By Mark Fike
The bait went zinging well back into the tall vegetation before landing with a resounding SPLAT. My brother let it sit for a moment and then began working the handle on his reel with an urgent tempo punctuated with some moments of hesitation. The sequence resulted in a sound much like water violently draining all the sudden.
I could not see the fish hit but I definitely heard it despite my poor hearing and after a second or two of pause, Cass wrenched his rod back and it arced with tension indicating that he had set the hook on a good fish.
Now the fun was to begin as the bait and fish was nearly out of sight behind a wall of tall lily pads at the very back of a cove in the pond. I had doubts that the fish would see the inside of the boat for the sheer volume of vegetation or ‘The Jungle’ as I called it. Cass professionally pulled the fish through the maze of vegetation and boated the fine fish. I should not have doubted.
Back in the 90’s Cass and I were stationed in Alabama at a military installation and he was introduced to this jungle fishing by an instructor at the base. Scum Frogs were the weapon of choice for pulling big bass out of the seemingly impossible reaches of the vast lily pad beds covering the local ponds.
Cass showed me the technique that he had learned and I took it and applied it to my fishing opportunities from Arizona to Virginia and places in between. We fished together in scum and vegetation covered waters in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas over the years and always brought in bass fishing in this manner. Now here we were on a 98 degree day in a metal boat slinging Scum Frogs and other variations of hollow frogs with good success.
Tools of the Trade
While there are favorite set ups for this type of “jungle” fishing, almost any rod, spinning or baitcasting will work as long as it has some backbone to horse fish out of the weeds. Some anglers prefer the baitcaster for the horsepower to do the heavy lifting. Personally, I am a spinning rod fan.
Fishing line is a consideration. Again, some anglers prefer a braid line to cut through vegetation and offer abrasion resistance. Anglers that have discipline to give the fish a few seconds to engulf the frog and get it down into their mouth will appreciate the zero stretch of braid and hook setting power.
However, those of us that have a tough time waiting those few seconds for the fish to bite might do a bit better with mono.
If using mono, use the line of at least 12 pound test. Abrasion resistant line such as Trilene XL in the green is very smooth casting, does not have a memory and offers strength to get through the vegetation. Whatever line you use, check it frequently after hauling your baits through thick cover. Nicks will indicate a future break off. Retie to avoid losing fish.
When we fish lily fields or scum covered or grass covered areas, we find that a good trolling motor with a prop that will cut through vegetation is a must. Although the weedless frogs are weedless, they will occasionally get hung up and need retrieving. Raise the motor every once in a while and clean the prop when traversing heavy pads or vegetation. This saves some battery on your motor. Also, have a fully charged battery, especially when fishing more than a few hours! Take along a push pole for those really bad areas too.
What to Look for
When we fish the local water jungles we look for small openings in the pads. Don’t overlook openings near the bank either. The nicer fish Cass caught on our recent trip was within a few feet of the bank in a deep cove and in less than a foot of water when he swallowed the bait. Hit ALL openings in vegetation.
You can cast past the opening if you want and then work the frog through or just drop the frog right into the opening.
Vary your retrieve. Sometimes the fish are aggressive and will chase down a frog that is limping rapidly through a pad or weed field. Sometimes you have to use a stop and go. Stop on the edge of a pad leaf and let it seem to hang on the pad and then work it across the open spots and repeat. Once you find what the fish seem to get driven crazy by, keep at it. If you miss a fish, cast back to the fish quickly. They are hungry or irritated and will strike again. Just be sure to give them a few seconds to take the bait fully.
This type of fishing will work well on snakeheads if you live in an area that has them like I do. Snakeheads are great eating but hard to hook sometimes as they have a hard mouth. When you set the hook, be sure to give them time to take the bait and then set the hook very firmly.