Mining Big Bass from Thick Summer Weeds

It’s not recommended for someone trying to pound-up for a weigh-in, but if it’s fun you’re after, nothing beats skittering frogs over milfoil and other thick grasses.

You can drag these over vegetation so thick you wouldn’t think a fish could see or hear them. But bass—big ones—will break through this matted greenery and take a frog, grass and all, in an explosive disturbance. You may not always land the bigger bass, but the memories of those surprising encounters will linger.

This frog has a soft, hollow, pliable plastic body with special hooks that extends over its back. This makes these frogs snag-free lures so you can drag them over the thickest mats of grass. It amazes me what bass will go through to get at these fake amphibians. Sometimes the commotion is so violent that it’s a bit unnerving, but that’s what is also so much fun—the strike.

It’s not about the “fight,” because usually there isn’t one. When you set the hook on a big fish it’s already entwined in submerged vegetation. Even with heavy line and a hard pull, most of the better fish get off and those you do manage to muscle in are garnished with such a thick blanket of salad that they can’t even wiggle. The tricky part is setting the hook. Because this strike is sudden, explosive and visible, the tendency is to set the hook too quickly, which often pulls the bait right out the front of the fish’s mouth. To get a good, solid hook-set, it’s best to wait a second or two before yanking back on the rod. This gives the bass time to turn and head back down so that when you do lay it to him the hooks are much more likely to find a hold. If you try to set the hook when the bass first hits the bait and is near the surface, you’ll miss it. If you wait until he heads down and turns, even though you’re more likely to get a solid hook-set, the bass will be tangled in the thick stuff.

Sometimes you can force some smaller fish back to the surface and sort of skitter them back to the boat across the surface of the grass. But once in a while you’ll get lucky with a bigger bass that leaps as soon as it feels the hook. And as long as you can keep him on or near the top, you’ve got a chance. You can go in after them, mowing weeds with the trolling motor. Most times, however, when they get tangled up they get off.

I used to do a lot of this type of fishing back during my guiding days on Kentucky Lake when it was estimated to contain over 7,000 acres of milfoil in the Kentucky portion alone. Since then, I’ve fished frogs and rats on farm ponds, city lakes and watershed lakes, which often have sections of thick or matted aquatic vegetation in the shallow reaches. No matter what the type of lake, if it’s got a matted mantle of greenery, bass will be in it and you can coax them up through it to capture a fake frog.

Early morning and late evening are the best times, but where thick stands of milfoil are found, fish may hit these lures anytime. The milfoil provides plenty of shade, keeps the water a little cooler and charges it with oxygen.

Under the floating carpet is a jungle of stems, tunnels and lanes. Baitfish are drawn to these for the abundant hiding places, and bass are drawn here too because these contains many ambush sites. Fish thrive in aquatic grasses, and I think some of them live there 24 hours a day because I’ve caught them at midnight and noon and every time between.

Fishing over the top of these areas is a specialized method, but anyone can do it. It requires a fairly stiff, long baitcasting outfit and strong line. All you do is cast, hold the rod tip up to keep as much of the line off the surface as possible, and then reel back steadily. I’ve seen a lot of guys fish these lures with pauses. I try that as well, occasionally pausing at any small opening because it just seems logical that’s where the bass will be. But almost all of my hits come on a slow, steady retrieve and right over the thick stuff.

My favorite bait for this presentation is a Mann’s Super Frog. I jiggle the rod tip during a slow retrieve, which makes it lunge and swim like the real thing. A lot of bass think it’s the real thing too. And judging by the way they go out of their way to burst through the floating carpet of foliage with a bulge and spastic splash, they must really love these frogs.