By Vic Attardo
The lily pads alone could service a 1,000-plate state dinner. They covered the tablecloth of little Weaver Lake in Herkimer County thick, and around most shores.
Maybe the frogs were hot too. They’d jump up and out from pad to clear water. Pushing the canoe out onto Weaver, digging the paddles into the muck and greenery was sweaty summer work. I admired the wet frogs.
Second time out on this lake and the 106-acres called not for crankbaits or rubber worms, but for a surface oblation. If the distant, truck tire-swirl I saw wasn’t a largemouth going after a frog by the pads then I’ve never bass fished.
In most places, a soft, hollow plastic frog, or its cousin, the solid plastic kicking toad, will draw strikes, but you have to work for them. It’s a lot of casting to say the least; a bunch of missing too as the bass can’t always find the bait through the slop, or the hooks just don’t connect.
Despite the downside, using frogs or toads over the mats of July and August is worth it for the explosive strikes. Try these baits for the sport, not to put food on the table, unless it’s tournament cash.
Choosing either the frog or the toad is, at first, a matter of preference. But there are guidelines for both that increases their effectiveness.
As a generalized description, fake toads have short, curved legs that work like subtle buzzbaits; a lot of plastic frogs don’t have legs but flexible filaments streaming from their butt. Some toads often have a stubby pad at the end of their legs, but others eschew the pads and elongate the legs. Both of these designs that make them act like buzzbaits.
Then again some lure companies also make realistic plastic frogs with legs that look exactly like frog legs. The legs on these life-like frogs extend during the retrieve and retract when paused.
While all soft frogs are designed as a standalone bait, used with no additional weight, toads can be worked by themselves or with an additional nose weight or placed on the back of a jig, particularly a swimming jig.
Another way to tell them apart: if the bait comes with a single or, more commonly, a dual hook already embedded in the lure, with a hook-eye at the nose, it’s probably a frog; but if you must add the hook yourself, it’s a toad – no matter what lure companies say.
If these distinctions are making your head swim, perhaps it’s better to think about how, where and why frogs and toads are used because the real difference comes in their use.
Toads make great search baits. Combined with a 5/0 hook, a screw-in keeper with a 3⁄16 weight on the shank, I can zing a toad quite a distance and be confident the plastic will work belly down, as it should.
In practice, I like toads over emergent grass and scattered lily pads. I don’t like them over thick surface vegetation as the legs won’t generate the buzzbait kick.
I use most plastic frogs primarily around lily pads and thick gunky vegetation. Frogs are commonly worked with stop-and-crawl retrieves. You plop them down, let them sit a bit, then crawl them along at different speeds.
Around lily pads you sometimes want frogs to sit atop a big leaf, then crawl them over the edge and swim to the next pad. Over gunk you may want to work them smoothly across or with various stop-and-crawl motions.
Then again, I’ve demonstrated to boat-mates the effectiveness of working a frog very quickly over the mats just as I’ve seen real frogs escape. This is probably the least used retrieve and when bass have become too accustom to plastic frogs, it’s the one I try.
With both frogs and toads there are tackle subtitles that can improve your odds.
One thing that you may need adjustment with a frog is the hooks. Sometimes the dual hooks come too low to the body so a very slight up-bend with a pair of needle-nose pliers – bending the point arms up a tad – helps improve the hook-set. If you have a dual-hook frog that isn’t catching bass try a slight tilt with the pliers just above the bend. I repeat, a very slight tilt as too much also ruins the hook-setting.
Like all artificial baits there are good designs and lousy ones. A few years back an otherwise reputable company came out with a frog whose plastic was too stiff. Most bass didn’t get the hook.
This frog is off the market anyway, however, I knew a good frog and toad man who purposely left his plastic baits on his boat deck to roast in the sun so they’d soften up. There might be something to this as I’ve realized better hooking ratios with some frogs on a hot August day after the baits roasted in the sun.
Another modification I like with toads is to split the rear pads into two or three slices and even remove the center slice. It improves their buzzing.
Something you need to decide about frogs and toads is what kind of line to use. The choices are mono, fluorocarbon, or a braided line. All have advantages on a baitcasting reel. The main advantage for fluoro is ease of use. However, fluoro is not, in my estimation, the best choice.
Understanding that a quality braided line has tremendous strength as compared to its diameter. A 10-pound diameter braid with 35- to 50-pound test strength is common and that braided line cuts through a lily pad stem like a high-powered weed whacker. So, there are two very good reasons to choose braided line.
However, the best reason is braid’s greatly reduced stretch. On a bass blow-up at a distance, you have to set the hook with a strong upwards sweep, so you don’t want any stretch in the line.
I’ve known anglers who fish frogs and toads with all fluoro line and anglers who fish with all braided line. I compromise using braid with a four-foot leader of strong 20-pound test fluoro. This combo is something I learned from a good bass man and have seen no reason to go another way. I’ve spent entire summer days cruising the shallows encircling Oneida Lake and the braid/fluoro combo was the winning set.
When bass blow up on a frog, the excitement powers an immediate reaction to set the hook. However, many anglers have increased their hooking ratio by waiting to feel the bass’ weight either as it dives or swims away.
For this tactic, you need to tighten the line and begin to slightly raise the rod, feel the weight and then set the hook hard. It’s a studied reaction and never fool proof. Watching the best frogmen, the procedure looks like one smooth show, but there are really steps to the maneuver. Also a designated frog rod with real butt stiffness adds to the tactic’s effectiveness.
Frog and toad season begins with the thickening of the weeds and can last well into fall. As long as your see the real jumpers and subsequent swirls on the water, the two lure styles are worth using.