With the rainy season here in full force, freshwater fishing in Thailand is ripe with two things: snakeheads and frogs. With frogs in high abundance freshwater predator fish all over are focusing their diet onto the tasty amphibians skittering across the water’s surface. As a lure fisherman, the next few months will be the best time for some hard-hitting surface frog fishing. With the water levels high and plenty of frogs and toads in the water, frog fishing would be the way to go. I am by no means an expert and what I have learnt is a combination of here are my 7 steps for fishing a frog lure.
1. Terminal Tackle
Frog fishing is all about heavy cover; casting the lure out into areas full of water vegetation and dragging the fish out of the thick of it all. This kind of fishing calls for a medium heavy to heavy action rod at around 6 feet or more in length paired with a good quality braided fishing line of 50 lb test or higher.
The braided line will do two things: one, its minimum stretch will ensure a more solid hook set than monofilament line; and two, it will literally cut through the weeds. Don’t believe me? Try wrap the 50lb braided line around a whole cabbage once and with some padding on your hands (some cardboard would suffice) pull the line in opposite directions really hard to see the cabbage chopped in half. Cool stuff. Personally I use Berkley Fireline Braid 50lb for chopping all my vegetables (citation needed).
Some people will use a fluorocarbon leader of 65lb. I would sometimes use a 30-50lb wire leader when using the smaller frog lures just in case the lure comes across the sharp teeth of the giant snakehead. (Wait a minute… Braided line beats cabbage, giant snakehead beats braided line, so cabbage beats giant snakehead?)
With topwater frog fishing the best kind of fishing reel for the job is preferably one that has a high line retrieval rate with a gear ratio of 7:0 or higher. A high speed reel coupled with the stiff rod will quickly pull the fish out of the weeds before it has a chance to wrap the line up around too many obstructions and shake off the hook. However the people in Japan and Taiwan prefer using heavier low ration reels like the Shimano Calcutta to literally reel the fish out of the water.
2. Pick your frogs
It’s always smart to prepare several types of frogs into your tackle box for your next fishing trip. Smaller frogs (3cm-5cm) will be good for smaller species like the striped snakehead and bigger frogs (6cm and up) for the bigger varieties like the giant snakehead or a really big jungle perch.
There are several types of frog lures to choose from. The hard-bodied frogs are usually either made from wood or a solid resin. Some of them also have a ball-bearing in them to increase casting accuracy and distance. The hard-bodied frogs always have an exposed hook allowing for easier hook set.
2.2 Hard-bodied frogs
The hard-bodied frogs can also come with an optional propeller in the front. This will allow for the frog to turn into a buzz frog aka propeller frog giving the lure the ability to splash some water along its retrieve to call out the predators.
Some of the Thai-made hard-bodied frogs also come with their own unique action. When retrieved, some may sway side-to-side, perform a splashing dip or even hop on top of the water.
Another thing that these hard-bodied frogs can come with are hook guards but they are not found on all. They are basically little things sticking out of the frog to cover the hook from the vegetation to avoid hang-ups. They can be made from a variety of materials from monofilament line, rubber tubing to metal wire.
2.3 Soft-bodied frogs
Then we have the soft-bodied frogs. The hooks on these frogs are protected by their soft bodies. Their hollow body allows for a very light landing and delicate presentation. However because their hooks are permanently on “weed guard” mode, their hook set requires the fisherman to wait a few seconds for the fish to drag out the lure before setting the hook.
2.4 Soft plastic frogs
The soft plastic frogs like the Ribbit Frog or Zoom’s Horny Toad series is two separate pieces, the weighted hook and the frog. They are rigged together in such a way that the frog prevents the hook from snagging on vegetation. The soft plastic frogs, unlike the other frogs the soft plastic frogs are weighted and can sink. Reel it in quickly and it kicks up little bubbles on the water’s surface or jerk it slowly and hop it along the bottom to get bottom feeding fish.
3. Locate your fish
You’re going to have to locate your fish and that alone is not enough. The fishing location must also be a somewhere that is a convincing hangout spot for frogs or toads. Lily pads and other forms of heavily vegetated bodies of water are the perfect spawning areas for frogs and toads. Predator fish hunting in the area will instinctively strike anything skittering and splashing over the water’s surface provided that the area isn’t over fished. Quiet, vegetated canals are usually good hiding places for striped snakehead.
Logs, vegetation, water lilies and dense algae are good indications of a place that’s ideal for frog lures so cast right in there.
4. Picking the right frog lure
For more open water locations with lighter vegetation use the propeller frog or any of the ones that causes lots of splashes or bubbles, like the sway frog (“khob sai” or “กบส่าย”), popper scum frog or any frog lure of that category.
For the more heavily vegetated area go with the soft rubber frogs or the hard ones that come with a weed guard.
Figure out what sort of fish are in the area. A frog that’s too big might not fit into your fish’s mouth. Usually for striped snakehead I go for a frog that is 5cm or less and with the giant snakeheads, anything above 7cm works well.
Be sure to have a good variety of colours for your frogs. Not all frogs are green, and sometimes the green camouflages the frog a little too well. There is no set rule for what colour works where but it’s best to come prepared. I personally always pack at least green, black, white and brown. In my experience, colour does matter but what works and what doesn’t really is hard to tell. Some people will say black works on cloudy days and some would say otherwise. The best way about it is to come prepared and leave it to good-old-fashioned trial and error.
Depending on the frog lure you use there are several retrieval methods that can usher in good results. With the splashy frogs, just retrieve it back at a steady speed while trying to stick as close to vegetation or logs as possible. In some occasions, an occasional deceleration can also trigger some strikes.
5.1 In heavy vegetation
In more heavily vegetated areas the retrieve is a little slower, this is to increase the chance of the fish successfully biting down on the frog lure through all the thick stuff.
5.2 Lily pads
When fishing around lily pads, allow for the frog lure to come to a complete stop on one (lily pad). When stationary, give the rod a slight wiggle to allow for the frog to shake the water. Doing this will be like sending a message to the fish saying, “there is a stupid frog here”.
6.1 Exposed hook
By far the hardest part about fishing top water frog lures is the hook set. If you are fishing a frog with an exposed hook just keep the line taught with the rod pointed to about 2:45 (pretend that your body a clock and you are looking at it from the side) and immediately set the hook when the fish bites down.
6.2 Weedless hook
However, when fishing with a weedless hook there are several things that must be done differently. The rod must be pointing to about 2:00. When the fish bites don’t immediately set the hook. Instead, lower the rod slowly with the fish as it pulls the frog under. Count two seconds for the frog to turn its head away from you before setting that hook really hard to ensure that the frog bites through the weedless element of the lure. Some people would wait even longer for the frog to take the frog all the way in but this works best only with soft-bodied frogs as the hard bodied ones would usually get spit out after a while.
Being in the weedy area, chances are the fish will instinctively dive into the vegetation and use it to twist the hook out of its mouth. Most of the time this works. This is where that heavy rod and line comes in. With the rod kept high, the chances of the fish going back down is reduced. With a heavier terminal tackle, keep the rod tip up at 2:00 and reel that fish back in using the rod to pull the fish back. Be firm and strong. Fast jerks will very likely rip the hook out.
Anyway that’s all folks. Hope you all have a fun time fishing. I’ll continue to add photos to this section when I have the time.