How To Fish a Topwater Frog: Catch Big Bass on Top
Without a doubt one of the most exhilarating techniques when it comes to catching bass, topwater frog fishing. This presentation has the ability to outfish almost every technique if the conditions are right, and not much else competes with the thrill of seeing a bass smash your frog off a lily pad.
There are certain requirements in order to be successful with this technique, and this relates to all the key aspects of bass fishing, such as gear, season, and zones. These will all be covered within this piece.
Frog Fishing Setup
Starting off with gear, which is absolutely vital when it comes to this presentation. One of the best parts of this lure is that it is usually completely weedless - meaning you can cast into zones that aren’t designed for many other lures. Although this may seem fun - if you don’t have the right equipment to deal with the thickest of structure - you’ll end up losing a lot of tackle.
Having the right tackle will ensure you fish this technique in the most efficient and effective way, and the only thing you’ll have to worry about is finding the fish.
Rod for Frog Fishing:
In terms of the rod, I’ll always prefer a longer blank. Having a rod that is 7’3” or more will give you greater ability to take up slack on longer casts, and also enhance your casting distance.
You’ll want at least a heavy action rod, and many anglers rather go extra-heavy. As mentioned, you’ll often be fishing heavy cover, so you’ll need the strength to yank big bass out of tight zones.
A rod that has a powerful backbone is key, but having a soft tip will also benefit the action of your frog. A softer tip will allow for a more horizontal, erratic walking action - which is exactly what you want your frog to do. The softer tip is especially important when working open water.
Having a longer handle is another feature that highly skilled frog anglers look for in their rods. This again benefits longer casting, but also helps with the much-needed pulling power when bringing in a large bass along with some underwater vegetation.
Reel for Frog Fishing:
Gear ratio is crucial when it comes to frog fishing, as this will play a direct role in your hookup ratios. The frog lure hides its hooks pretty well, so getting a crisp hookset is a lot harder than any other presentation.
Ideally, you’ll want a gear ratio that is above 6.3:1. If a bass takes your frog when its sitting 50 yards out, you’ll need to take up any slack as quickly as possible. This will greatly increase your chances of getting a clean hookset. With frog fishing, the risk of losing a fish is great than ever - so slack is never an option.
A faster gear ratio will also help when that bass decides to swim straight towards you after taking your frog. I can’t tell you how many bass I’ve lost purely because I couldn’t catch up to the fish in time. A fast ratio will give you the ability to catch up to any bass once they head towards your boat.
There’s such thing as too fast as well. Having more than an 8:1 gear ratio will create difficulty when turning the handle as you hook a fish.
Line for Frog Fishing:
There’s only one option when it comes to selecting line for frog fishing, and that is braid. 50lb braid should be the minimum, but 65lb may be a better option - depending on the kind of structure you’re fishing.
Most of the time you’ll be fishing heavy cover with a frog - and braid is the strongest and most resilient option. You’ll be able to cut through any vegetation with a 50lb braid, and you’ll be able to pull a bass through it. The zero stretch factor also helps majorly with getting those direct, crisp hooksets for the long casts.
Monofilament has too much stretch, resulting in too many missed hookset. Not to mention the number of times you’ll get cut-off on underwater structure.
Fluorocarbon sinks, which imparts an unwanted action on your frog. It also has a little bit of stretch, which will hurt your chances of a clean hookset for those far casts.
A common question is what knot to tie on a frog with braid, and I always go with the Palomar knot.
Selecting your Frog
Another key factor that needs to be considered is the frog that you’re throwing. So many frog lures have been released, and it can be difficult to choose which one will work best for you.
One of the most important features to look for is the structure of the legs. I like to see my legs point as far outwards as possible. The more exposed, outward legs catch more water and drag more. This gives the frog a more horizontal walking action. 13 Fishing’s Trash Panda is a great example of this.
Color is another factor, which is often overcomplicated. As a topwater lure, bass will notice the color a lot less than a subsurface lure, especially if you’re throwing onto mats and vegetation. Keep it simple and have two different color variations. A lighter, white color along with a darker variation is more than enough.
Weight also needs to be considered when comparing frogs. A heavier frog will make more of an indentation on a mat, which is often what catches a bass’s eye. For this reason, I’ll often select a heavier frog - especially when working mats of all kinds. This is particularly important with hydrilla mats - which will be discussed later.
Below are some fantastic topwater frogs:
When is Frog Fishing Season?
