Volume 16, Issue 21 - May 22-May 28, 2008

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This Frog Could Catch Fish —

But I couldn’t

It started with the rains, real gully washers. The water, silt and sediment that poured into the Tidewater for over a week muddied and chilled it. On the first afternoon back fishing on the Bay, we burned a half tank of gas and found nothing but undersized perch. We were grateful that we found anything at all.

The next day, I decided that freshwater was the answer. Wrong. Three hours of diligent casting — with a fly rod and an ultra-light spin rod on one of my favorite lakes — produced close to nothing.

Then began one of the more unusual events I‘ve experienced. Just about ready to give up the day in futility, I snagged my fly on something in a patch of lily pads near the shoreline. I hauled on my rod, hoping to pull the small popper free. It turned out to be fouled on another length of fishing line.

Resigning myself to spooking any fish that might be in residence, I eased in and grabbed the old line that held my fly. I found that it was anchored under a lily pad, ran up a nearby tree, out the branch and back into the water. As I pulled on it to get to my fly, up out of the water came the lure still attached to the old line’s end.

Lost and Found

It was a soft plastic frog. Retrieving that as well, I noticed it was almost new, fully rigged with a single 4/0 hook and looked quite realistic. It was baffling how its line had become entangled as it was.

Never having fished one of these baits, I was further intrigued. Not three days ago, housebound because of the torrential rains, I had watched a few minutes of a fishing show that featured just such a soft bait. And here it was. The only problem was that I didn’t have the right tackle to fish it.

Fish Are Biting

We are still recovering from the ultra wet weather, but a nice resident rockfish bite is forming at the mouths of all of our major tributaries. Trollers are still scoring good fish, but the springtime trophy-sized rock are mostly gone. Chumming has started up, and cut alewife (menhaden) is the bait of preference. Croaker are still about, and fishing for them will improve with the weather.

The soft frog is rigged with a hook pushed through the body with its point up, just under the top, unexposed. That feature makes the lure weedless and virtually snag proof. It is designed to be thrown into the most inaccessible places such as lily pad fields and submerged grass and weed beds.

The downside of that feature is that when a bass picks up the bait, it takes considerable striking force to punch that hook up through the lure’s body and into the fish’s mouth. My rod, reel and line were so slight I had serious doubts they could do the job.

On the other hand, I had exhausted all of my other options and it was only 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The lake also had a large expanse of lily pad growth, the only areas I had not yet fished.

I broke off the small spinner bait on my line, tied on the frog and headed for the lily pads.

Working the Frog

My light rod could barely launch the bait, but as I retrieved and twitched the lure through the more open lanes of the pads, I was astounded at how life-like it was. The darn thing looked just like a frog, swimming along with a kick and coast.

On my second cast a large, dark shadow darted out from under one of the pads, grabbed the frog and headed back into cover. I was so dumbfounded with such quick success that I froze. When the bass felt the resistance of my rod it spit the bait. Duh!

Within a half-dozen more casts came another strike. This bass totally engulfed the frog. This time I was ready. Hauling back as smartly as my six-pound line and light rod would permit, I stuck it to him.

The big bass swirled, a vortex of angry water surged, my rod bent double and my drag started to screech. I had him; damn, I was good. Then, just as quickly, the fish was gone. I had never got the hook in.

Another dozen casts brought two more strikes and two more lost bass. Now it was obvious that my gear was not up to the task. I tried exposing the hook, but all that did was get me hung up in the pads or drag weeds with the bait. Either one meant no fish.

Reconsidering my options, I decided I might as well continue as before. Even though I couldn’t hook up, strangely enough I was enjoying myself and learning a great deal more about the lake, its bass and the soft plastic frog.

Before my synthetic amphibian was reduced to shambles by the savage strikes, I totaled 10 lost largemouth bass, half of them of considerable size. I had never before had so much fun while losing quite so many fish.

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