Frog walkin' with Ish Monroe

Ish Monroe
Ish Monroe

The West — while not so wild anymore — is distinctly different than the East. Folks on both coasts acknowledge this. The same holds true in East versus West bassin'. The West's Japanese influence means they see the innovative baits and techniques of the Far East first. The canyon-like lakes couldn't be more different from the shallow, muddy bowls found in parts of the East.

In each segment of this three-part series we'll detail a technique that originated on the Left Coast. In the first installment, we detailed the Hideki ('Dek) rig with John Murray. Now we look to Ish Monroe of Hughson, Calif., who was on the leading edge of the frog walking craze.

"We (West Coast guys) were the guys who actually invented walking the frog," Monroe says. "Back east, a lot of guys would chug the frog across matted grass and lily pads, but we don't have lily pads over here and just recently started getting matted grass. So naturally, when we wanted to use a frog, we walked it like a Zara Spook."

Monroe says that Western pros found walking a frog was deadly on prespawn, spawn and postspawn fish. What's more, he found that bluegill and shad-colored frogs worked better than traditional green frog patterns. This is because most real frogs wouldn't be caught dead in open water. Frog-looking frogs are best used in and over grass and near the shoreline. Open water frogging requires a different critter altogether.

"I designed a frog for Snag Proof that is the best there is for open water frogging. I think it's the best because there are no 'tricks' to it. You don't have to trim the legs, you don't have to bend the hooks to the right position, everything comes how it needs to be," Monroe explains. "Plus, they're available in baitfish colors that work in open water as well as around slop."

Ish designed the Phat Frog to be unsinkable. Monroe stipulated that his frog had to have hooks in a separate chamber from the body so when water seeped into it, the frog's buoyancy would not be affected. The top of the frog is also flatter, giving Monroe the best shot at a positive hookup.

First and foremost, he wanted a walking frog. The air chamber allowed him to add 5/8 of an ounce to keel the rear in the water and give him longer casts. The rear weight system also makes the frog sit nose up in the water. When walked, the frog slaps water to the sides, creating more of an impression in the water. A rattle was inserted with the goal of calling in open water fish.

When in open water, most anglers would be satisfied throwing a Spook or similar bait. However, Monroe believes that the frog presents a more nutrient-rich profile than any other bait.

"I can't explain it, but there's something about a frog that appeals to big fish more; it makes them go nuts," he says. "When I won Amistad in 2006, I caught a nine and a couple of sixes on it during the course of that tournament, all in open water just walking it."

Monroe reasons that a frog is appealing to prespawn bass because they recognize the frog as having lots of protein and being worth the effort to run down. He compares it to people wanting red meat or chicken. When your body wants or needs a lot of protein, you crave meat products.

As the spawn hits full swing, bass eat frogs for a different reason. They're now a perceived threat. They're a predator to the eggs as well as fry, so bass will strike it out of defense.

Monroe says postspawn fish like frogs for the same reason they like them in prespawn; they're nutrient rich and convenient. After a grueling spawn season, the fish hide out under matted cover and there's nothing better to throw across it than a frog.

For his froggin' duties, Monroe opts for a Daiwa Steez XBD frog rod, which is designed to be used with braided line. He uses a 6:1 Daiwa Zillion reel spooled with 55- to 70-pound Daiwa Samurai braid. Monroe likes to throw the heaviest braid he can get away with. Most of the time that's 70-pound-test, which offers the best hookup ratio possible because of its stretch-free design.

Those familiar with walking a Spook-type bait should have no problem walking a frog. Monroe advises to use the same action, but with shorter twitches.

"I know a lot of guys back East chug a frog, and they catch a lot of fish, and that's great," Monroe explains. "But when I walk a frog, I get bigger fish. That's all there is to it."