Year of the Frog

If hollow-body frogs are your bait of choice, which seems to be getting more and more common, than the ICAST New Product Showcase could serve as some sort of weird, squishy heaven.

Take your pick: Reactions Strike’s Revolution Frog, Matzuo’s Nano Frog, Evolve’s Technik Nervous Walker or their smaller Pond Doctor, Designer Fishing Lure’s Frog Clone Series (you can change out the legs), Snag Proof’s Bobby’s Perfect Buzz Frog (frog/buzzbait combo) or their more traditional Guntersville Frog.

And that was just from a quick walk through – there are certainly more that aren’t in the showcase. For instance, there’s the company that started this hollow-body revolution with the help of Dean Rojas, Spro. Even bass fishing’s golden boy Kevin VanDam is getting in on the action this year with Strike King’s new offering, the KVD Sexy Frog.

What we don’t know yet, and won’t know for a while, is if the market has become too saturated with product or if these frogs are going fly off the shelves as fast most hollow-body amphibians did last year.

Grant Koppers, president of Live Target baits, said when they introduced their hollow-bodied, topwater frog at last year’s ICAST, they didn’t know what to expect. When it won Best in Show in the soft lure category, they raised their expectations – but they still underestimated sales.

“The frog market is new to us. We really didn’t know the scope or the size of the market until we moved into it,” he said. “We landed 26 percent ahead of our revenue plan this year, and a lot of it had to do with the hollow frog.”

Chrispin Powley, a dealer account manager for Strike King, said they decided to get into the soft frog business because all the sudden it became a gap in their product line.

“We have a pretty awesome stable of pros and they were all coming to us saying, ‘Look, this technique is not going away. Actually it becomes a more and more valuable tool every year,’” Powley said. “When you have a group of guys that can win any tournament, you definitely want them throwing your bait. They needed a frog, so we came out with a frog.”

As always, Powley said, Strike King’s pros had their say in what this frog should do, especially the man whose name is attached to the product, VanDam.

“I gave my suggestions on what we should do to make it right. The body is designed around that hook. That’s the best frog hook out there,” VanDam said. “I don’t want to knock the [Spro Frog] at all. Obviously Dean has done a great job with it and they sell a jillion of them, but we wanted to make it as good as we could make it.”

Rojas said he wasn’t surprised at all by the plague of frogs taking over the Las Vegas Convention Center this year. He and Spro were re-energized this entire category a few years ago with their hollow-body frog. Rojas ran around on tour with his friend “Kermit” for a couple years before it really caught fire.

And now everybody wants a piece of the market.

“We were expecting this. It was just a matter of time,” Rojas said. “None the frogs have gone through development as much as mine did. Nobody throws the frog as much as I do. I have thousands and thousands of hours on that bait. I know what it can do and what it can’t do. There is no other frog on the market that can compare to that.

“It’s going to be a lot like the senko, I believe. It was created and every soft plastic company came out with their version of it and they’ve come and they’ve gone – but there’s still the original.”

Rojas is at least half right: everybody is coming with their own hollow-body frog and they’re getting creative.

Two companies decided to go small this year: Evolve and Matzuo.

Evolve, who has only been in business three months and do most of their sales online, are now offering the Pond Doctor, which is about a third the size of a regular frog.

“I think 90 percent of the people here grew up fishing farm ponds – I sure did,” said Derek Carr, sales manager at Evolve. “A lot of time when people complain about crappy hook-up ratio, it’s because the bait is too large.”

Matzuo put two and two together to create their Nano Frog. They had a ton of success with their Kroaker full size frog last year and they, as a company, are known for their nano (miniature) line of baits. And now, we have the Nano Frog.

“It’s designed to mimic a young frog, but it’s bite sized,” said Greg Stawczyk, Matzuo’s America sales manager.The bait itself has a wide-cut mouth, so it really pops.”

Matzuo will have a short promotion that will hit stores in February that will sell their small and large frogs in one package for $6.99.

And really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. All kinds of companies, big and small, are selling frogs, big and small. And most of them seem to be doing pretty well.

Strike King said the initial reaction to their releasing the frog has been overwhelmingly positive.

“If this show is any indication, sales are going to be off the charts,” Powley said. “We’re pretty fortunate and have a lot of momentum as a company, and now we’re offering a bait that’s pretty trendy right now. We think it’s going to be a home run.”

Frogs are trendy this year, but its staying power is yet to be seen. At least one company, Live Target, wouldn’t mind seeing the return of a once popular rodent. In addition to the new, smaller frogs, they introduced the new Hollow Body Mouse. Bassmaster pro David Walker came up with the tagline: “The Rat is Back.” And like their frog last year, it won Best in Show for soft lures.

“The mouse is riding the coattails of the frog. I don’t think anybody has ever really made a true hollow body mouse like this,” Koppers said. “Your action is very similar to the frog, but you have a mouse.”