Clayton: Bass can't resist frogs, especially mechanical ones

Luke Clayton
Special to the E-T
Bryant Sheets shows off a chunky bass that went for a 22-Five Mechanical frog earlier this week.
Luke Clayton

Is there anything more exciting while fishing than watching a big bass attack a top water bait, strike it hard, miss getting hooked and come back and nail it again? The drill for the angler is to allow the bait to set motionless after the initial strike, bass often strike again instantly, but not jerking the bait out of the strike zone is easier said than done when adrenaline is pumping!

Largemouth bass are by nature ambush feeders. When they strike a bait on the surface, their intent is to kill and eat it. When that topwater bait happens to be a mechanical frog with feet that kick in a very lifelike manner, the bass’ strike is even more savage. I have often wondered why bass strike a frog imitation bait so hard. I assume it’s because frogs are pretty athletic critters. The bass must instinctively know that if they don’t kill or cripple their meal on the first attempt, they might not have another opportunity.

I had the pleasure of doing some "frog bassin’" with my buddy Bryant Sheets earlier this week at Cedar Cove Ranch & Resort, situated a few miles from Eustace in East Texas, where Bryant and I put the frog through its paces.

Frank Pearce, a long-time friend and inventor of the 22-Five Frog, first exposed me to his mechanical baits a quarter century ago. We used the mechanical frog to catch multiple bass during the middle of the day on a nearby lake. For many years, this bait was marketed at many large outdoor "box" stores.

Pearce contacted me back in the winter and said he now has the best mechanical bait ever produced and sent me a box of his 22-FIVE frogs to test. Obviously, the dead of winter does not offer the best topwater bite, regardless the species. But water is warming nicely and May is prime time for a very good topwater bass bite.

I’m about to give you an account of this fun day on the water but first, It would be helpful if you understand just how Mr. Pearce’s mechanical frog works. The principle of the bait is simple, a jerk of the rod and the bait’s internal spring is "loaded," causing the feet to kick in sync, just like a live frog on the water’s surface. The patented design is far from simple and I will not try to describe the bait’s intricate workings here. It will suffice to say that when those little feet begin to kick after a "pop" or two of the bait to notify nearby bass that there’s food in the water, a savage attack can be expected!

Bryant eased his bass boat to the mouth of a shallow cove on the 30-acre lake that is one of the best private bass fisheries I’ve fished. I knew we were in for a great morning of bass fishing but it was obvious conditions were not the best for a good topwater bite, regardless the bait used. I soon had my frog kicking frantically over a shallow grass bed.

Bryant was throwing a weightless soft plastic lizard. The drill with the mechanical frog  is to jerk the rod back which not only "loads" the bait causing the feet to kick but also pushes a lot of water because of the concave mouth of the lure. I’m not positive of the exact moment Bryant connected with a bass on the first cast of the morning because the instant my frog’s feet began kicking, a bass exploded on the bait, knocking the frog completely out of the water.

I let the frog set motionless for a couple of seconds then, jerked the rod tip to activate the lure’s feet which proved more than the aggressive bass could stand. She hit again and we soon had a double in the boat, both solid 3-pounders.

During the first hour or so of daylight, we concentrated on shallow water close to the bank. Heavy rains in the area had washed a smorgasbord of food into the lake and bass were up shallow chowing down on everything from bugs to worms to, yes what they thought were tasty frog legs! Some of the bass were still shallow because of the spawn as well.

We actually spotted a couple bass on beds and cast the frog past the nest, allowing it to pause and paddle those little feet on the surface above the spawning fish. I assume frogs must eat bass eggs and probably the fry as well because Momma bass simply not tolerate what they perceive to be a nest robbing frog anywhere near their nursery.

The morning fishing, albeit under less than ideal conditions for a solid topwater bite, proved what I already knew; bass love frogs, especially mechanical frogs and they can be caught on top even under adverse conditions. I left the ranch making plans for a return trip next week. We will watch the weather closely and fish on a day more suited to catching topwater bass than supplying energy to a west Texas wind farm!

ABOUT CEDAR COVE RANCH AND RESORT: Located just out of Eustace, a few miles from Purtis Creek State Park, the ranch offers a great getaway with excellent lodging and great fishing and hunting. Night thermal hog hunts are offered year-around and deer hunting in season. A shooting range for rifle/pistol is situated on the property. Visitors can fish from rental boats or possibly opt to hire the guide services of Bryant who knows all the hotspots. For more information, visit www.cedarcoveranch.com. 

ABOUT THE MECHANICAL FROGS: For more information on the 22-FIVE Mechanical frogs, visit www.22-five.com . These predecessors of these baits were widely available at the larger box stores for several years. Many "long-in-the-tooth" anglers still have the older version of these lures in there tacklebox and many of them still work after a couple decades of use. The baits can currently can be purchased through the website.

Contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton via email at www.catfishradio.org