I once watched a bass eat a frog that was the size of my (then) 10-year-old hand. I could only imagine how big the aggressor must have been. So, I did as any youngster bit by the fishing bug would do: I set out to catch a frog for bait. My dad and I were fishing from the shore of a small farm pond at a local state park, and I remembered reading in Outdoor Life that you could catch frogs using a piece of red flannel on a hook, dangled like a fluttering bug before their faces. The closest thing I had was a homemade Royal Coachman pattern fly with red in it, but the first frog I spied sunning along the bank ate it with gusto!
The bullfrog was a giant, and almost broke the Zebco rod I had used to present the bait (yep, I tied flies for several years before I figured out I needed fly tackle to actually cast them). I had to use a landing net to contain the giant amphibian, and it was so unsettling to remove the fly from the frog’s maw as its front legs vainly fought the act, I vowed never to actually hook one for bait.
In fact, I ended up keeping the frog as a pet, which I named Greg and made a leash of sorts for him out of a satin ribbon that fit behind his front legs. Greg would actually sort of hop along beside me if we were on warm asphalt or I stomped the floor behind him hard enough.
One hot August afternoon shortly thereafter, we were sitting on the cool cement floor of our garage, filling my Red Ryder single-pump rifle with BBs, when one of the shiny copper pellets missed the filler hole and rolled away from me. Before I could grab it, Greg had zapped it with a tongue that had to have stretched more than a foot from his mouth!
Just to be certain my eyes weren’t fooling me, I rolled another BB in the frogs’ direction. ZAP! The tongue shot out and snapped up the glinting pellet and returned it to Greg’s mouth before I could blink an eye. To get an idea of his range, I started rolling BBs farther and farther from where the frog sat. By the time I discerned that he could extend his tongue almost two feet, I noticed that Greg’s stomach appeared to have adopted a pebbled texture and figured it was time to set the frog free in a nearby creek.
When I released Greg onto the water atop a foot-deep pool, he seemed to sink at an accelerated rate. I retrieved the frog and, holding him upside down by his rear legs, gave him a gentle shake. A dozen (or so) BBs fell from his mouth and plopped into the water. A few more wiggles appeared to empty the frog’s stomach of the pellets which, in addition to the extra ballast I feared he may not have been able to properly digest. Finally, Greg was able to float atop the flow and kicked his way downstream and out of my life as I gathered the purged ammo from the silt.
I still can’t imagine hooking a live frog for use as bait. I might be talked into sliding a hook under a wide rubber band slipped around the frog’s chest in the manner of my leash and using it for bait, but with the fake frog baits available today, I don’t see that sacrifice happening anytime soon.
Bass pro Dean Rojas is an expert in fishing fake frogs. He designed a soft, hollow-body plastic frog lure that won the Best of Show award at the annual ICAST national fishing tackle show. His hollow body lures feature a double hook design and collapse when a fish strikes, a design that originated on Lake Guntersville in northern Alabama nearly a half century ago where they were initially designed for fishing over the lake’s heavy, matted milfoil beds. Rojas discovered them more than a decade ago, and immediately started improving the lure’s basic design to make them more versatile and effective beyond the summer months when most anglers believe fake frogs are most useful.
“Although I have a frog tied on and ready to cast every day of the year,” the Arizona-based pro says, “autumn is probably my favorite time because this is when the bass are normally feeding more actively than at any other time. They’re in shallow water chasing shad, and while a frog does not really imitate a baitfish, the bass still hit it readily on the surface.
“It’s just a fun time to fish, because if you can find a school of bass that is feeding, they’ll hit a frog on every cast you make.”