Fishing a Frog: Hollow-Bodied Frogs
Fishing a hollow-bodied frog isn’t new to the world of bass fishing
or even relatively new. In fact, hollow-bodied frogs have been on the market since 1895 according to an article by Bernie Shultz on bassmaster.com
That says a lot about the effectiveness of this type of bait.
Since then, the hollow-bodied frog has been reinvented time and time again but has now reached near perfection with several companies like SPRO, Strike King, LIVE TARGET and River2Sea putting out quality frogs in recent years. The hollow-bodied frog category is comprised of two primary sub-categories: the walking frog and the popping frog.
In recent years we’re also starting to see a rise in popularity of a few other styles of hollow-bodied frogs like the Teckel USA Sprinker Frog
which trades its rubber skirt legs for a spinning paddle tail. Let’s breakdown some of these more popular hollow-bodied frogs and what makes them different.
Perhaps the most popular walking frog to fish is the SPRO Bronzeye Frog
designed by frog fishing phenom Dean Rojas. Regardless of your brand preference, a certain amount of respect must still be shown to Dean Rojas for what he’s designed in his Bronzeye Frog and what he’s been able to accomplish with the bait over the years. Rojas has used his frog to catch fish all over the country, all throughout the year. Though there’s no way to know for sure, Rojas has likely won more money with a frog in his hand than any other angler out there.
Dean’s Bronzeye Frog is a perfect example of what makes up a good walking frog. You want a sharp, strong hook. You want a skirt material for the legs that won’t melt and stick together while in the tackle box. The bait needs to be able to walk, so you want a belly with a slight v-hull but not too much of a v-hull. And size matters.
Though the Bronzeye lineup offers several sizes and styles of hollow-bodied frog, their most popular is the Bronzeye 65. Sizewise, this bait is comparable to the more popular frogs in other brands. The bait is large enough to draw strikes from big ones, but small enough to not intimidate the young bucks out looking for a bite too.
Although I will throw a few different brands of hollow-bodied walking frogs, I stick exclusively to the SPRO Bronzeye Poppin’ Frog 60
in this category. This is a well built frog unparalleled in its demographic in my opinion. The key difference between a popping frog and a walking frog lies at the front of the bait.
A walking frog comes to a point at the nose of the bait where a line-tie protrudes.
As is apparent in the name of the bait, a popping frog is built more like a popper at the front. The bait is also a little narrower and has a little flatter belly than it’s walking style counterpart. Rojas is once again responsible for perfecting the design and kudos on another job well done.
Not really sure what to call this next category of hollow-bodied frogs. I’ve seen the terminology ‘Spin-tail Frog’ used but I believe ‘Plopper Frog’ may be the best way to describe it. In the last few years, the Whopper Plopper
has gained quite a bit of notoriety. So a few companies had the bright idea to design what equates to a weedless Whopper Plopper by putting a paddle tail on the back of a hollow-bodied frog.
The Teckel USA Sprinker Frog
is probably the most popular in this style of frog but Elite Series Pro John Crews actually has a pretty cool video
showing how to make your own with an old walking frog and a swimbait tail.
Other Hollow-Bodied Frogs of Note
Once you get past these three sub-categories, you can find yourself venturing down the rabbit hole if you’re not careful. There are frogs will rubber legs that extend and draw back up, frogs with small willow leaf blades in place of their legs, frogs with 5-inch long hair tails and the list goes on.
There are also a lot of hollow-bodied baits that pull from the popularity and build of hollow-bodied frogs but are designed more to mimic bait fish, ducklings, mice and other prey. But by and large, these three subcategories take the cake.
The other primary style of frog is the buzz toad. Fishing this style of frog is also referred to as reeling a frog.
The main difference here is the buzz toad is a disposable, soft-plastic bait instead of a hollow-bodied bait meant to be used for a longer period of time.
