Idaho summers can be magical for bass fishing. With spawning season over and the end of our short growing season looming, warm water species like bass turn their attention to piling on as many calories as they can before cooler temperatures arrive.
There are many ways we anglers can take advantage of bass’ ravenous summer appetites, but few are as fun as throwing top-water frogs. Summer frogging combines the constant activity of crankbait fishing, the visual excitement of a dry fly strike and the convenience of weedless soft plastics — and the results can be lethal under the right conditions.
Frog lures come in dozens of shapes and sizes, but there are three primary types — hollow-bodied and solid-bodied plastic models, and fly-fishing poppers. Hollow-bodied frogs (like the Live Target and the SPRO Bronzeye) and poppers float, and therefore are best used with a “hoppy,” stop-and-go retrieve. Solid-bodied frogs (like the Zoom Horny Toad) naturally sink, so they require a rapid retrieve to stay on the surface — and to keep the legs kicking up as much of a bubbly wake as possible.
To catch fish, anglers must make their lures behave like a frog. Rather than casting to open water, toss your amphibious friend into froggy habitat like lily pads, submerged weed beds and patches of thick, gooey moss. Most frogs have weedless hooks, so they skip right through thick cover without much trouble. Still, many anglers prefer to use heavier tackle and braided line while fishing with frogs.
The most difficult part of frogging is setting the hook. You get to watch the fish demolish your lure on the surface, so the natural inclination is to rear back right away. Don’t do it! Wait for the fish to take the lure underwater, quickly reel the slack out of your line, and then let ’em have it. You’ll probably miss more fish than you hook at first, but the fun factor will make it worth the effort. And, like most things, practice makes perfect.
Top-water presentations like frogs typically work best during calm conditions early or late in the day, when real-life frogs are most active. If you see or hear frogs around, that’s a good sign — just don’t be surprised if a big one tries to gobble your lure.
Largemouth bass are the primary target for frogging, and south-central Idaho is is full of places to chase them. Dierkes Lake, Bliss Reservoir, Salmon Falls Reservoir, Bruneau Dunes Lake (the small one), Lake Walcott and the Hagerman Hatchery lakes are a few places to try. Smallmouth bass will also grab frogs, although it’s generally a good idea to size down your lures for smallies.
In addition to frogs, bass will attack similarly styled top-water lures resembling small fish, mice and even baby ducks. The lesson, as always: never underestimate what a hungry bass will cram into its oversized mouth.