There's nothing like a good frog bite to elevate a bass angler's heart rate.
Opportunistic predators that they are, largemouth bass won't hesitate to eat a live frog as it hops across a patch of lily pads. The fish are usually big and the strikes are usually explosive, which explains why there are so many frog-imitating lures on the market.
Frog lures are especially suited for South Florida's grass-filled lakes and canals. The lures are fairly weedless and designed to be fished on the surface around lily pads, hydrilla, peppergrass and other vegetation.
The only negative about those lures is they're not very versatile. If the bass aren't biting on the surface, then you can forget about using most frogs.
Leave it to Alton Jones to come up with an alternative.
The Texas bass pro figured out how to modify a plastic crawdad lure so it can be fished like a frog on the surface and be fished like a crawdad under the surface. No wonder Jones, of Waco, is atop the CITGO Bassmaster Tour angler of the year point standings with two tournaments remaining on the nine-event circuit.
"Let's face it," Jones said. "Most times, bass are not eating frogs. This bait more closely resembles the food bass are used to eating."
Jones takes a 4-inch Yum Craw Bug and cuts off the tail with a pair of scissors. Then he inserts an Owner offset shank, wide gap 4/0 worm hook into the tail end of the bait, pulls out the hook point and buries it in the top of the bait's hollow head. He adds a rattle to the body of the bait, which he said helps the bass find it more easily.
He fishes the lure on a baitcasting outfit spooled with either 20-pound monofilament or 30-pound Spiderline, which allows him to pull fish out of thick vegetation. The bait runs just under the vegetation.
"There's crawdads crawling around all up in these weeds," Jones said as he approached a mix of duckweed, lily pads and hyacinths at the north end of Lake Toho. "This bait has just got a different signature and profile than a frog. Plus, when they get it, they get it."
Depending on the vegetation, Jones might hop the bait back to his boat or twitch it with a steady retrieve. The latter is effective in open water, after the bait comes through the vegetation, because it looks like a fleeing crawdad swimming through the water, which is something that bass are used to seeing.
Jones used subtle twitches to work the bait through an expansive mat of duckweed. We could see the vegetation bulge as a fish tracked the lure before pouncing on it. Jones hesitated a moment before setting the hook, then reeled the bass to the boat.
On a subsequent cast, Jones worked the lure to the edge of the duckweed and let it flop into the water. A big bass blasted the bait in a shower of spray and headed under the duckweed, where it managed to break the line and left Jones shaking his head.
Even though Jones doesn't rig the lure with a weight, he can pitch it into holes in the vegetation. That's a particularly productive technique right now on Lake Okeechobee and Lake Ida where bass are bedding in eelgrass. And unlike most frog lures, Jones can work his bait through vegetation and let it sink into a hole where a bass might be lurking.
Not bad for a bait that Jones created out of desperation.
"I was in a situation somewhere where I didn't have a frog, and I saw some fish moving in some junk," Jones said. "It is a different look to the fish."