The standard practice is to rig this bait weedless on a single hook with a wide gap, but we’ll talk a little more in a minute about some of the variations and when, where and why people use them.
A few of the front runners in this market are the Stanley Ribbit
, Zoom Horny Toad
and Strike King Rage Toad
. These three baits represent the range of buzz toad well. A Horny Toad has a sharp sound to it and is better in the summer months in my experience.
A Ribbit has a little more of a dull, slower sound to it and is great around the spawn and a Rage Toad has a much more aggressive, loud clap to it which I prefer in situations where locating the bait is a little more difficult. For instance in stained water or in a thick pad field.
Gear for Hollow-Bodied Frogs
So before we start to discuss the different ways to fish a frog, let’s set some sort of a standard for the gear. As aforementioned, some of the best froggers like Dean Rojas use a frog year-round in all sorts of situations. Thusly his rod selection varies based on where and how he’s fishing his frog. But for the vast majority of idealistic frogging scenarios (i.e. around fairly heavy cover targeting big fish), a pattern starts to form in the gear needed.
So let’s look at Rojas’ rod selection along with a few of his notable fellow froggers in Ish Monroe and Cliff Crochet. When examining these anglers’ primary, heavy-cover frogging gear, you start to see a few trends. They all use braided line, a strong reel in the 7:1 range and a heavy action rod with a fast tip in the 7’3” to 7’4” range.
Ish Monroe Tatula Elite AGS Casting Rod 7″4″ Heavy
Dean Rojas Duckett Terex Casting Rod 7’4″ Heavy
Cliff Crochet Duce Signature Series 7’3” Heavy (available in early 2019)
I also prefer a similar rod, the Fitzgerald Vursa Series 7’3″ Heavy
. These rods are all alike in 3 main ways. They’re light, they have a lot of backbone and they have a good tip to them. The backbone is quintessential.
There’s no need to throw a frog if you’re not going to be able to get the big ones to the boat.
The tip is equally important to allow for roll casts, bomb casts and make working and walking the frog much easier. And the weight of the rod is important for the same reason. Working a frog all day will wear you down, but working a frog all day with a heavy rod will wear you out.
The braided line is also important. Though some anglers prefer to go all out all the time with 65 and 80-pound test braid no matter the conditions, I personally prefer to start with 40-pound test Sufix 832 Braid
and work my way up depending on the thickness of the cover.
I feel like 40-pound test gives you all the strength you need to haul a big bass in open water or sparse cover to the boat. And the 40-pound test is a lot easier to cast, especially for a novice angler trying to make long casts or skip a frog. In thicker cover like mats and thick pads, I’ll step up to 65-pound test since you may have to haul a 5-pounder in with an additional 10 pounds of vegetation. We’ll talk more about that style of fishing later on in this piece.
The 7:1 gear ratio reel is also important. Using a slower reel, you may not be able to catch up to a bass that hits the bait coming to the boat. Any faster and you lose the torque needed to winch the bass out of heavy cover.
Gear for Buzz Toads
The gear needed for a buzz toad is similar but different enough to make note of a few things. For starters, I stick with the same concept on line size; start with 40-pound braid and move up according to need topping out at 65-pound. There’s room for a subtle change in the gear ratio of the reel if you want to speed it up a little.
That’s okay as long as you’re not fishing really thick cover like a pad field.
The rod is probably where I back off the most. Where I would use a 7’3” heavy with a hollow-bodied frog, I go with a 7’3” Medium Heavy Vursa
with a buzz toad even backing all the way down to a 7’0” medium heavy if I’m trying to skip docks or bushes with the bait. I go with the softer rod for a couple reasons, it’s easier to avoid the fish feeling you on a strike before you have the chance to drop your rod and make sure they have the bait and most buzz toads weigh less than hollow-bodied frogs so they’re much harder to throw on the 7’3” heavy action rod.
