“The soft plastic buzz frog aka toad is a great bait to throw from post spawn straight through summer and into fall,” says pro Kurt Dove of Del Rio, Texas.
“What we see a lot down here in southwest Texas and in many other corners of the country where I have fished on tour,” says Kurt, “is that as the spawn comes to an end by late spring, it can be a tough time to catch fish. As the fish are coming off the spawning grounds, they’re struggling with exhaustion from the rigors of nesting, and they’re in that post spawn funk.”
Dove’s discovered one of the keys to catching these fish is using a bait that creates an instinctive reaction strike. “If you put something slow and subtle in front of them, they’re not as apt to eat it as they’re coming off the beds. So the reaction bait is an excellent way to cover a lot of water, to trigger an instinctive strike, and the buzz frog is a fantastic way to target postspawn bass that are holding in thick cover recuperating from the spawn.”
“Keep in mind, it doesn’t take terribly long for bass to shake off that postspawn funk, and once they begin to recover, then they will start feeding heavily straight through the summer and fall,” advises Kurt.
“Bottom line, any time that bass will hit a topwater, a toad will tempt them. It can be worked around vegetation, around riprap, along the side of docks, even skipped underneath docks and also around laydowns. It’s very distinct leg-bubbling action can generate a vicious strike around any kind of cover or even open water.”
Rigging the Buzz Frog
“I like to use a single 4/0 hook in the El Grande Sapo. I like to rig it on 65 lb Toray Blackwater braided line and even on heavy line, this bait can be worked in open water because the fish react to the surface turmoil it makes; they don’t pay any attention to the attached line.”
“I use a typical 4/0 offset bend hook (a typical worm hook) except that I tie the 65 lb braid with a snell knot onto the shank of the hook. I do not tie the knot to the eye of the hook, but I first pass the line through the top and out the bottom of the hook eye, and then tie a snell knot onto the shank directly behind the line tie eye,” says Dove.
“The snell knot is the absolute best knot to tie on braided line. Mostly when I am fishing braided line, whether using a straight shank hook when punching mats or using an offset shank hook when I’m working a buzz frog, a snell knot is the way to go on both techniques. It goes hand-in-hand with braided line. The reason for that is the braid is cinching against itself so the knot will never slip, and the line is running through the eye of the hook from the top, so that when you set the hook, the hook always has an upward motion for good hooksetting. The line is running through from the top to the bottom of the hook eye, and then the snell knot is tied to the hook shank behind the eye. To me, when you tie a knot to the eye of the hook, the knot will slip around to the side of the eye of the hook, and there is often a manufactured dip or groove in the bitter end of the hook eye where the knot will lodge. However, if you tie a snell knot, the knot can never slip around like that. It’s well worth your time to learn how to tie a snell knot,” recommends Kurt.
“Here’s another important tip on rigging a frog right; a lot of people have trouble rigging a buzz frog where their frog rides upside down, with the hook facing the wrong way, hook pointing down. The way to combat that is to actually rig with a slight bend and make the frog concave while it is on your hook. What that does is it actually gives the frog the same physics as a canoe and what keeps a canoe straight and upright in the water is that slight concave bend. So it’s important when you rig a frog that you rig it to have that slightly rounded canoe bend in the body between the hook eye and the hook point.”
The Right Rod and Reel
Dove says he likes to use Powell Rods and 6.3:1 ratio reels. “Model #735 is a great frog rod and simply excellent for use with buzz toads. I really like to use a 6.3:1 gear ratio reel. A couple of reasons for that is the 5:1 reel is a little slow because a buzz frog strike is typically so vicious that you need to catch up to the fish once it strikes. It is usually darting very fast in one direction or the other. The slow speed of a 5:1 winch doesn’t allow you to catch up to the fish within those first few seconds on a vicious strike, and you can lose many fish that way. Conversely, the 7:1 gear ratio reel really is just too fast for pulling the frog on the retrieve. There are a lot of situations where you want to be pulling that Sapo slowly over the cover, and it is hard to really slow down and train yourself to go slow with a 7:1 burner because it is such a fast gear ratio. So I typically use a 6.3:1 as that eliminates a lot of the constant mental thinking about and adjusting how fast I am turning the reel and the 6.3:1 almost becomes just a natural action. So I don’t have to go too slow or think that I am going too fast when I use that 6.3:1. It just seems like the perfect speed for buzz frogs.”
Tactics to Use
“One neat thing about a buzz frog, when you are fishing over sparse vegetation, you can work it fast and create reaction strikes. If the fish aren’t really responsive to that, then you can slow the bait down, and just kind of twitch it along. You can also pause and it will fall very slowly. One technique that’s very interesting is I sometimes add a bullet weight ahead of a buzz frog – almost like a Texas rig. You can put an 1/8th or ¼ oz weight and still buzz the frog on top – or work it subsurface. This technique works very well with the Sapo.”
“If you are fishing over heavily matted vegetation (a venue where a buzz frog excels), you can just twitch it very slowly and it is going to stay on top simply because the mat is so dense, but twitching is going to give you a great disturbance because that’s the nature of a buzz frog. You can work it so many different ways and that versatility is the key to success. A lot of people just pick up a frog, chuck it out and wind it back, and as important as that is, it is also important as with any other lure you might use, whether it be a crankbait or a worm, to really vary your retrieve until you find out exactly how the fish would like the frog presented on that particular day.”
Setting the Hook
“Generally the strike is going to be a vicious strike. Most folks set the hook as soon as they see the strike. If you’re actually working your frog properly, which is really having your rod tip in the 11 o’clock position, then the time it takes you to drop your rod tip and rear back and set the hook is all the time you need to wait for the fish to eat a buzz frog. A lot of people say to count to 2 or 3 or wait until you feel the fish’s weight on the line, but to me, as soon as I see the strike, I calmly and deliberately drop my rod tip from the 11 o’clock position (in which you should work the frog) to 9 o’clock and then rear back and set the hook, which does take a second or two. I don’t count or wait for 1, 2 or 3 seconds or until the line comes tight or until I feel the fish or any of that stuff,” explains Dove.
He says, “The reason why 11 o’clock is the correct rod position to work the frog is because you have a good bow in your line at that rod angle, and you need that bow in your line, first to keep the speed steady and the buzzing action going. Second, when you are working over grass, if you need to twitch it to work it through something, most of the line is up in the air, clean of most of the grass. Third, it really is the proper position because when a bass belts the lure, the bow in your line gives the lure slack so the fish can actually take the bait without any resistance to it from a tight line.”
“Bottom line, any time that bass will hit a topwater, a toad will tempt them. They produce in open water, sparse cover, on the edges of cover but best of all, they can be buzzed right through heavy cover where most other topwater types can’t go.”