Bass fishermen have a lot of different lures to choose as their go-to baits at different times of year and under different fishing situations.
It’s a good bet that there aren’t many like bass pro Dylan Fulk of Concord, N.C., who reach for a soft-plastic frog.
Fulk said he starts fishing a frog — his pick is a Booyah Poppin’ Pad Crasher — when the surface water temperature reaches 60 degrees early in the spring, and he doesn’t put it down until late in the fall. And he rarely starts a fishing trip from May through the summer with any other bait tied on.
“In July, the bass will all be spread out, and all of the fishermen will have moved out after them,” he said. “The majority of the bass will be out in deep water, but I think there’s always a winning bag shallow.”
So Fulk stays shallow, and looking for bass to be in thick cover, seeking shade, he is drawn to the beds of “gator grass” that cover the shorelines of many lakes across the Carolinas.
“Fish are going to be as deep in the shade as they can be, and I can put that frog right in tight to the cover,” he said. “Big fish don’t want to leave the shade; if a fish can get a bulky meal without leaving the cover, they’ll take advantage of it. And a frog is a big-fish bait, really natural and subtle.
“I look at a lot of the lakes I fish, and you see guys fishing the grass, paralleling it with a buzzbait, but not throwing back in the grass. The first day I tied on a frog and tried it, I had a heyday. I learned you can get a frog back to fish that are up in the grass that don’t see any buzzbaits.”
Fulk has specific tackle for frog-fishing. He goes with a heavy action 7-foot-3 ABU Veracity baitcasting rod mated with a Revo Rocket reel with a 9-to-1 retrieve ratio. The rod and fast reel help him get fish that strike out of the cover with a few turns of the rod handle, and the fast reel helps him get the bait quickly once it leaves the cover, adding up to more casts in a shorter period of time. He spools up with 50- to 60-pound Seaguar Smackdown braid, which has zero stretch.
He uses frog baits in three colors: white in the mornings when he wants bass to think his bait is a shad scooting through the grass, a more-natural brown color in mid-day when he’s targeting fish extremely tight to cover, and black on “dark sky” days and when he's fishing at night.
“The Pad Crasher has a concave face, so I can fish it like a popper,” Fulk said. “I can pop it and it only moves an inch or so, which lets me keep it in the strike zone longer. I want to twitch it and let it sit for a few seconds; they usually bite it on the pause.”
As far as shoreline bank grass is concerned, Fulk looks for grass beds running out on shallow points, smaller and more-isolated chunks of grass, and grass beds with uneven or irregular edges.
“You don’t want a long, perfect, straight edge,” he said. “Any place you can get scattered grass, or sparse grass, or where you can find some submerged grass, that’s the best you can find.”
Fulk said grass will often grow out to 6 or 7 feet deep, but he does most of his damage in 3 feet of water or less, casting several feet back into the grass and slowly working the frog back through the stalks.
“A lot of times, you’ll see the fish following the bait, kicking the stalks of grass out of the way,” he said. “It’s important to fish it slowly. If you think you’re fishing it slow enough, slow down. It’s not a search bait; it’s a more subtle bait. You’re not calling fish in like you do with a buzzbait. And you have to commit to it.
“It’s really good in the morning when the shad are up in the grass, then again at mid-day. That’s when there’s the least amount of shade and the bass are tightest to it. I can slip that frog in there to them.”