Over the past three or four weeks, we’ve been talking about smallmouth bass movements and how an understanding of that subject will help you find the fish you want. This week, let’s shift gears and talk about how to catch them after you find them.
A lot of you might think I’m crazy for saying this but if the water isn’t iced-over on your lake I’d suggest you give topwater a shot. You’d be surprised at how many fish you can catch this time of the year with a frog, especially on something like a Zoom Horny Toad.
And it doesn’t matter much how cold the water is because smallmouth bass don’t shut down in cold water like largemouth do. In fact, they prefer cooler water. Don’t be afraid to toss a Horny Toad into water that’s in the low 50s or even on down into 45-degree range. I’ve even heard stories of guys catching them in 35-degree water. I’ve never done it myself so I can’t say for sure you can go that cold, but I can’t say you can’t either.
The reason I mentioned the Horny Toad is because it’s a little heavier than most frogs. That means when you cast it onto slick water it makes a big splash. That may startle the bass at first but it’ll also get their attention. Never forget that smallmouth bass are curious creatures. Once they feel halfway safe, they’ll investigate almost anything in the water. That’ll include your frog.
Once it hits the water let it sit for a few seconds — until the rings disappear is a good rule of thumb — and then start your retrieve. Adjust the speed of your retrieve to the temperature of the water. Really cold water calls for a really slow retrieve. If you’re in doubt about what to do, it’s best to go slow.
Most of the time, the bass will grab your frog within the first 5 feet of the retrieve, or thereabouts. A steady retrieve is almost always best. You’ll rarely get anywhere stopping and starting your bait.
The heavy frog part of this is very important. It’s the first splash that gets you your fish. If you don’t have anything heavy, and can’t buy one, throw your lure up into the air as high as possible so it falls straight down and makes a splash. The legs are important, too. Use a frog that has kicker-style feet. You want a little water churning behind the body.
Color doesn’t seem to matter much. That’s strange to me because in most lakes and rivers the water will be clear at this time of the year. You’d think they’d want something natural because they can see so well. But they don’t. I guess this is just a reaction bite.
I’m not saying this will work every time you go fishing. It’s good on some days and not good on other days. It’s worth a try, though. A topwater bite is worth two of any other kind, at least in my opinion.