Just as it passed over the small fry, a bass crushed the lure and headed down toward deep water. Ponds dropped his rod tip, reeled in the slack and snapped the rod back, driving the Owner hooks deep into the jaws of the lunker bass and turning it toward the boat.
Ponds has been fishing B.A.S.S. tournaments since 1996, and has learned a thing or two about competing with the best bass anglers from around the country. What he learned on Ross Barnett Reservoir many years ago, however, was how to find and catch lunker bass on frogs, years before it became a well-known technique on the Bassmaster trail.
"When you're fishing in May, the bass will be post spawn and on different patterns," Ponds said. "During early May, there will be a 'small fry' pattern, where bass will be guarding their fry, and that's what we're targeting out in the open water and flats."
Ponds searches for any movement on the water or signs of bass or baitfish during this time.
"I like to use the Scum Frogs because they are soft and different from the new generation of frogs," he said. "I like to use something a little different from everybody else, and the other frogs on the market tend to be the harder plastic-type of frogs."
According to Ponds, one of the biggest myths about fishing frogs is that they have to be worked around vegetation.
"Although you can catch a lot of bass on frogs in vegetation, that's a stereotype that is widely held but not really true," he said. "In fact, you may want to fish the Scumdog Walker anywhere you would a Pop-R.
"I'll use it when fishing for the post spawn small-fry bass. I'll use a lighter rod - a 7-foot, 3-inch rod - and fish it around the riprap also."
It's also great around hard structure.
"I'll fish it along the rip rap in a twitch, twitch, twitch, pause pattern, and I'll switch it back and forth," Ponds said.
Bream also are bedding in May, and Ponds likes to employ the Trophy Series Frogs around bream beds.
"I like to fish the green Trophy Series Frog and cast it past the bream beds and work them over and through the beds," he continued. "I normally catch larger, quality-sized fish on frogs instead of other baits."
Ponds also utilizes the frog around tight cover.
"I'll skip it around wood and under brush tops, overhanging limbs and docks, places you'd normally hang a Pop-R or other similar topwater lures," Ponds said. "When they bite the frog in open water, they're not always as aggressive as they are when they're in the pads.
"Instead of exploding on the frog, they'll just suck it down."
And that's all Ponds needs, as he can handle the rest with a quick flick of the wrist and hook set.
Scumdog Walker in vegetation
Later on in May, Ponds searches for vegetation - especially two or more types of vegetation in one area.
"I'll look for the little bonnet pads and the larger traditional pads in one area," Ponds explained. "For some reason they seem to like areas that have two or more types of vegetation present."
Once bass start living and feeding in the vegetation, Ponds switches to a Scumdog Walker.
"The Scumdog Walker is one of the true walking frogs that anybody can use, and it has Owner hooks on it," he said. "It has a V bottom and is designed to walk. Simply pull it, and it will go in one direction; then pull again and it will go in the other direction. This bait is my go-to frog."
The key to getting strikes in this cover is to ensure bass can see the bait.
"I'll cast the Scumdog Walker out, and work it aggressively through the vegetation and pads until I get to an opening, and then I'll work it through in a wal-the-dog fashion," Ponds said. "I'm not worried about fishing it too fast and missing fish; I simply want to see some kind of movement in there.
"And sometimes I make a second cast and work it through the area more thoroughly, and then catch the bass."
When you have a lake full of vegetation and it all looks the same on top, it's hard to know where to fish. As a touring pro, Ponds has to find and locate bass fast, and then he can catch them once he's located them.
"If I'm practicing for a tournament, or in a tournament situation and need to locate bass, I'll idle my boat through the pad fields or weeds and look for fish activity," Ponds said. "If there are fish there, they will run and move through the vegetation if it's an active pad field, and I'll come back in 30 minutes and I'll work the area over good.
"Another one of the keys I listen for is bream sucking and popping as they feed under the pads. If they're making a lot of feeding noise and there's movement present, then bass will be there. If not, then you might as well not waste time fishing it and move on."
