offset worm hooks and we like to fish them on 20 to 30 pound braid so we can get the fish out of the slop and in our nervous hands for those hard-earned "trophy shots" from the camera.

Don't play fish too long or keep them out of the water for an extended period of time during the summer heat. Someone else will enjoy that fish one day.


Catch and release means future fishing success ... a great way to enjoy the "frog days" of summer.