Fishing a Frog: Rigging and Frog Selection
Frog Color Selection
Color selection comes down to one basic idea, visibility. You should use the ‘match the hatch’ method in situations where the frog is highly visible. On the other hand, you should use color selection to maximize visibility when fishing muddy water and thick mats. Darker colored frogs show up really well in these low visibility situations.
Bending the Hooks on Your Frog
The first thing I do when I take a hollow-bodied frog out of the box is open the hooks up just a little bit to where they have a little more bite to get into the fish. You want to take a pair of needle nose pliers and grab the hook down in the bend, making sure that you don’t damage the barb in any way. Then bend the hook slightly to where the hook point is aimed up a little and not running parallel to the back of the bait. Do this too much and you’ll compromise the integrity of the hook.
Trimming the Skirt
I trim the skirted legs on almost all of my walking and popping frogs. On the walking frogs, you can trim one side a little shorter than the other to help the bait walk a little easier but on my popping frogs I’ll trim the legs down to an inch and a half or so. Fishing a frog is a very visual game.
You have to keep your eyes on the bait because the bite can be subtle.
If the legs aren’t trimmed off, often times fish will come up and pull the bait under by the legs and you’ll set the hook and miss the fish because it was never close to the hook at all.
Enter the trailer hook. This is actually another great way to eliminate short strikes. I don’t use it often with popping frogs or walking frogs because the fish usually have time to zero in and eat the bait between twitches. However, if you’ve been missing fish on one of these style frogs and you’re opposed to trimming the skirt, the Lake Fork Frog Tail Hook
may be your saving grace.
This trailer hook doesn’t work all that well with many spin tail frogs for the obvious reason that it impedes the action of the tail but actually does work well for the Lunkerhunt Prop Frog
which incorporates twin props for legs, leaving ample room in the middle for a pre-rigged trailer hook. For the same reason the trailer hook isn’t all that necessary for a popping or walking frog, it is essential for a frog that is constantly on the move. Which brings us to, rigging buzz toads.
Buzz Toad Hook Selection
There are a few schools of thought on hook selection for a buzz toad but all can agree that an extra wide gap hook is key. After that, the jury is out on what’s “best”.
For instance, I like a VMC Heavy Duty Wide Gap Hook
for a buzz toad. I run the hook point through the nose of the bait, exiting the bottom of the bait after I’ve gone far enough to have the nose of the bait cover the eye of the hook, then I bend the bait slightly and stick the hook point all the way through the belly of the bait, skin hooking the point of the hook in the top of the bait. When finished, there should be a slight bend in the back of the bait to help the nose ride up when reeling the bait.
Other anglers prefer a hook with a HitchHiker
style screw lock on the eye of the hook like the VMC Heavy Duty Swimbait Hook
. With this style hook, you insert the screw into the nose of the bait and then secure the point of the hook in the back of the bait the same way as previously mentioned, leaving a slight bend in the bait.
Then there’s the double frog hook.
Pulling from the design of a hollow-bodied hook, you’re already upping your chances by adding a second hook.
But the real advantage here is you can add the Lake Fork Frog Tail Hook
now, setting an additional hook farther back for those fish just striking at the feet of the bait.
Buzzbait + Buzz Toad
One other popular way to rig a buzz toad is on the back of a skirt-less buzzbait like the Greenish Tackle Toad Toter
. A few years ago, we watched Scott Canterbury finish runner-up in the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup with a similar style bait. Since then, the rig has gained quite a lot of popularity among avid topwater
Fishing a Frog: Patterns for Frogging
Shallow Cover Frogging
For starters, let’s define a generic situation where frogging
works well. Basically, anytime you’re fishing around relatively shallow cover in relatively warm water, a frog is likely a good choice. Rojas and some of the more dedicated froggers swear by a frog year round, and I have in fact myself caught a six-and-a-half pounder in 49 degree water temp years ago on a Ribbit on West Point.
