The frog days of summer

Photo Provided This bass was caught using a Snag Proof frog as bait.

Plenty of smacks, slurps and tugs on the ol’ floating frog, but zero hook-ups, during the first half dozen casts.

Undersized bass and thick surface weeds had a lot to do with the missed bites. The next try, however, was a thing of beauty.

Not the cast, which didn’t skip to the intended bank beyond a dangling willow, but smacked the branches before plopping unceremoniously. No matter, a large largemouth immediately engulfed the bait in a breath-taking wallow.

The leaping, hard-charging three-pounder reaffirmed the frog days of summer are about as much fun you can have with bass.

Mild weather, target casting and splashy surface strikes add up to fishing fun.

It is also unnecessary to be on the water real early or late. The best frog bite often kicks in at mid-morning after big bass have settled on ambush points around lily pad openings, boat docks or overhanging branches.

Unlike most fishing, you’ll miss a lot of fish if you’re too quick on the bite, or the appearance of a strike. There is a lot of water moving when a bass sucks a frog imitator under or rolls over on the bait. Pausing the hook set is crucial -- and nerve racking.

Local angler and Bass Pro Shop’s/Cabelas pro staffer Greg Miller offers a nifty trick.

“I try to keep some slack in the line when fishing frogs so there is a built-in pause,” Miller said, while asking, “Who can not set the hook when you see that surface strike?”

Patience, although excruciating when frog fishing, is a virtue.

Miller explains he pulls two or three feet of line off the reel when the frog lands, then keeps a bend in the line from rod tip to the water during the retrieve.

“Having a dip (in the line) takes a couple seconds to pick up, giving the bass time to get the bait in its’ mouth and turn for a good hook-set.”

Miller also uses no-stretch braid for solid hook-ups.

“Thirty-pound Bass Pro Shops XPS and I tie directly to the bait with a Palomar knot,” Miller said.

There are dozens of fake frogs on the market, but Miller likes Snag Proof as well as any.

“(Key) is a soft body which compresses easily (on the bite) and good hooks,” Miller said.

An oddity in the artificial lure world, Snag Proof baits have been around for 50 years and are still independently owned and manufactured in Vancleave, Mississippi.

The hollow plastic body is molded precisely to deflect weeds or debris from catching on hook points, thus the apt name Snag Proof, which also means you shouldn’t be afraid to wing that bait into the nastiest cover - then count on the heavy braid to pull a bass out.

A few other tips from Miller to improve hook-ups with frogs include shortening the legs and adding a bit of lead.

“I trim the legs to about one-inch, which cuts down on short strikes,” Miller said. “And sometimes I pinch a (lead) split-shot on the bend of the hooks which puts the bait lower in the water as well as improving casting distance.”

As for retrieve, don’t be in a hurry. Let the fake frog sit for a couple seconds on landing, then twitch forward for a foot or so before pausing again. And hang on for explosive strikes.

New Launch

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has built and opened a launch ramp with free public access to Hudson Lake in northeast LaPorte County off Emory Road this month.

Hudson has 432 surface acres and a maximum depth of 39 feet. It it noted for quality bluegill as well as fair largemouth, northern pike and crappie.

It had been the largest lake in Indiana without a public access site, but that changed with a property donation from the DeGroote family in 2018.

Hudson is the second new public access launch constructed in two years around here along with the Clear Lake access off County Line Road near Westville, which opened last summer.

For more information on all DNR launch sites, access the Where to Fish Finder at wildlife.IN.gov/3591.htm.

Fish Report

Perch were good to the tune of limits or near-limits for anglers concentrating near the 30-foot depth just east of the Michigan City harbor prior to recent north winds. Portage and New Buffalo boats were into limits in spots, too.

Lakers, lakers and more lakers for Michigan City charters out near the 100-foot depths. Seems the random, mature kings have been missing out there this July and August. Might be a few staging closer to shore.

Burns Ditch boats had some decent Skamania action last weekend in the 40- to 60-foot depths outside their harbor.

Seems the steelies stage in the lake later and longer outside the Little Calumet system due to warmer water whereas most Skamania shoot up the cooler-flowing Trail Creek earlier in the summer.

On Wednesday night and Thursday, there was a massive fish kill at Burns Ditch with the DNR, Indiana Department of Environomemtal Management and steel mill staffs investigating.

Inland, bluegill have been outstanding on a few of the La Porte lakes on baits suspended 10 to 12-feet down outside the deep weed edges.

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