Watching a massive bass blow up on a topwater frog bait is one of the most thrilling moments in all of fishing. In a single instant, you get to witness the power, aggression, and speed of our most prominent and willing freshwater predator. The ferocious strike always seems like a miracle, and yet it’s totally inevitable on the best bass water around the country in late summer and fall.
To consistently get more strikes on a hollow-body frog bait, you’ve got to understand the frog as a prey species—it skitters across lily pads and grass mats with sporadic kicks, and then it pauses in an opening between the vegetation, twitching those legs ever so slightly. This is one of the great advantages of a frog bait—you can fish a small patch of cover, patiently popping the frog without moving it closer to you, antagonizing a fish to a strike even if it’s not actively feeding.
But getting bass to hit a frog is the easy part. This tactic is notorious for missed strikes. It may seem like you need to match the fish’s speed and power with your hookset, which is partially true, but patience is the real key to more successful swings. You’ve got to understand bass as predators and know exactly how they eat their prey. Here’s a close look at how big bass feast on frogs.
1. The Ambush
Bass are ambush predators and predatory generalists. He’s not hunting for frogs exclusively but waiting for any vulnerable prey to swim by. He detects the vibrations of your frog through his lateral line usually before he ever sees it. The bass may strike in a flash without warning or, if he is especially big, he may flick lily pads with his tail on the way to your bait, a subtle sign of an imminent strike.
2. The Eat
He creates suction by dropping his lower jaw and flaring his gills as he attacks. Even if it’s not a direct hit, he’ll likely gulp the bait into his mouth. There are a wide variety of bass strikes (including fully airborne ones), but the most frustrating scenario is when a bass smashes the lure but doesn’t eat it. When this happens, don’t swing. Let the lure sit twitching—like it’s crippled prey. The bass may come back for it.
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3. The Turn
Bass prefer to eat their prey headfirst, and, if you’re lucky, he’ll gulp the entire frog. Oftentimes, he’ll grab the frog by the head and then shift it around in his mouth while he turns back to cover. Studies have shown that bass can travel about 5 feet in a single second. The average human reaction time is about a quarter second. He’s moving much faster than you are, but if you set the hook now, you’ll still miss him.
4. The Hookset
You must give the bass time to reposition the bait in his mouth so that your hooks have a chance to hit home. This is the hardest part for rookie frog anglers. Wait a full “one Mississippi” after the strike before swinging on the fish. Then keep the pressure on, crank hard, and lift the rod tip high to fight him out of cover. Sometimes you’ll swing and miss, but that just builds anticipation for the next strike.