Fishing The Toads
article by Kenny Covington
Being a tournament angler who spends the majority of his time fishing shallow water, I am always looking for a new idea, lure, presentation or whatever I can develop to make fishing the skinny water more productive. Over the past several years the hollow bodied frog has become one of the more popular lures and methods to fishing shallow cover and rightfully so, it’s a big bass lure and technique. When they talk about frog fishing in fishing circles, rarely do they talk about the swimming toads.
To clarify what I am talking about as a swimming toad, I will refer to the three types I consistently use: a Zoom Horny Toad, the Stanley Ribbit as well as the Stanly Top Toad. While each one appears to do the same job, make no mistake, each one is different, has a different job and has its own time and place to shine. It’s important to understand the circumstances and situations that give each one its own identity and once you do, rest assure you will catch more bass.
I first started throwing the Zoom Horny Toad not long after it was introduced in the mid-2000’s. Now, almost 20 years later, I am still learning about the lure and gaining a better understanding to the how’s and why’s of its effectiveness. First of all, I have to stress, this is not just a “shallow water fish it around grass” lure. I have caught a lot of bass around Cypress trees, rip-rap banks, boat docks, sparse grass areas and open water flats. The Horny Toad may just well be the ultimate search bait to help you find fish but it can also win you a tournament or produce the fish of a lifetime.
As far as when the best time to throw the Horny Toad, I usually keep one rigged from March through October. It is an excellent choice when fishing on highly pressured lakes, clearer water scenarios, and when a noisier presentation such as a buzzbait is too much and the fish are short striking the lure. I don’t get fancy with colors; I throw either black or white but I always start out throwing black regardless of the body of water I am on.
The Stanley Ribbit was introduced not long after the Horny Toad and is basically a four-wheel drive upgrade. I have found the Stanley Ribbit to be more specific in its effectiveness as it doesn’t have the year-round appeal of the Horny Toad and seems to work better in thicker cover, matted grass and more off colored water. The loud gurgling sound of the Ribbit allows the angler draw bass out of heavier cover where the more subtle sounding Horny Toad isn’t as effective.
I have had my best results on the Ribbit in the early summer, right after the bass have spawned and more surprisingly, in the late fall. Also of note, a few friends of mine have told me it is an excellent choice for night fishing. When fishing areas where a Buzzbait or other horizontal presentation isn’t able to get through the thicker grassy areas, you are in a potentially good Ribbit situation. As far as colors go, I have found the Smokin’ Shad and Watermelon/Red/Pearl to be best choices.
I started using the Stanley Top Toad a few years ago and I must admit of the three swimming frogs I use; the Top Toad produces a better-quality fish on average than the other two choices. While I am still experimenting with the lure’s effectiveness, I do believe the hottest part of the summer is when it is at its best. The Top Toad is especially effective when fishing matted grass such as coon tail, milfoil or hydrilla and is especially deadly around bream beds and pepper grass. I use black 90% of the time and occasionally I will use the watermelon/red/pearl in clearer water situations.
One of the best parts of this particular technique is regardless of which lure you choose; you can use the same rod/reel set up. I prefer a 7’0 medium heavy frog road teamed with a high speed 7:1 gear ratio reel, spooled up with 50 lb. braided line. This is the same set up I use for all of my frog fishing, no matter if I am using the hollow bellied Spro frogs or the swimming version like we are talking about in this article. I have tried longer rods and while they do move more line, they are too bulky. Shorter rods don’t allow for the needed casting distance.
Here are a few more tips that will help you become a better swimming toad fisherman:
MAKE LONG CASTS. The long rod and braided line will make this much easier, the important thing to remember is this is a power technique used to cover a lot of water. However, I believe the longer cast is one of the keys to catching bigger fish. The lure is further from the boat so the fish don’t get the sense of a human presence.
USE A DOUBLE FROG HOOK. The Berkley Fusion Weighted Frog Hook has been the best thing that ever happened to fishing the swimming toad. I prefer the 1/8 once 4/0 version and I use this same hook on all of my toads. This hook is durable, stays extremely sharp and has an excellent hook up ratio.
REEL ‘EM TIL YOU FEEL ‘EM. One of the hardest things to do in any topwater fishing, especially when fishing the swimming toad, is to allow the fish time to get the lure. A lot of the strikes with this technique are violent so being able to give the fish an extra split second to get the bait into its mouth is critical to a good catch ratio. I try to get more focused watching the strike than I am reacting to it. With this mindset you will find it much easier to delay the hookset until you feel the fish.
BE PATIENT. Often times when fishing swimming toads, there will be periods of time when you don’t get bit. These lures require persistence and patience so don’t get in too big of a hurry to change lures. If you are in an area that you believe has the potential for this technique to shine, make sure you give it a fair shake. I can’t tell you how many times I have went an hour or more without a strike and then, just as I was about to give up on the toad, I would catch one of my biggest fish of the day. Patience is a virtue.
Well, it looks like we have run out of time and space for another month. I sure hope we were able to share some information with you that will make your next trip to the lake even more enjoyable. Now that we are in the heat of the summer, please make sure you take extra precautions while on the water. Drink plenty of water and remember, you can never wear too much sunscreen. Take care and catch one for me!
See you next month!