Finding grass mats for frogging and punching is no challenge on Chickamauga Lake; but finding the right ones, now that’s the real trick.
Variables are many, but key considerations include depth below, proximity to deeper water, sun exposure and density. The latter refers to how tightly wind and/or boat wakes have compacted the grass. Too tight and it’s difficult to penetrate with a punch rig and nearly impossible for fish to reach a frog.
One thing you’ll often hear mat anglers reference is “cheese” — the bubbly residue from decaying grass that often layers a topped-out mat. Typically filled with aquatic insects, cheese mats attract bream, which smack and slurp this bug bounty. Predictably, a mat with lots of bream means a mat with lots of bass.
Lee Livesay, 10th on Day 1, likes the cheese mats, but he wants a certain look. Day 1, saw overnight and early morning rains dampening the tops of the mats, but the afternoon sun got things right.
“The rain will mess up the frog bite when you’re fishing frog mats,” Livesay said. “You want it to be hot, sunny and you want that cheese to get crispy. In the morning, if it rains, it gets soggy.
“That’s why I fished (a rock pattern) first yesterday and waited for the cheese to get a little crispy and get those bream under there eating those insects. I’m hoping with a longer day today that I can get that last hour, because that’s when the frog stuff is going down.”
Several anglers, including Day-1 leader Brandon Cobb and second-place Stetson Blaylock noted that schools of small threadfin shad scurrying amid a mat’s gaps and breaks are a key component of productive scenarios.
Fourth-place John Cox agrees, but points out the downside of a ready-made food source.
“There were several places where I just knew there where fish in there, but they didn’t want anything to do with my bait,” he said. “A lot of times, I flipped in there and felt it actually hit a fish, but they don’t want anything to do with it when they’re eating those little shad.”
“I feel like they’re really concentrating on the shad. I think the ones I caught (on Day 1) were the few that were still okay with eating bluegill.”