I was fishing an Auburn University college fishing
club qualifier with a good friend on mine and teammate, Caleb Rodgers. The weekend prior in practice, the water was much warmer and I caught a 3-pounder and 4-pounder on a Ribbit so I had the bait tied on even though we had experienced a massive cold front.
I wasn’t getting bit on anything else and picked the frog up out of desperation and to both of our astonishment, caught that big one. It was the only bite I got all day.
So yeah, 49-degree water isn’t ideal even if there is an off chance you might get bit on a frog.
Ideally the water needs to at least be in the 60’s for me to have any real confidence trying to pattern fish on a frog. And it’s not really something you would throw in heavy wind. But otherwise, rain, shine, muddy, clear, some sort of frog will work. In this video I caught some good ones fishing a popping frog in a couple of ‘ideal’ frogging situations, around shoreline grass and in dollar lily fields.
Shallow Cover Frogging
Say you’re practicing for a tournament or just fishing a new body of water and you need to cover a lot of water in a hurry, a buzz toad or spin tail frog both work really well if the cover isn’t super thick. The drawback to these two baits is that fish will often times swipe at them and not commit to them completely.
A good practice in situations like this is to keep a walking frog on the deck as a follow up bait to throw back at a missed blow-up. Or once you get a couple missed bites in an area, just go to the walking frog entirely.
Sometimes you can even use a walking frog as a search bait by working it in a straight line, not taking the time to walk it, like I did in this video.
Frogging Lily Pads
I typically go with a popping frog when I’m fishing in pads or dollar lilies. The only time I’ll fish with a walking frog in pads is if the water temps are a little colder and the fish aren’t quite as aggressive. The rest of the time, the noise of the popping frog is key in luring the fish in and helping them find the bait. My favorite time of year for this pattern is right after the spawn.
The fish are hungry and aggressive, looking for a big meal and not afraid to go after it.
In this video from Lake Seminole, a fish boiled in the pads between me and the end of my cast. I hurriedly reeled the bait in and you can actually see a 6-pounder coming from the top right of the screen. It wakes on the bait from 7-to-8-feet away and then destroys it right at the boat. I also illustrate what I talked about in the rigging section
(if you want to hyperlink back to that section) about how to bend your hooks up on your hollow-bodied frogs.
Fishing a Frog Over Bluegill Beds
In the summer months, baitfish of the bream variety spawn along the shore. Whether they’re referred to in your area as bluegill, sunfish, redear, shellcracker or something else, they all do generally the same thing. Bream typically find a spot somewhere from 6-inches to 5-feet deep and bore out a series of circular beds in the bottom.
This looks kind of like a bunch of tires laying flat on the ground with their treads touching.
In extremely clear water they’ll actually spawn deeper than that but for the purposes of this article, we want to focus on the shallow bedding norm anyway.
Bass, often big ones, love to hang around these bream beds and terrorize their inhabitants. The bream don’t stray very far from the bed and are thusly confined to a reasonably small space. But these beds are usually in relatively open water areas so the bass have a hard time corralling the bream. They can see them, but often can’t quite catch them which must be very frustrating. That’s where we come in.
Throwing a popping frog or a walking frog over the top of the beds mimics an injured bream. This bream maybe exhausted from the spawn or may have been struck at and injured by another bass. Needless to say the bass don’t ask questions, they finally see an easy meal and attack before one of the other bass in the area can. Because there are almost always other bass in the area. Which leads to the next pattern that goes hand in hand with this one.
Fishing a Frog for Wolfpacking Bass
When bream are spawning in the summer months, bass will group up in wolf packs and roam the shallows looking for beds. As an angler looking for beds, keep in mind that there will be some main lake banks with five or six clusters of beds strung along in a hundred yard stretch. Then other times there will just be one big cluster of beds in the back of a pocket, another really popular place for bream to spawn.