A common mistake anglers make is by thinking that frog fishing will only work in frog season - which isn’t right. Frog lures imitate all kinds of food for bass, such as a mouse, bat, bird, or even a lizard. It is a very versatile lure that’ll do the job in several kinds of structure and depths.
Personally, pre-spawn is my favorite season for frog fishing. Bass have moved up into more shallow areas as they prepare their beds, and water temperature is approaching the “golden window”. According to Ish Monroe, the “golden window” for frog fishing is between 62 and 75 degrees. This window is where bass will be most willing, and actively looking to take on the top.
Less than 62 degrees will cause bass to potentially sit deeper - and be less willing to hit on the top. However, it is still worth a shot. Slowing down the retrieve, and applying longer pauses in-between walks is important here.
More than 75 degrees will result in bass becoming more lethargic. A slower retrieve will also be necessary for warmer waters.
Fall is also a great time for frog fishing. Water temperatures are slowly dropping, but they remain in the ideal zone, especially during early fall. Baitfish move into shallower creeks or pockets, and bass will follow them.
Where to Throw a Frog
As mentioned, this is a very versatile presentation that’ll work in many scenarios or different structures. Here are some of the most well known, and some of my favorite areas to throw a frog:
- Hyacinth mats: Personal favorite for me when it comes to mat fishing, especially with frogs. Casting at the points of the hyacinth is your best bet.
- Hydrilla mats: Any color will work here, as your frog will be less visible from down under. The bigger indentation of your frog on the mat, the better chance of it getting spotted. For this reason, I use a heavier frog when fish hydrilla.
- Peppergrass mats: These mats often have several holes - try guide your frog over them, as this is a great ambush point for bass.
- Lily pads: Who doesn’t want to throw a frog at some lily pads? Probably the most well-known form of structure for this technique, and they’re hot spots during pre-spawn.
- Flooded grass: Bass will often move in on these areas. Cast into areas which has never seen lures, and bring it through the grass.
- Exposed timber or logs: Getting under this kind of structure will often end up in an explosion - especially during pre-spawn.
- Docks: Many anglers will turn to other presentations for this kind of structure. If the water is in the golden window, skim a frog under a dock - chances are, bass might be getting bored of the usual shaky head.
Retrieving a Frog
The retrieve method on a frog will depend on the conditions you’re fishing in, as well as the size of the bass you’re targeting.
‘Walking’ a frog is a popular technique that involves continuous, smaller downward twitches of the rod, giving the frog a bit of slack with each twitch. This will give the frog a sideways walking action. The walking technique becomes extremely useful in open water.
The walking motion can be slowed down, and can be given pauses - this works best in colder conditions and bass are less aggressive. Also - bigger bass will be more attracted to a slower, more delayed action. So if you know there are monsters in an area, give your frog more pauses, and slow down the retrieval process.
When throwing your frog onto heavy mats such as hydrilla, the pretty walking action becomes less important. Twitching the frog with a pause between each will work great.
The key thing to keep in mind when fishing a frog is water temperature. Colder water or considerably warm water will require a slower action in your retrieve. Think about that “golden window”. If you’re in that zone, your retrieve can be faster - and you’ll be able to cover plenty of water.
This is what often turns anglers off frog fishing. I myself couldn’t handle the frustration of missing almost every bite. I soon realized that my striking method was completely off for this technique. This is a very different hookset to most other techniques.
I was striking at a sideways angle, which is what I often do for other applications. The strike needs to be more vertical - as you need to set the hook in the roof of the fish’s mouth. Striking at a more vertical angle will increase your hook-up percentage majorly.
Once the hook is set, you need to keep turning the handle on your reel until the bass is in your boat. This will reduce the threat of any slack - which is your greatest enemy when frog fishing.
Missing the bite will often result in guys throwing some sort of follow-up bait to try get another hit. I like to fire my frog right back in the same zone - there’s a reason it hit you in the first place.
Frog fishing is one of my favorite techniques when it comes to bass fishing. It involves fishing some of the most attractive structure, and the weedless pattern on the frog means you can throw it into areas that just shouldn’t see lures.
In saying this, certain conditions are needed in order to get bites with the frog. For obvious reasons, certain seasons will outperform others. Keeping track of the water temperature is your ultimate indicator when planning to throw the frog.
Watching bass hit on the top is special - especially off the likes of a lily pad. Practice this technique, the adrenalin that comes with it is well worth it.