It usually happens in an explosive, splashy flash, one that heightens your senses and fires every neuron from head to toe with a dose of jet fuel. The impulse to set the hook is overwhelming. You’re dying to do it, to turn the reel handle about three quarters to tighten the line and drive a hook into the bass’ mouth.
But you can’t. For at least a second, maybe two, you have to wait. Only after pausing can you bow up and see the rod double over. Then you can start fighting the bass that wanted that frog.
Although frogs work for virtually the entire fishing season, late summer is when they truly shine. Vegetation is thick in lakes, bass are hungry, and real frogs are out along the bank. Rats and mice are out, too, sometimes skittering over shoreline vegetation, trying to find their way back to terra firma. Often, they don’t. Like your hollow rubber frog with twin hooks and skirted legs, they disappear in a lightning-strike explosion.
Professional angler Ish Monroe of California is a diehard frogger. From spring through autumn, at least one or two of his Daiwa Steeze rods is rigged with a Snag Proof frog. He’s thrown frogs on top of vegetation and in open water from California to Connecticut.
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“Anytime the water temperature is consistently 56 degrees or more, for me it’s game on,” Monroe says. “It can be overcast or sunny, morning, noon, or night—they will eat a frog. The only time I don’t throw one is when it’s cold or when it’s too windy, when you can’t see the frog.
“If I can’t see it, then they can’t see it. If the wind is blowing and waves are rolling, they can’t home in on it. There’s too much going on. But if it’s calm or there’s just a little ripple, they can see it and will come eat it.”
Monroe doesn’t get fancy with his frogs. He throws his signature Snag Proof Ish’s Phat Frog or Poppin’ Phattie in white on sunny days or black on cloudy days and in dirty water. Simplicity is his motto. He spools up with Maxima 65-pound braid on a Daiwa Zillion Type R reel with a fast 7.1:1 gear ratio. The line gives him strength and confidence around heavy cover. The reel speed lets him take up almost 30 inches of line with every turn of the handle, so he can get a bass in quickly or reel up and fire back out if a bass strikes and misses.
On lakes with vegetation, such as matted milfoil or hydrilla, Monroe looks for points, cuts, little pockets, and other irregularities. He wants to find them close to deeper water, too, so bass can feed on shad and bluegills in the grass and then have the security of deep water nearby. But he uses these lures in open-water situations, too.
“Frogs can be great in open water because they’re subtle,” he says. “A lot of guys will throw topwater baits, like a Spook, but a bass may not want something that loud. Sometimes they do, of course. But I throw the frog a lot in open water or along open shorelines. It’s great in those situations.”
Frogs are versatile. The streamlined body and flowing skirted legs let you impart a walking action, like you can with a hard bait. Or you can give it little scoots or hops, then let it sit. Monroe imparts a rhythmic action and moderate speed until he figures out whether the bass want it moving quickly or at a slower pace.
Shoreline riprap along road causeways is one of his favorite targets in the pre-spawn, spawn, and post-spawn periods. Typically fish are on or near hard bottom, forage is abundant, and bass can spawn on or near the rocks. It’s a perfect setup for frogs. Those same areas sometimes get pockets of wind-blown vegetation earlier in the year, too.
“Frogs are everywhere, and bass eat frogs,” he says. “It’s that simple.”