So when you’re on the trolling motor looking for beds, there’s a lot of downtime in-between. That’s when you want to be throwing some sort of topwater in hopes that you’ll cross paths with a wolfpack also on the prowl or even blind cast over a bream bed before you see it. There are lots of topwaters that work well, but the best frog style bait for this is the new spintail hollow-bodied frog.
Wolfpacking bass are typically extremely aggressive and will demolish anything that lands in striking distance.
Spintail frogs like the Teckle Sprinker
in particular are heavy, allowing them to be thrown a long way which is key in maintaining the element of surprise. These fish are often just inches below the surface and in clear water making them wary of their surroundings. And it’s almost impossible to get the them to eat once they’ve seen you. So you need to be capable of long casts.
Wolfpacking bass like an aggressive bait and since the fish don’t typically need much convincing, having a bait like a spintail frog is great because it requires little work to create that action. You just continuously reel the bait and you cover a lot of water in a short amount of time.
Frogging the Shad Spawn
If you’re ever fortunate enough to encounter a shad spawn, you’ll find that the bass targeting these shad will hit almost anything you put in front of them early on in the process. For a few days in the spring, shad by the thousands converge early in the morning on shallow or floating cover to rub their eggs out. A suicide mission at times because no matter the chaos around them, they continue on with the task. Bass thrash the waters, getting their fill and continuing to the point of gluttony.
It is a beautiful and barbaric thing.
So what do frogs have to do with a shad spawn? Well, frogs are great because they can be fished on heavy gear and have a strong hook. Shad spawns are great because the bass are often big and boiling on the surface around shallow cover. They’re in a frenzy and will hit almost anything. So, it makes sense to throw something in there that you’ll have the upper hand with.
Now in the interest of full disclosure, if the cover is thin enough that you can get a bait down into the water, I recommend a spinnerbait or swim jig for a shad spawn. But if the fish are in holes in vegetation or right up against thick vegetation as they often are, all four frog types work well.
My most memorable experience with a shad spawn came a few years ago in an Everstart (now FLW Costa Series) on Lake Seminole. I knew the shad spawn had to be happening somewhere so I spent the first hour of practice every morning running and gunning shallow pockets in search of the elusive shad spawn. Since I was in full search mode, I had a buzz toad in hand.
Eventually I found one the day before the tournament began. I was throwing a Stanley Ribbit
with the hook buried in the middle of the bait so that I could shake a fish off if needed. I turned a corner and saw probably 50 fish demolishing shad along a hard edge of hyacinth that was maybe a hundred yards long. Most of the fish looked to be big, in the 3-to-5-pound range.
In roughly a dozen casts, I shook off 7 or 8 fish on the Ribbit, sometimes multiple times on a single cast. They were hitting it almost as soon as the bait hit the water, arching their backs all the way out of the water showing off their size. It was the most impressive thing I have seen in my 31 years of fishing so far.
My dad was in the back of the boat and was yet to make a cast, probably because he knew he wouldn’t be able to will himself to shake one off. He was signed up to fish the event as a co-angler and had just gotten into town the night before for the last day of practice with me. We just looked at each other for a minute in disbelief and then quickly got the heck out of there.
The rest of the day and all night we talked about it. I drew boat 176 for Day 1 and I was heartbroken. Someone else would have surely found the same fish and would definitely beat me too them. Even if I could get there first, the best bite would be over with as shad spawns don’t typically last far into the morning.
I launched my boat and while waiting for my turn to go and watching the morning sun burn the little bit of fog off the water’s surface, I nervously corralled my last bit of optimism and tied on a spinnerbait incase the bite had slowed by the time I got there. This was the first time I had ever found a shad spawn like this. All I knew about them is what little I had read. So I figured if they won’t break the surface, maybe they’ll hit a spinnerbait.
