It wasn’t one of those high-percentage casts that keeps your adrenaline racing with every reel crank, but when the 9-pounder did hit, Dean Rojas remembers that it did take his breath away. The fish didn’t hit his floating frog with a weed-scattering explosion the way so many do, either; rather it just sipped in the lure and turned back toward the cover.
The Arizona pro remembers his hands shaking as he unhooked the big bass and released it. This was on Grand Lake, Okla., a reservoir not known for topwater frog fishing, but then again, Rojas had been in the process of re-defining the entire spectrum of hollow body frog fishing, and this fish only verified once more what Rojas had already realized: plastic floating frogs have to be considered one of the most lethal bass lures on the market today.
“The only thing you know for certain when you’re fishing a frog,” laughs Rojas, “is that something’s going to hit it. You don’t know when, or how violent the strike will be, but I can just about guarantee it will come.”
Rojas should know. For the past four years his Bronzeye frog produced by Spro has been one of the top selling bass lures in the country, and Rojas has won hundreds of thousands of dollars with it in tournaments, including a victory in a 2008 Bassmaster Elite event on New York’s Lake Oneida. Just over a year ago Spro introduced his Popping frog, which Rojas uses just as much.
In the process, Rojas has totally re-defined the face of frog fishing. He has repeatedly proven the unique hollow-bodied, twin-hook baits, originally developed in north Alabama more than 35 years ago to skitter over the shallow, matted milfoil of Lake Guntersville each autumn, are far more versatile and productive than anyone realized.
Rojas doesn’t need vegetation (although he certainly likes it), and today skittering is only one of several presentations he uses. He fishes his frogs beside stumps and laydowns, over rocks, along sea wall retainers, underneath over-hanging limbs and boat docks, and even across open water where they bring bass up from deeper depths – places that rarely if ever saw a frog a few years ago. His favorite presentation is skipping the lure into hard-to-reach places, and “walking” it like a Zara Spook, but he won’t hesitate to cast it to surface-feeding schooling bass over points and channel breaks.
“The Popping frog pushes a lot more water and makes more commotion than the Bronzeye, so it walks better,” notes Rojas. “I like to walk a frog when I’m target fishing around visible cover like stumps and laydowns because the lure stays in the strike zone longer.
“I actually trim about an inch off each leg to reduce drag in the water so the frog walks easier and has better side to side motion. You can twitch your rod to make the frog turn, but if you don’t crank your reel, it literally stays in the same spot, which helps attract bass.”
Rojas strongly encourages using 65-lb. braided line, and keeping as much as two feet of slack in the line after the cast. When you walk a frog, you’re really just shaking this slack line; you move the frog forward with your reel. Braid, with no stretch, improves both hook-sets and fish control.
Rojas also suggests using the walking retrieve when fishing along the edges of matted vegetation or when working over structure, because the added commotion will actually bring bass out of slightly deeper water. He’s fished it over depths of 15 to 20 feet where he felt fish were suspended 10 to 12 feet down.
When he’s fishing a frog over the top of surface vegetation, Rojas often uses to more standard stop-and-go skittering presentation but he does it slower than most because he feels it gives bass a better strike opportunity. His hook up ratio is also better when the lure is fished lower like this. For this retrieve, he does not trim the frog legs, but he still moves the lure by jerking his rod tip.
While the Popping frog creates a lot of water movement, the original Bronzeye actually walks smoother and skips easier because of its generally flat-sided design. It’s more of a passive bait Rojas uses for target-oriented bass that may be reluctant to strike; it’s also his choice for extremely shallow water where bass may be spooky. One of his favorite places to use it is around boat docks where he can skip it into places that rarely see a lure.
Water and weather conditions play a role in which type of frog Rojas uses. His preferred water temperature range is between 55 and 90 degrees, although he’s caught fish in chilly 44-degree water. He’s caught bass on a frog in water with a one-foot chop, too; so much for the old rule that bass couldn’t see a surface lure in rough water. Basically, says Rojas, anytime bass are shallow, be it for spring spawning, fall feeding, or just summer in the shadows, a frog can be used.
Under clear skies, he prefers the lighter white or green frog colors, while on cloudy days he uses darker colors. A pure black frog works well anytime, however, and often out-performs the others.
Rod-wise, Rojas designed his own for his frogs, a stiff 7-footer with a very fast 10-inch tip that is now produced by Quantum. This is what helps him skip the frogs as well as walk them.
“The most wonderful aspect of frog fishing,” concludes Rojas, “is that they can be fished a lot of different ways and in so many different places. When my original prototype frogs were finished, I literally had to learn how to really fish what I had just designed, and I’m still learning.”