Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta guide Bobby Barrack's name has become synonymous with the concept of fishing frogs for monster bass. Some would argue that he's boated more trophy largemouth on Snag Proof's Perfect Frog than any other angler, using any technique, west of the Rockies.
The first images that come to mind for most anglers when discussions turn to frog fishing are of white, weedless offerings being cast to thick mats of vegetation, bass blowing up through the mess and lots of big fish.
Although Barrack does catch his share of largemouth by crawling frog imitations over weed mats, he feels that anglers should think out of the box and use these versatile baits in other situations, too.
Open waters, where poppers and Zara Spooks tend to be the lures of choice when the topwater bite is on, are a prime example.
"It's tough to be aggressive with topwater baits that have treble hooks when targeting open water areas surrounded by cover," begins Barrack. "It's easy to foul up a key spot with a cast that's a little off. And that's the beauty of a frog — it allows you to be aggressive when on the water, throwing in and around heavy cover."
According to Barrack, his recipe for fooling the biggest bass into eating his frog when fishing open water consists of first getting the fish to take notice, then giving them a presentation they simply can't resist.
"A largemouth that's up under horizontal cover on the surface, or within a foot of its edge, may not be willing to poke through and take a frog in the traditional way," continues Barrack, "but by landing that bait on top of the fish you'll at least get its attention.
"You'll draw the bass out when you bring the frog to the edge of the cover, hop it off into open water and walk it. There are days when you can't fish a frog fast
enough, but those are few and far between — in most situations you'll get more bites by walking it."
California pro and former Bassmaster Open Championship qualifier Ricky Shabazz has built on Barrack's open water technique on lakes and reservoirs throughout the West, using frogs to search for bass that are willing to bite.
"Using a frog instead of some other topwater bait allows me to cover lots of water," says Shabazz. "Because I can put them in places where lures with treble hooks won't work, I can keep moving down the bank without having to stop to pick up a bunch of different rods."
He notes that bass also are not used to seeing these baits in open water due to the widespread misconception that frogs have to be fished over slop. But to take advantage of this presentation, with the novelty of the frogs provoking otherwise wary fish into striking, Shabazz requires clear water.
"Bass get conditioned to lures," he explains, "and while everyone else is running around throwing things that the fish have been caught on once or twice already, I'm trying to agitate them with a frog in open water. But for that to happen, the bass have to see it — so the clearer the water the better."
Shabazz adds that to consistently get strikes when fishing frogs in open, clear waters it's important to make long, accurate casts. An ideal cast is both past and parallel to a target, allowing for a retrieve that runs the frog within striking distance of any bass that may be using the cover.
Frogs have the potential to take bass throughout the day, but they're at their best under low light conditions. Barrack and Shabazz both prefer to cast frogs first thing in the morning, just before dark or under overcast skies.
WALKING THE FROG
As a guide specializing in fishing frogs for huge largemouth, one of Barrack's most often asked questions is "How can I make these big bass baits walk?" His response, in most cases, has clients walking the frog within minutes.
"The key to walking a frog is having slack at the end of your rod tip so the bait's shoulders can move left and right," explains Barrack.
"There are really only two steps: Begin by creating a 'C' with the line from the rod to the water's surface, then simply twitch that 'C' while reeling slowly. If the line becomes taut, the frog is being fished too aggressively.
Keep the 'C' there and the bait will dance across the water."
California guide Barrack stresses the importance of paying close attention to how a bass attacks a frog in open water.
"An intense strike in open water means there's more than one fish in the area," begins Barrack, "so be ready to cast again. When you see a bass tracking your frog, on the other hand, it's usually a solo fish."
Fontana pro Shabazz emphasizes the need for stout gear despite the fact that he's casting frogs to open waters.
"When fishing frogs in open water, we're still targeting bass that are relating to cover," says Shabazz, "so using the right tackle is a must. With a Snag Proof type frog I use a medium-heavy rod, the fastest reel I can find and a minimum of 65-pound braid."
6 FROG MODIFICATIONS
Today's high-tech frogs will catch bass right out of the box. But with these six simple adjustments you'll fool more fish into striking, while increasing your ratio of hookups to misses.
1. Keep a frog floating by using silicone caulking to seal the rear hole where the hooks come through the body.
2. A frog sits lower in the water and spits more water when a few 1/8-ounce split shots are inserted into its body.
3. Stick some brass BBs or a worm rattle inside the body of a frog to create noise that draws bass out of cover.
4. Adding blotches to the bottom of a white frog with a marker creates a natural mottled appearance for bass to key on.
Hook more fish in open water by bending the hooks slightly away from a frog's body with a pair of pliers.
Using a short piece of 20-pound-test monofilament to tie a frog's two hooks together eliminates flex and lost bass.
Hopping to It
Scum Frog, Scum Frog
Snag Proof, Perfect Frog
River2Sea, Bully Wa Croaker
Boze, Sumo Frog
If you'd like to win a Snag Proof frog to put these tips in action for yourself, e-mail your best frog fishing tip or story to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your tip may be published in Bassmaster Magazine or on www.bassmaster.com. The best 20 tips will earn the authors a free lure. Be sure to include a shipping address with each submission.