Why are they French? Well, because they eat frogs.
Yeah, that wasn’t actually funny but they really do eat the soft bodied lure type frogs quite well. Ask Carl Jocumsen, he’ll tell you how popular these frogs are on the Bass in the US. Are they always the most effective way to catch fish? Maybe not, but they are without a doubt the most fun way to do it.
Topwater fish are nearly always the most enjoyable but the problem a lot of the time with “normal” trebled topwater lures is that you have to fish the outside edge of where the fish usually are and hope you can convince one to come out and hit it. Soft bodied frogs however have two hooks that sit flush with the body and you can throw them and work the lure through anything and I really mean anything. Weed, lilies, timber or general floating crud that stick to a trebled lure doesn’t even touch a frog.
This ability to work through anything comes with two important drawbacks. The first is that this ability to not hook what you don’t want means it is harder to hook what you do want. The second is that working through all this impossible cover means when you hook a fish it is almost certainly deep in the heavy stuff where it is easy to get bricked.
The solution to both of these problems come in the form of the gear you fish the frog on. In a word, heavy. this is no place for finesse rods or light line. I throw them on gear you would more likely use for Barra or Cod. A 10-20lb MH Interline rod and 30lb braid. Here is the real kicker though, you are using 30lb STRAIGHT THROUGH! We talk about “straight through” a lot here. Usually it’s not 30lb braid though.
This straight through braid helps with the two drawbacks of the frog. It helps with hauling the fish out once hooked. If you’ve seen those yank Bass fisherman and wondered why they pull so hard its that they are getting them through some heavy cover and as soon as the fish gets the upper hand it is usually over. The other reason is the hook set, it needs to be hard. Harder than you have ever struck because you need to collapse that soft body and have the hooks penetrate. The less stretch there is the better and having a leader will likely make it less effective and quite honestly the fish don’t seem to care.
Having said that, a lot of my baitcast reels have bright coloured braids on them and I don’t really want something quite that obvious. Maybe it isn’t really needed but I do colour the first three metres or so black by running a permanent marker over it to make it a little less visible.
So once you have your strong gear and straight through ready to tie, whats kind of frogs do you want? Whilst I imagine the big ones from the US could work I do prefer the smaller models over here as our Bass just don’t have huge mouths. I picked up a few smaller models while I was in the US last year but the River to Sea Bully Wa 45 is a really good frog. If you are after Bass I wouldn’t go for frogs much bigger that about 50mm.
Once you are all set up it is a matter of throwing it right into the very worst cover that you would never get anything through and giving it small jerking motions to make it look like the lure is breaststroking through the water and walk over everything else. Give them small pauses every now and then but in general it is an active form of fishing and you are not trying to “shake and bake” it like a cicada lure on the spot for five minutes.
The takes tend to be serious detonations. The kind that make you jump. Sometimes when Bass are boiling on lures I think they are trying to pull it under for a better look. In general the ones I get on frogs have nearly choked on it and they were committed to eating it. If they blow up and you don’t hook up, throw straight back in as they will definitely hit a second and third time sometimes as long as they haven’t felt hooks.
Is this a magic bullet that guarantees fish? No way. This is a specific technique and you need the right spot and Bass in the right mood. but when it comes together they will undoubtably be some of the most memorable Bass you will ever catch.