It’s late summer and the vegetation is thick. What’s lurking in those pads and weed mats where you live? Giant largemouths? Snakeheads? Pike? Bowfins? Regardless of what you’re after, there’s no more effective—or fun—way to target summer fish in heavy cover than with a hollow-body topwater frog.

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These baits have been around for decades, and while modern twists have altered their profiles and actions, the core features remain the same: they’re highly buoyant, durable, streamlined, and weedless. No other style of lure slips over pads or cuts through surface weed like a hollow-body, and when one gets taken down, it’s often with a heart-stopping toilet flush. But as simple as these lures are in design, fishing them effectively takes some skill and proper gear. Here are the three rules of frogging you need to know before tossing Kermit in the salad bar.

1. Prime the Winch

In most fishing situations you never want to tie a hook or lure directly to the end of your braided line. You want to add a length of monofilament or fluorocarbon leader, because these materials are harder for fish to see, they provide a little stretch for a surer hook set, they provide some abrasion resistance, and you can handle them under tension without cutting your hands. Frog fishing, however, is the exception to this rule.

Most of the time if you’re tying on a hollow-body frog, you’re intending to cast it into heavy cover like lily pads or over surface weed mats. This means there’s very little benefit to a fluorocarbon leader, because in the cabbage, fish aren’t likely to notice your braided line and get turned off. They’re simply going to react to the sound and movement of the bait when it gets right in their faces. When they attack, you want as direct a connection as possible to set the hooks with a lot of force and then muscle the fish out of the vegetation quickly. In this scenario, a splice knot or swivel connecting a leader is just going to create a weak point that could fail under the strain.

Don’t be afraid to put 40- or 50-pound braid on your frogging reel. Just make sure you’re also using a rod with some extra backbone and power that can handle hard sets and horsing fish out of cover. I tie my hollow-body frogs on with a simple Palomar knot. There are other braid knots that hold well, too, just remember that knots like the clinch that work well with monofilament have a tendency to slip when tied with slick braid.

Frogging for bass
A largemouth bass that hit a weedless Scum Frog comes to hand. Dennis Anderson / Star Tribune via Getty Images

2. Match Point

Grab your frog arsenal out of the garage and take a minute to study the hooks. Quite often, you’ll notice that the points lay even with the bait’s back, or they may be angled down slightly. Keep in mind that before any frog’s hook grab meat inside a fish’s mouth, the body of the frog has to compress and expose those points. The faster they expose, the more likely you are to connect, so if your frog has flat or downward-facing points, here’s a little tweak.

Find two pairs of pliers and use one to get a firm grip on the hook shank as close to the body as possible. With the other pair, grip the shank closer to the hook bends. Now, bend the hook shank downward away from the body. The goal is to get the hook points angled up. As a reference, you want the points even with the bait’s back, but not extending over the back or else the frog won’t be as weedless.

Some modern frogs come with hook points in this orientation straight from the factory, but if yours didn’t, it’s worth adjusting. When a fish clamps down on a frog with upward-angled points, it will only have to compress the body a millimeter or two for the points to expose and be in the perfect position to grab fast when you swing.

3. Hit them with Patience

If you take nothing else away from this frogging tutorial, remember this: wait before you set, wait before you set, wait before you set. Repeat it over and over on the water. Drill it into your head. Make it your mantra, because nothing is more difficult in frog fishing than timing your swing.

The problem is, it’s very hard to override instinct. When you’re fishing a popper loaded with treble hooks, or a Spook, or a buzzbait, the second it gets blasted, you set the hook and connect. Swinging is the natural reaction to a topwater hit. But if you swing the instant a frog gets sucked under, you’re just going to pull the bait out of the fish’s mouth. The reason for this is that compression factor. A hollow-body frog needs to be squeezed down to expose the hooks, and this can take a second or two once it’s inside a fish’s mouth depending on how deep and hard the fish inhaled the frog.

Read More: Our Ultimate Guide to Frogging for Bass

Targeting snakeheads actually made me a better all-around frogger, because these fish often wake a bait before attacking. This warning gave me time to remind myself not to swing the second the frog gets hit, but largemouths and bowfins tend to surprise you—all of a sudden, boom! It takes practice for sure, but you need to wait just a second or two to give the fish time to turn, swim down, and compress that frog in its mouth. What I’ll do is pause for a beat, reel down very quickly with the rod pointed at the fish, and the instant I feel weight, swing for the fences. After a while, it becomes second nature, though I’ll still get caught off-guard sometimes and totally whiff a frog bite.