Ponds also targets creek runs and stream beds running through pad fields in May, concentrating on the areas alongside shallow-water ledges and drops.
"I'll concentrate around the horseshoe areas or where (the creek channel) comes around and meets itself," Ponds said. "Flats are good, also, but need drops or deeper water nearby, or be close to deeper water so that (bass) can feel secure and safe and able to escape quickly."
George Little on frog fishing
George Little reared back and sent a SPRO frog as far back into the vegetation as possible before working the lure back to the boat, stopping it for a minute just past the edge of the vegetation.
Seconds turned into minutes as the Collinsville bass angler waited for the bass to strike.
A lunker bass sucked the frog under like it was dessert, and Little dropped his rod tip and then slammed the hook home. After a short battle he turned the bass, got it on top and quickly boated it.
"I generally start working the frog pretty fast, but I'll also stop it just past the grass line or in an opening and let it sit awhile, much longer than most people can stand," Little said. "Sometimes we just get in too big a hurry and need to slow it down.
"I've caught some of my better fish right at the edge of the grass just by letting the frog sit dead still."
The angler has many tournament wins to his credit in the East Mississippi and West Alabama area, and a great many of those wins were anchored by a quality frog bite.
As far as frogs go, Little prefers the medium-sized models because he believes they draw more strikes.
"I like the SPRO frogs because of the quality hooks," Little said. "I've actually seen the SPROs outperform other frogs people were using in my boat because they were using cheaper frogs with cheaper hooks, and they just miss a lot of bites and strikes.
"I just like the frogs that have the modern-day style of hooks that the SPRO frog has, and I get a lot better hook sets and, therefore, catch more fish."
Little prefers the early morning bite.
"I like an early morning bite, but if it's a cloudy day with a little drizzle they might hit that frog all day long," he said. "I'll target areas with vegetation during the early morning hours in May, and I'll fish the sparse, scattered grass patches first."I'll hit the outside edges and then work farther in, giving me a chance to catch the active bass first, and then search for the others. But I'll always hit isolated patches when given a chance."
Later in the day, Little changes tactics and searches for the thickest grass he can find, as bass will usually be holding under the cover. If there is thick vegetation in the lake, he'll fish this thick cover right up into the heat of the day.
"Bass will bury up under the vegetation and strike at the movement coming over them," he said. "In Ross Barnett or Aliceville, I like to fish as hot a day as possible during May."
Little's frog pattern works pretty good almost anywhere in May, and he's caught a lot of bass on frogs at Ross Barnett, Okatibbee Lake, Kemper lake and up and down the Tombigbee Waterway's Columbus, Aliceville, Gainesville and Demopolis pools.
During one trip, Little and his partner caught nearly 30 pounds on frogs in the first 35 minutes of fishing.
"They were really hammering that frog, and that's just one of those days when they wanted it dead still," Little said. "They were sucking the frog deep and holding on."
As far as color, Little sticks to the basics, using either white or black.
"I prefer using a white frog, and about all the fish can see is the belly of the frog from underneath anyway so as long as the belly is white I'm OK," he said. "I like to throw black, as well, but when you're in thick vegetation it doesn't matter as they're looking for movement and striking at anything moving through the pads."
Depending upon the cover that he's fishing, Little will use 20-pound Big Game or braid.
"I like to use the Big Game line because I can get more distance and better casts with it," Little said. "I'll use the Big Game line when getting a lot of distance is imperative to keep from spooking the fish, or when the cover is sparse and not real thick."
If he's fishing in heavy, matted vegetation or around a lily pad field that's matured and tough, he prefers braid.
"If the cover is really dense and thick, I'll use the braid so that I can turn his head up and get him out of the water as fast as I can," Little said. "I want to get him up and manhandle him back to the boat before he gets a chance to bury into the weeds and hang me up."