Anglers across the Midwest hit the dog days of summer, where fish tuck into the weeds and become nearly impossible to catch. One of my favorite summer pass times is a game I call Frogger – no, not the Atari game of the late 1980s (hold on – I might be dating myself a bit here), but zapping frogs and surface lures to trick the hide-out bass laying in the thickest of weeds. I have to be honest that the rush of watching a bass come out of the grass or muck in 3 feet of water, exploding the surface with a mound of water just gets my blood pumping; but even so much more is the chess game of pulling in 10 pounds of wet, sloppy weeds for 3 pounds of fish.
What’s for Dinner?
Let’s face it, Bass love frogs, or so we think. Let me explain – the first realization when using surface bait is a frog isn’t a frog. To our human eyes, a frog is a frog yes; but in the world of animals, where the fish only has a few seconds to decide whether or not she wants to slap that delicious morsel into her feedbag; that frog could be a mouse, a baby bird, a dying minnow, or anything that is distressed in the water for all that goes.
To find the fish is to go where no lure dares to go – over the thick mats or into the tall grass. To accomplish this, the lure must be weedless – with no exception. My personal thick slop lure collection consists of the Scum Frog, the Bass Rat, the Bombshell Crab and the Bombshell Turtle. All of these lures are under $3 (the Bombshell Turtle and Crab are roughly $1 each), affordable to the point that if I was to loose them either on a snag or a fish it doesn’t break the bank to replace them.
Another thing to consider is line selection. I use 30 lb. braided line because unlike monofilament it doesn’t stretch under the painful condition that I need to pull in weeds with my fish. Remember, you could pull in ten pounds of weeds for 3 pounds of fish. That puts a lot of strain on your line, and any wiggle room, shake of the fish’s head, or entanglement into the weeds and your fish is gone – for good.
How to Get ‘em
My favorite froggin’ technique is fast and furious. The trick isn’t looking for the fish, it isn’t looking for active fish, it’s looking for fish that want what I have (although the first two help). One of the cardinal sins of fishing is spending too much time in one spot. If the fish aren’t responding to what you have, move on.
Once I find a spot of active fish, I cast my lure. I look for breaks in weeds, cast along the outside of weed beds, and tight to shorelines. I never cast into a spot, I cast OVER the target area, and then bring my lure to the spot that I want to fish. Often times when I cast into the spot I like, I spook the fish with my lure splash. Fish are very spooky in the summer, any false move and they are gone.
I like to work my lure with as much surface vibration as possible. I want those weeds and grasses to jiggle with my presentation, sending a signal flair to the fish that the dinner bell is about to ring. The best way to explain my top water lure movement is by thinking of the 70’s song “Stayin’ Alive”. The rhythmic movement of the lure drives most fish out of their hiding spot to see what’s for dinner. Remember, a frog isn’t a frog to a fish in the weeds – it can be anything.
If during my presentation a fish comes up and misses the lure, I slow it down. This means that I have an off color, the lure was moving so fast the fish couldn’t make that last second hit, or it was just curious. I cast over where the strike occurred and bring it back with a slower retrieve. Often times, if the fish wasn’t spooked, it will hang in the same area.
It’s All About the Fireworks
The biggest thing to be prepared for when using top water baits is the explosion. Unlike most predators, bass don’t have sharp teeth for chomping. They have little nubs in their mouths for grabbing, and grinders in their gullet to mash the food down whole. When the bass hits, it has to gulp in a lot of water to get the food into position for easy swallowing.
A lot of anglers (including myself) get excited when this explosion occurs. The first reaction is to pull back right away. This is is a mistake because often times, the lure will get ripped out of the fish’s mouth before it has a chance to really comp down or get it in position for a good hook set.
When I get that initial hit, I drop my rod tip down and give a three count, and then I set the hook. This gives the fish plenty of time with the lure and helps eat up the slack.
Having the right technique and understanding of how and why top water lures works will increase your hook ups, and increase your fish size for dog day fishing.