Volume 16, Issue 23 - June 5 - June 11, 2008

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Sometimes, the Fish Win

This time, I won

I muscled the stiff, six-and-a-half-foot casting rod back and fired my soft plastic frog toward a distant, heavy tangle of lily pads. It splashed on target. Kicking the Ambassaduer reel into gear, I immediately began to stroke the lure back, crashing it through weeds, flopping it over pads and generally creating a small ruckus in the shallow backwater.

Then, just as the phony little critter reached one of the few openings in the maze of vegetation, a large dark shadow emerged and slammed into it. I let the fish have the frog for a long two count.

Then I cranked in line till it wouldn’t come any more, and, with a stout heave and a grunt of exertion, I cinched that bass up big time. When it felt the hook, the lily pads exploded and the shallow water became a frothing cauldron of mud, weeds and one angry bass.

A smile stretched the contours of my face as I fought the fish out of its lair with my stout equipment, refusing the bass a single moment of respite. Revenge was sweet indeed.

A little over a week ago, I had some frustrating and fleeting encounters with these same largemouths. After spending a good part of a day searching for crappie and bluegill that refused to be found, I chanced on abandoned soft bait. It was a small, dark green, plastic frog rigged with a 4/0 hook.

Fish Are Biting

Water temperatures have finally reached 60, and baitfish are moving into many areas of the Bay — with rockfish following. Hacketts, Tolley and Thomas Point have had good striper fishing for chummers and bait fishermen. Croaker numbers continue to build. White perch, although still mostly hesitating between the tribs and the main Bay, are showing up in more coolers. Bluefish have been reported, though not many. As a bonus, crabs are rumored to be emerging from their winter’s mud and showing up in a number of pier pots. This could be the start of something good.

Having no other recourse at the time, and not wanting to abandon the day, I tied it on my ultra-light spin rig and plied the lake’s expanses of lily pads. Largemouth bass thrive there, and I knew that they love frogs.

I had never fished such a bait before, but the drill was simple enough. I threw the lure into the middle of the pads, especially where they thinned a bit, then retrieved it in froglike pulses back to the boat. Its hook, lying just under the surface of the frog, makes it virtually weedless and snag-proof.

In no time at all, I attracted the attention of some bruiser bucketmouths. One after another, they inhaled the small frog and headed back into their tangled sanctuaries. Then came the frustrating part. Try as I might, I couldn’t get a hook set in the fish with my light equipment.

The lifelike lure drew strike after strike, and my diminutive equipment and I failed again and again to hook up with a fish. After a number of savage and one-sided encounters, the poor plastic frog and most of my self-esteem were reduced to shambles

Actually, though, I found a perverse enjoyment in the predicament. After all, it’s not a sport if you always win. And I was surprised at the effectiveness of the frog lure. I vowed a rematch.

This was it.

The Frog’s Revenge

Thoroughly working the vast stretches of shallow water lily pads, I quickly found that these bass, again, did not refuse battle. Battered plastic frogs littered the deck of the boat as skirmishes with fish after fish shredded my baits, and I had to replace them.

Vindication transformed to ecstasy. A few nice fish still gave me the slip, but I now had what I needed: a rod and a line with enough strength to set the hook and overcome the root tangles and swatches of thick grass that had defeated me before

As my largemouth score mounted, a half-dozen thick pickerel demonstrated their appreciation of the succulent frogs as well. Their toothy grasp further depleted my lure inventory, and the day ended at about the same time as my supply of plastic frogs.

On the way home, I couldn’t stop grinning. It’s rare that a plan works out for me as well as this one did. I was going to enjoy my day in the sun as long as I could.

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