Fishing a Frog Over Bluegill Beds
In the summer months, baitfish of the bream variety spawn along the shore. Whether they’re referred to in your area as bluegill, sunfish, redear, shellcracker or something else, they all do generally the same thing. Bream typically find a spot somewhere from 6-inches to 5-feet deep and bore out a series of circular beds in the bottom.
This looks kind of like a bunch of tires laying flat on the ground with their treads touching.
In extremely clear water they’ll actually spawn deeper than that but for the purposes of this article, we want to focus on the shallow bedding norm anyway.
Bass, often big ones, love to hang around these bream beds and terrorize their inhabitants. The bream don’t stray very far from the bed and are thusly confined to a reasonably small space. But these beds are usually in relatively open water areas so the bass have a hard time corralling the bream. They can see them, but often can’t quite catch them which must be very frustrating. That’s where we come in.
Throwing a popping frog or a walking frog over the top of the beds mimics an injured bream. This bream maybe exhausted from the spawn or may have been struck at and injured by another bass. Needless to say the bass don’t ask questions, they finally see an easy meal and attack before one of the other bass in the area can. Because there are almost always other bass in the area. Which leads to the next pattern that goes hand in hand with this one.
Fishing a Frog for Wolfpacking Bass
When bream are spawning in the summer months, bass will group up in wolf packs and roam the shallows looking for beds. As an angler looking for beds, keep in mind that there will be some main lake banks with five or six clusters of beds strung along in a hundred yard stretch. Then other times there will just be one big cluster of beds in the back of a pocket, another really popular place for bream to spawn.
So when you’re on the trolling motor looking for beds, there’s a lot of downtime in-between. That’s when you want to be throwing some sort of topwater in hopes that you’ll cross paths with a wolfpack also on the prowl or even blind cast over a bream bed before you see it. There are lots of topwaters that work well, but the best frog style bait for this is the new spintail hollow-bodied frog.
Wolfpacking bass are typically extremely aggressive and will demolish anything that lands in striking distance.
Spintail frogs like the Teckle Sprinker in particular are heavy, allowing them to be thrown a long way which is key in maintaining the element of surprise. These fish are often just inches below the surface and in clear water making them wary of their surroundings. And it’s almost impossible to get the them to eat once they’ve seen you. So you need to be capable of long casts.
Wolfpacking bass like an aggressive bait and since the fish don’t typically need much convincing, having a bait like a spintail frog is great because it requires little work to create that action. You just continuously reel the bait and you cover a lot of water in a short amount of time.
Frogging the Shad Spawn
If you’re ever fortunate enough to encounter a shad spawn, you’ll find that the bass targeting these shad will hit almost anything you put in front of them early on in the process. For a few days in the spring, shad by the thousands converge early in the morning on shallow or floating cover to rub their eggs out. A suicide mission at times because no matter the chaos around them, they continue on with the task. Bass thrash the waters, getting their fill and continuing to the point of gluttony.
It is a beautiful and barbaric thing.
So what do frogs have to do with a shad spawn? Well, frogs are great because they can be fished on heavy gear and have a strong hook. Shad spawns are great because the bass are often big and boiling on the surface around shallow cover. They’re in a frenzy and will hit almost anything. So, it makes sense to throw something in there that you’ll have the upper hand with.
Now in the interest of full disclosure, if the cover is thin enough that you can get a bait down into the water, I recommend a spinnerbait or swim jig for a shad spawn. But if the fish are in holes in vegetation or right up against thick vegetation as they often are, all four frog types work well.
My most memorable experience with a shad spawn came a few years ago in an Everstart (now FLW Costa Series) on Lake Seminole. I knew the shad spawn had to be happening somewhere so I spent the first hour of practice every morning running and gunning shallow pockets in search of the elusive shad spawn. Since I was in full search mode, I had a buzz toad in hand.
Eventually I found one the day before the tournament began. I was throwing a Stanley Ribbit with the hook buried in the middle of the bait so that I could shake a fish off if needed. I turned a corner and saw probably 50 fish demolishing shad along a hard edge of hyacinth that was maybe a hundred yards long. Most of the fish looked to be big, in the 3-to-5-pound range.
In roughly a dozen casts, I shook off 7 or 8 fish on the Ribbit, sometimes multiple times on a single cast. They were hitting it almost as soon as the bait hit the water, arching their backs all the way out of the water showing off their size. It was the most impressive thing I have seen in my 31 years of fishing so far.
My dad was in the back of the boat and was yet to make a cast, probably because he knew he wouldn’t be able to will himself to shake one off. He was signed up to fish the event as a co-angler and had just gotten into town the night before for the last day of practice with me. We just looked at each other for a minute in disbelief and then quickly got the heck out of there.
The rest of the day and all night we talked about it. I drew boat 176 for Day 1 and I was heartbroken. Someone else would have surely found the same fish and would definitely beat me too them. Even if I could get there first, the best bite would be over with as shad spawns don’t typically last far into the morning.
I launched my boat and while waiting for my turn to go and watching the morning sun burn the little bit of fog off the water’s surface, I nervously corralled my last bit of optimism and tied on a spinnerbait incase the bite had slowed by the time I got there. This was the first time I had ever found a shad spawn like this. All I knew about them is what little I had read. So I figured if they won’t break the surface, maybe they’ll hit a spinnerbait.
Sure enough, I rounded the corner and there was not a boat in sight. The fish were still chasing shad along the edge of the hyacinth, but it was nothing like the day before. I threw my Ribbit into the grass and had one pull it under immediately followed by a swing and a miss from me. I frantically fixed my frog and threw it back out there. Another boil but this time my frog lost its legs to the fish. Two casts, two missed opportunities. I put the frog down and picked up the spinnerbait. In about 20 minutes I had 18-pounds 8-ounces in the boat and the bite shut off completely. I eventually finished 4th in the event, catching 11 of the 15 fish I weighed off of that shad spawn using a spinnerbait.
Now this article is about frogging. So this story may seem like a little bit of a tangent but take into consideration, knowing when not to use a bait and technique is often just as important as knowing when to use it. Frogging is a great way to catch big fish, but not knowing when to put it down is actually detrimental to your fishing.
Side note: This tournament was in the spring of 2012 and was the last fishing trip I made without a GoPro. I went out and bought one on the way home in hopes that if something like this ever happened again, I’d be able to document it. To this day, it’s still the most amazing thing I’ve seen on the water.
Frogging the Mayfly Hatch
A mayfly hatch or any other type of insect hatch where bream move in to feed on the insects is another great frogging situation. Using a popping frog to mimic the bream pecking bugs off the water’s surface is a great way to catch the bass lurking nearby. Though some of the smaller bass in the area will actually feed on the insects as well, they’ll still eat small bream.
So, not only will the frog catch the smaller fish but more importantly, a popping frog is a great bait for drawing strikes from those big fish looking for a bigger meal.
In this video from a few years ago, the first two fish catches came on a mayfly hatch. I actually caught these fish on a popper style hard bait and not a popping frog and both of them are great examples of why I prefer a popping frog now over a treble hooked popper style bait when fishing mayfly hatches.
The first fish chokes the bait as bass often do in mayfly hatches. With a treble hooked bait, this is very dangerous for the fish. It’s much easier to remove a choked frog with two big hooks than a choked treble hooked bait.
The second fish boils on the bait and barely gets one of the treble hooks in the edge of his lip, leading to a very precarious fight where I struggled not to lose the fish. With a frog, you can let the fish boil on it a time or two without setting the hook until the fish eventually takes the bait in all the way.