Usually it's a fool's game to go bass fishing and try to dictate to the fish what to do do. I knew that. I decided to do it anyway.

Joe Bruce and I had a good spring fishing artificial frogs in the pad fields of Piney Run Lake. When the pad fields became solid, the action pretty much stopped. We figured the fish were still in there, but they couldn't see or get to our frogs. But, as the temperatures began to drop, openings again developed in the pads, and, we figured, the bass should still be there.


So, when I was able to make it to Piney Run for a few afternoon hours about 10 days ago, I — uncharacteristically — took very little tackle in my kayak. I rigged one spinning rod with Bill Dance's Pad Crasher, Jr., my favorite hollow-body frog, and the other with Jak's Hoppin' Frog, a sold-body, paddle-footed frog that can be retrieved across the surface like a buzzbait. The hollow frog is good for slowly working holes in the fields and has been very effective for bass on Eastern Shore ponds and Piney Run. The solid frog covers a lot of water and is good for fishing the edges of pad and weed fields and has been productive for bass and snakeheads in several tidal rivers including the Potomac.

As per Joe's scouting report, when I arrived at a favorite arera I found holes and long slots in the pad fields. The kayak can skid across the tops of the pads, which act to anchor the boatin the wind, giving access to any part of the pad field. For the first two hours I didn't find much action. The Pad Crasher drew a couple of half-hearted strikes from bass and numerous bunts and tugs on the rubber string legs from bluegills. The Hoppin' Frog drew piscatorial yawns (I imagine). I tried a dozen or so promising places, before the brain cells finally started firing. D'oh!

I needed to fish holes in the pads that were shaded. I had assumed the bass would be under pads at the edges of holes and slots and would dart out when they saw the frog despite the overhead sun. They wouldn't.

On my second cast to a shaded hole in the pads, I took the bass shown. It was classic. Just as the frog got to the pad at the edge of the hole, there was a big bulge that lifted the pad. I tugged the Pad Crasher into the hole and the bass inhaled it. I waited the prescribed beat then slammed home the double hooks. The fight was spirited but necessarily brief in yanking the fish from the vegetation. I "eyeballed" the largemouth at 2 ½-3 pounds.

Well, that was better. I made another cast to a similar spot and boated another bass, this one about two pounds. I boated two more similar bass probing shaded pad holes in the next half hour. The bigger bass were out from the bank, so the two kinds of cover were pads and shade. Then I had to head in.

I was feeling a bit smug for figuring out the pattern; the bass "behaved" just as they should have. I was also thinking I should have figured out the situation a lot earlier. For years I have been writing about finding "the structure within the structure, the cover within the cover." On countless occasions on Eastern Shore ponds and rivers, I have taken bass and pickerel right up against shore in the shade of overhanging trees in narrow gaps between the edge of the pads, spatterdock or grass and the bank.

The extreme example occurred several years ago. The bass were buried in cover. They were in the shade of overhanging trees, beside or under fallen trees, at the edge of pad fields and under a solid mat of duckwort, a thin, floating mat of tiny green leaves. That's four kinds of cover. But every time I was able to drop the Pad Crasher into such a spot I hooked a bass. (Not all were boated.) I got a few bass and pickerel in other spots that day, but the four-cover spots were a sure thing.

As I considered these ideas on the way in I encountered two guys fishing open water from a very large (and expensive) bass boat. They claimed they had caught about 20 bass apiece on a variety of lures including surface lures. They were fishing soft plastics along breaklines when I met them. I witnessed no action as I paddled in. Yet, somehow, I think their reports were accurate. There can be days like that on Piney Run. I've seen it and done it.

On October 10th I tried to get to Piney Run for the tourney weigh-in at noon. I was a bit late, but I did get to talk with one successful angler. Hunter Geary of Catonsville took second place in the bass division with a 2.7-pound largemouth along with a slightly smaller bass. He caught them on a Bill Dance Pad Crasher (the larger, ½-ounce size) fished in the pads. Since the tournament ended at noon, he only had several hours to fish. Sound familiar?

But there was a significant difference. He fished from one of the lake's rented jon boats. Hunter told me he was able to slide the bow of the boat up onto the pads to anchor it, then he cast around to surrounding holes.

So in bass waters with a surface cover of pads, spatterdock, duckwort or other weed mats, frogs are still worth a try until water cool further. But usually the more cover the better.