Thursday, August 2, 2012

Froggie went a courtin'......

.........and he got bit!!  This is a quick tale of how a kayak angler, myself, made the tactical decision to try some top water froggin' at my local neighborhood pond in a limited time window.  My friends Rob Choi and Richie Bekolay have been tearing up some fish recently, so they inspired me to make the committment to get out on the water even with limited time.  I only had three hours, before I had to make my way westward for a Central VA HOW event at Bear Creek Lake state park in Cumberland, VA.

I launched at 7:30am and made a bee line straight to my favorite part of the pond.  This area is loaded with lily pads but there are several pockets where the pads extend out creating various ambush points.  I typically will work these pockets almost exclusively.  I start each frogging session by casting outside the pocket to work the open water and pick off any potential smaller ones.  This is what one of the typical pockets looks like when it extends out into open water.
Occasionally I will find a larger one out further but the water temperatures have to be optimal for that.  With the recent heat wave here in Central Virginia, the water temps had climbed to the 85-87 degree range.  Most of the time, the larger ones will hang out where there is ample shade yet still opportunity to ambush any prey that venture into the kill zone.  After the initial cast beyond the periphery of the pocket, I work each cast closer and closer to the apex of the pocket until I am can work the frog over the apex and even across the last few pads.  This is the prime target zone where I usually encounter my strikes at this pond.

Today's color choice due to the slightly off-colored water from the recent rains was one of my favorites, the Catalpa Stanley Ribbit.  I prefer to use the Zoom Horny Toad hooks in 4/0 size for these 3 1/2" frogs.  For the Bull Ribbits, which are the larger version, I use the 5/0 size.  I have tried the Owner version of these hooks but find their keeper pins with the centering post increases the chance of the frog's head getting ripped out.  One rigging tip I will give you on these frogs is that the plastic is heavy duty and made to withstand multiple hook sets, unfortunately that means the plastic can be a bit firm when you first rig the hook through the back of the frog and lay it in the back channel.  I typically work my hook through the plastic a few times to decrease the chance of the hook not penetrating far enough for a good hook set.

Almost on queue, a massive blowup occurred on one of my first series of casts when I repeated a retrieve for the third time across the backside shade area of the outermost pad.  The water erupted in a massive flush and an immediate drag ripping run to try and escape........

You know that scene in jaws when Roy Schieder sees the size of the shark and emits those immortal words, "You're gonna need a bigger boat.".  Well, that was the thought that immediately crept into my head when I saw the size of this bass when it came up out of the water.  I can still recall the bulging eyes that glared at me as the sow bass made one final lunge downward in hopes of tossing the hook.  Well, she succeeded but not from a failed hook set or throwing the hook.  No, the loss of this fish was due completely to an ecological factor.  A wad of the algae that is rampant in this pond during the summer had lodged itself on the hook point and impeded a proper hook set.

I emitted a few choice words and gritted my teeth knowing that had I landed that fish, it had the potential to mark my first citation ever out of the kayak.  Those are the breaks when you fish these types of water....sometimes you win, sometimes the fish wins and sometimes you just have to chuckle and move on.  So I did.  I made my way down the shaded side of the pond knowing from past experience that the water temps can get pretty hot in this shallow pond.

Now is a good time to impart one of my stalking tips I employ when looking for a fish to target.  Most people will make repeated casts until they get a strike.  For me, fishing frogs requires a discerning eye and being able to identify where to cast.  The key is to try and maintain a stable and relatively slow drift or no movement at all.  This enables you to focus on the pads themselves and look for movement of the pads.  The sounds of feeding bass are easy to pick out but targeting the bigger bass lurking in the shadows takes patience.  I have to be honest here and admit I was doing it half-heartedly given the limited time window that I was working with.

I was only focused on specific areas that have held fish in the past but still applying my stalking tip.  I found a large shady pocket and worked it for a few minutes and was about to move on when a bass chased after the frog and failed to connect.  I paused and made a few more casts at a small outcropping of pads that showed signs of a moving fish in the murky shallows and was rewarded with a spunky 14" fighter from the outermost point of the pads next to the tree you see by my left shoulder.
I worked the same shoreline for the next 30 minutes or so targeting the same type of locations.  At one point, I sat looking for any signs of movement for close to 20 minutes and became very anxious with my window of opportunity decreasing more and more with each passing minute.  I kept scanning the random patches of pads looking for any hints of a predator when a slow moving pad being pushed towards the bank caused me to take notice.  If the movement was any indication of the bass' position, I would need to make sure the path of my retrieve would need to be close enough to attract attention but not so close as to startle the fish and risk not having a chance at a strike.  I decided to make a cast a little further out than intended just to give the bass some turning room.  I watched the pad stalks closely and noticed it move sideways indicating the fish had turned.  A follow up cast a little closer to the target area sealed the deal, and I was rewarded with a chunky 15" largemouth for my patience and efforts.
I worked a few more spots with even less interest, because my time was at an end for this outing.  I ventured further down the eastern arm in hopes of landing the near citation from last year but found my spot completely changed from fallen trees due to several recent intense storms.  I'll have to come back andwork this area a little more precisely with some other presentations.  In the coming weeks, I will be making a more concerted effort to work in some frog action for you.  After all, it is the namesake of my blog and how I started chasing bass out of a kayak to begin with!

Until next time, tight lines, be safe and take a kid fishing.

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