I wonder if local fish think it's been raining frogs in the last few weeks. Whatever, they are definitely keying in on them. From Delmarva ponds, to Virginia rivers, to local reservoirs to Piney Run, my friends and I have been pitching artificial frogs and taking largemouth and smallmouth bass, pickerel and bowfin. I don't have any recent reports from the tidal Potomac, but it's a good bet the snakeheads, too, have joined the froggy feast.
The outlier to the frog fishing pattern was reported by Harry Pippin. Fishing Prettyboy Reservoir on a bluebird day a couple of weeks ago, Harry decided to work the heaviest cover he could find. At one tangle of branches and leaves Harry opted for a full-sized Booyah Pad Crasher as the only thing he could throw into the gnarly tangle with any hope of getting back out. He was rewarded with a smallmouth of over 4 pounds. Then, inexplicably, he enjoyed a 45-minute period of surface fishing before the action suddenly shut down.
Joe Bruce and I took more traditional routes in fishing different Maryland Eastern Shore ponds. Mine was covered with a solid layer of duckwort and spatterdock until afternoon winds created some avenues in the duckwort. But the bass were still able to find my pad Crasher, Jr. in the solid mats. Joe fished a different pond with the same lure and scored a half-dozen bass plus several pickerel working holes in lily pad fields.
Comparing notes, he said, "Piney Run ought to be getting good again as some of the pads die down and holes develop in the pad fields." I told him I was thinking the same thing. But Joe did something about it and hit Piney Run last Saturday and took four bass, one of four pounds, and missed four, before "the weekend fleet" arrived.
On Virginia's Piankatank, frogs produced bass and bowfin for Joe's group of four anglers.
Plastic and rubber frogs have several great advantages over many conventional lures. First they are as close to snagless as any lure can be, so fishermen don't hesitate to send them into the nastiest tangles where gamefish often lurk. Hollow-bodied frogs were the only lure that could be fished on my Eastern Shore pond. (Seeing a live frog try to climb into my kayak at the launch ramp was an amusing but unnecessary hint.) Second, they are effective; they draw strikes. Third, they are fun and exciting; the explosive strikes on these lures are half the fun. Sure you won't hook up on about half these strikes, but you still get the action. Besides other lures wouldn't draw any or at least as many strikes.
But there's more to the game than tying on a frog and start flinging. Joe Bruce and I have arrived at the same tackle formula. We use medium to medium-heavy rods, and braided line with no leader. I really like 30-pound test Sufix 832 in green. We've both settled on the same frogs. For fishing the heaviest cover and hitting small holes in cover our top choice is Booyah's Pad Crasher, Jr. This compact, ¼-ounce lure casts beautifully, and fish tend to inhale it, so its hookup ration is far better than with most frog lures. Our second rod has a Jak's frog rigged on either a single 4/0 hook or a 4/0 Ribbit "Double Take" frog hook. We swim this lure over grass beds, sunken pads and other cover. This frog covers water and leaves a trail of bubbles, so it's somewhat like a buzz bait. Color doesn't much matter with these lures; we both alternate between natural shades of green/silver and bright white and yellow.
Setting the hook with a frog is an art. The best advice is to pause for a beat or until you feel the weight of the fish before setting the hook. That said, every day seems slightly different.
The thinking of our anglers group is that the fish will be in the shallow pad fields for a few more weeks until cold weather drives them deeper with pickerel remaining in the shallows longer. Holes in the fields developing as pads die down create more targets.
But, as with so much of fishing, "the pattern within the pattern" is the key to success. Here are some prime targets and techniques:
• Look for holes right against the shore, especially if these areas are shaded.
• Look for logs and fallen trees in the weed and pad fields.
• Work the outside edges of pad and weed fields, not by casting perpendicularly to the edges, but casting parallel to the edges or from the inside of the pads to the outside edges.
• When fishing the shallows, cast onto the bank then hop the frog into the water.
• Don't be in a hurry when fishing a floating frog, like a Pad Crasher, twitch it slowly and steadily, then pause at a hole and shake it by hitting the butt of the rod with the heel of your free hand.
• Sometimes a slowly sinking frog, like Jak's, works well when allowed to sink into a hole or along an edge. This technique works well for all species but especially for pickerel and bowfin.
• Senko-type lures are also effective dropped into holes and sometimes draw hits after missed hits on frogs.
•Fancast large areas and look for patterns. Sometimes fish are on the outside edge, the inside edge, in the holes. Sometimes there's no particular pattern, but the middle of a field rarely seems to produce. Sometimes several fish can be found in a small area, particularly if there is other cover like trees in the area.
Frog fishing should be good for a few more weeks. Don't miss it.
Bill May is a Times outdoors writer. His column appears every other Sunday. Reach him at 410-857-7896 or email@example.com.