Any list of essential bass lures would be woefully incomplete if it didn’t include the hollow, snagless topwater frog lure. You can effectively fish this potent topwater bait over the nastiest cover, including the snotty “cheese” that blankets matted grass in late summer and autumn.
Besides plucking bass from places where few other lures can go, a frog draws strikes from hefty largemouth. However, fishing a frog isn’t as simple as it may appear. Many anglers struggle to coax strikes with a frog and to hook the few bass that do bite. Thankfully, tips from Alabama’s Wes Logan and Oklahoma’s Jason Christie, two frog masters on the Bassmaster Elite Series trail, can improve your froggin’ game.
Watch Epic Topwater Frog Lure Blowups
Zoom’s 1/2-ounce Hollow Belly Jr. Frog is Logan’s go-to bait for wrestling bass from matted grass. He switches to Zoom’s Poppin Frog when fishing sparse grass, docks, seawalls and open water. He also works the Poppin Frog like a Pop-R around cover that is off-limits to treble-hooked baits.
“You can’t really fish a popper the right way over a mat, and it gets hung up more than a frog,” Logan said. “A frog is easier to work over the thick stuff, and it looks more natural.”
Booyah’s 1/2-ounce Pad Crasher frog does the heavy lifting for Christie when he fishes matted grass and in most other situations, as well. When he needs to make more noise to draw strikes in muddy water or on a choppy surface, Christie employs Booyah’s Poppin’ Pad Crasher.
Logan fishes the Zoom frogs as they come from their packages. If he is getting short strikes, he may trim the legs, as will Christie. Christie also inserts BBs into the Pad Crasher to add the allure of sound and to make the frog sit deeper into dense grass mats.
“I always switch to a Trokar frog hook,” Christie said. “It’s super sharp, so it takes less pressure to drive the hook home.”
Both anglers rely mainly on three frog color patterns. One frog must have a black belly, another a white belly and a third a brown belly.
Retrieving The Topwater Frog
It is unlikely that any Elite Series pro works a frog with a more aggressive retrieve than Christie. He keeps the Pad Crasher dancing briskly over the grass with quick, short, staccato twitches.
“I don’t get as many bites when I fish a frog slow,” Christie said. “And I can cover three times as much water by fishing fast. There are times when I have to slow down, but the bass tend to miss the bait a lot then.”
Logan varies his retrieve until the bass tell him what they want. He might alternately twitch the frog ahead three or four times and let it pause for a few seconds. On the next cast, he may twitch the frog along for 10 to 15 feet and let it sit for 3 or 4 seconds before repeating the gambit.
“If they hit the frog when it’s moving, you can speed up and cover more water,” Logan said. “If they go for it at rest, you need to slow down with longer pauses.”
SETTING THE HOOK WITH A TOPWATER FROG LURE
Perhaps the most critical aspect of frog fishing is timing the hook set. The advice ranges from setting the hook immediately to waiting 2 to 3 seconds before wrenching back. Get the timing right and you’ll hook a high percentage of the bass that actually engulf your frog. Get it wrong and you’ll strike out more of ten than not.
“There’s a fine line between set ting the hook too fast and waiting too long,” Logan said. “You have to wait a second or you’ll pull the frog away from the bass. It’s one of the hardest things to do. The flip side is that if you wait too long, the bass will spit the bait or you’ll get a bow in the line that causes a bad hook set.”
Logan has trained himself to quell his reflexes and pause for just a mo ment before setting the hook. He did so by not setting the hook on the first strike or two while fun fishing. To help maintain this discipline, he doesn’t set the hook on a frog bite while practicing for a tournament.
Christie claimed that he sets the hook the moment a bass strikes and that he catches most of them that bite. He also said he doesn’t set the hook when a bass misses the frog, which requires steadfast compo sure. It may be that the nanosecond Christie waits to ensure the bass has gulped down the frog is the reason for his high hooking percentage.
Fishing Topwater Frogs For Bass
By late summer and early fall, submerged vegetation, such as milfoil and hydrilla, have grown to the surface and formed the densest grass mats of the season. On some lakes, there may be so many expansive mats that finding the sweet spots is a daunting task. The bass may be anywhere under any grass mat, but they are certainly not everywhere.
Some mats attract more bass than others, and the majority of the bass in a large mat may congregate in a small area. Logan and Christie rely on their eyes and ears to focus on mats that have the most potential.
“I look for the cleanest water I can find,” Logan said. “It also has to be an active mat.”
By “active” Logan means seeing baitfish “blow up” holes made by feeding bass and hearing bluegill sucking insects under the mat. Christie also concentrates on mats that lie only a few feet above the bottom. “The deeper the water, the less likely it is for a bass to come up and get your frog,” Christie said. “I want the shallower [water] so I can put the frog right above their heads and make them react.”
A current can also tip you off to a productive grass mat, added Logan. In fact, the current often creates a “trash mat” by pushing dead and floating grass against the bank and into pockets. “The current pushes bait into the same area along with the grass,” Logan said. “It’s a good place for bass to set up just outside the current and ambush bait.”
When cooling autumn weather pulls shad and bass into the backs of creeks, Logan and Christie frog any mats located in these areas. Christie pointed out that a chilly fall night can put a damper on the morning frog bite. In this situation, he may punch the mat early to tempt fish that are feeding deeper at the moment and then switch to a frog later in the day after the water has warmed.
Then again, you can only do so much with your eyes, ears and assessment of the condi tions. At some point, you have to let your frog confirm where the bass are.
“The best thing is to just put your trolling motor down and take off fishing,” Christie said. “That’s how most pros figure it out. I fish pretty fast until I get some bites. Then I slow down and fish more thoroughly.”
Being Stealthy Is Crucial To Topwater Frog Fishing
The outer edges of large grass flats receive the heaviest frog fishing pressure because they’re the easiest to access. If you push into such mats, you may find a pod of bass that hasn’t been pestered. However, you must employ as much stealth as possible to avoid alarming the fish. Chopping through the grass with your trolling motor on high is a no-no.
When Logan and Christie choose to penetrate a mat, they idle in, kill the outboard, and let the boat drift ahead until the grass stops it. This tactic helped Logan nab third place when he fished a Bass master Central Open on the upper Mississippi River in August 2019. After the boat’s momentum carried it into the middle of a mat, Logan would anchor with his Minn Kota Raptors and let everything settle down for a few minutes before going to work.
Then he would systematically fancast all around his boat. When he wanted to move ahead in the grass, he did so by idling with his outboard.
“I don’t think the big engine bothers them as much as the trolling motor,” Logan said. “The engine cuts the grass and doesn’t bog down. With a trolling motor, you get all that thrashing, splashing, and vibration.”