Targeting bass for a great summer battle
By Ashley Rae
Residing in southeastern Ontario, I keep myself busy fishing year-round for a variety of species, but largemouth and smallmouth bass are my main focus throughout summer months following into autumn (during our open season). What I love most about fishing for bass is, of course, the battle these fish put forth, but also the variety of techniques that can be used to pursue them. The learning never stops, and each year I find myself adding new favorites to the ever-growing list of techniques.
Striking a Frog
Even with so many options for catching bass, my absolute favorite way is a topwater presentation. Nothing beats witnessing the explosion of a largemouth crashing up through lily pads or floating mats to inhale a plastic frog! Talk about adrenaline! However, patience is required with this type of fishing, especially in the heat of the moment when a fish strikes.
Topwater hits can be one of the hardest styles to adapt to initially, as our natural instinct is to set the hook when we feel or see anything, like most other techniques. It becomes a reflex and it is something you will have to practice if topwater is new for you. By reacting quickly to a topwater strike, setting the hook too soon can result in pulling the bait away and missing the fish entirely. The key is to wait until the fish has pulled the frog under and you can either feel or see the line tightening as the fish is swimming off with your offering. The moment you’re certain that fish has your frog, you’ll have to set the hook as if your life depended on it since there are often weeds surrounding the line between you and the fish. Without a good hook set, the fish can unpin itself easily while swimming through cover.
Another key factor to successful frog fishing, like any style of fishing, is having the proper equipment. During the summer months, especially on those warm sunny days, largemouth are often tucked away in heavy cover. It is unbelievable the nasty thick stuff these fish will hide out in, and when hooked, they can really make it a challenge to yank them out if you aren’t geared up for it.
On a baitcast setup, I use 65-pound test braided line (or higher) for frog fishing. Baitcaster reels are designed for accuracy and to handle heavier line with ease. A reel with a high gear ratio also comes in handy for a few reasons: skipping a fish across the surface so it doesn’t bury itself down in the weeds, buzzing a frog back quickly after missing a strike to get it back in the zone or just skipping past the less likely strike zones.
Along with the heavy line, use a heavy rod to provide the power needed to pull these fish through the thickest of cover. Rod length is preference with 7’3” to 7’6” being common lengths. A rod that is too short can make it difficult to cast farther, and a rod that is too long can make it harder to “walk the frog” using a tip-down retrieve.
A new lure I added to my collection last year is the Storm Arashi Waking Crank, and it has quickly become a favorite of mine. This bait causes a lot of commotion on the surface with the wobbling side-to-side wake and loud rattle. This type of crankbait also requires a delayed reaction hook-set after a strike similar to a topwater frog. Due to the treble hooks, this lure isn’t ideal in thick surface cover, as it will most likely get caught up, but it works great along weedlines, above weeds that aren’t quite touching the surface and in open water. Crankbaits can be used on a spinning or baitcast setup.
With these moving baits, line stretch is crucial to provide the pause needed to allow the fish to grab on. Monofilament line works best with these types of crankbaits over braided line and fluorocarbon. Braided line has little to no stretch and fluorocarbon sinks, whereas monofilament floats. An effective hook-set on a crankbait doesn’t need to be nearly as aggressive as that of a topwater frog, and should be more along the lines of simply reeling down on the fish and loading up the rod. Take your time with any fish hooked on treble hooks, as they can often shake free if you try to power them in too quickly.
Two of my other surface lures include the X-Rap Pop and the X-Rap Prop. Although the names are very similar, these lures are quite different. The X-Rap Pop has a cupped lip, which deflects water making a “popping splash” with each snap of the rod. This one works best when you snap and pause in various rhythms that bass can’t resist. The X-Rap Prop has a longer slender shape with nose and tail propellers creating the noisy splashing and gurgling surface activity that grabs the attention of bass and fires up their instincts.
When searching for summertime bass, structure is a great place to start. Bass follow baitfish and baitfish tend to be found relating to structure as a means of food (feeding on small bugs and plankton) and to hide out in cover from predators. Shorelines with weedlines, stumps or docks tend to hold fish as well as offshore weed beds, lily pads and slop. Healthy and lively weeds will hold small insects, plankton and crustaceans cueing the food chain.
If you haven’t tried topwater, I encourage you to give it a try this summer! The results can be explosive!
Ashley Rae is a freelance writer, seminar speaker and sponsored angler from Ontario, Canada. She has a passion for year-round fishing and promoting the outdoor lifestyle. Find her at SheLovesToFish.com.