Sure enough, I rounded the corner and there was not a boat in sight. The fish were still chasing shad along the edge of the hyacinth, but it was nothing like the day before. I threw my Ribbit into the grass and had one pull it under immediately followed by a swing and a miss from me. I frantically fixed my frog and threw it back out there. Another boil but this time my frog lost its legs to the fish. Two casts, two missed opportunities. I put the frog down and picked up the spinnerbait. In about 20 minutes I had 18-pounds 8-ounces in the boat and the bite shut off completely. I eventually finished 4th in the event, catching 11 of the 15 fish I weighed off of that shad spawn using a spinnerbait.
Now this article is about frogging.
So this story may seem like a little bit of a tangent but take into consideration, knowing when not to use a bait and technique is often just as important as knowing when to use it. Frogging is a great way to catch big fish, but not knowing when to put it down is actually detrimental to your fishing.
Side note: This tournament was in the spring of 2012 and was the last fishing trip I made without a GoPro. I went out and bought one on the way home in hopes that if something like this ever happened again, I’d be able to document it. To this day, it’s still the most amazing thing I’ve seen on the water.
Frogging the Mayfly Hatch
A mayfly hatch or any other type of insect hatch where bream move in to feed on the insects is another great frogging situation. Using a popping frog to mimic the bream pecking bugs off the water’s surface is a great way to catch the bass lurking nearby. Though some of the smaller bass in the area will actually feed on the insects as well, they’ll still eat small bream.
So, not only will the frog catch the smaller fish but more importantly, a popping frog is a great bait for drawing strikes from those big fish looking for a bigger meal.
In this video from a few years ago, the first two fish catches came on a mayfly hatch. I actually caught these fish on a popper style hard bait and not a popping frog and both of them are great examples of why I prefer a popping frog now over a treble hooked popper style bait when fishing mayfly hatches.
The first fish chokes the bait as bass often do in mayfly hatches. With a treble hooked bait, this is very dangerous for the fish. It’s much easier to remove a choked frog with two big hooks than a choked treble hooked bait.
The second fish boils on the bait and barely gets one of the treble hooks in the edge of his lip, leading to a very precarious fight where I struggled not to lose the fish. With a frog, you can let the fish boil on it a time or two without setting the hook until the fish eventually takes the bait in all the way.
Fishing a Frog Around Docks
Probably the two most effective frogs for fishing docks are a walking frog and a buzz toad rigged on a skirtless buzzbait like the aforementioned Greenish Tackle Toad Toter.
Both of these make great choices for one main reason, skip-ability. Frogs work well around docks for the same reason they work well in other places, presence of bait. Whether you’re actually mimicking a frog or just baitfish, having a topwater presentation that you can skip under a dock opens up a whole new page in the playbook of dock fishing.
I would lean more towards the walking frog when vegetation is mixed in with the docks and you’re primarily using the frog to imitate bream and I would go with the buzz toad combo when fishing in more open water dock situations or when shad are the primary forage.
Other than that, if the fish are aggressive enough to eat the buzzbait and buzz toad combo, you can cover more water with it.
If they’re just blowing up on the bait and not getting it or following it out, swap over to the walking frog. If they still want commit but you’ve found an area with several fish, it may be best to put the frog down now that it’s located the fish for you and skip a wacky rigged worm around the docks to finish the job.
Fishing Mats with a Frog
Whether you call it ‘fishing the cheese’ in Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain or fishing ‘matted hydrilla’ on Lake Guntersville, fishing thick mats with a frog is very different from any other type of frogging. A few years ago I was commissioned to write an article for FLW about this very type of fishing. So Randall Tharp and I set out on his home waters of Lake Guntersville in the fall of 2012.
As a writer and an angler, I was to fish along side Tharp and covey what I learned to the audience. It was certainly an eye opening experience for me. Seemingly fruitless, repetitive casts from Tharp eventually led to the explosive ignition of schools of bass and even the conversion of floating frogs into sinking frogs. Out of respect for FLW having hired me to write that article, I won’t go into all the details here. If you want to read the full article, click here