Bass anglers are never satisfied with the lures that reside in their tackle boxes. In an effort to gain the upper hand over everybody else on the lake, they become amateur cosmetic surgeons who shave, clip and snip legs, arms and lips.

Hard baits aren't immune, but most of these bait enhancements are made to soft plastics because they are ewhat easier to modify. For years, anglers twisted off the tails of Zoom Brush Hogs, they smashed the ends of Yamamoto Senkos and they bit off the bodies of big worms.

While putting scalpel to soft plastic is a great way to get an edge, there is another way for Mississippi sportsmen to catch more and bigger bass than their buddies. Rather than change their baits, they simply need to change the way they fish them.

Take John Dean for instance. A former professional tournament angler, Toledo Bend guide and lure designer for ReAction Lures, Dean saw the success of the Zoom Horny Toad, and thought he could create a better mousetrap.

His expectation to design a soft-plastic frog that could be buzzed on the surface was realized when the first ReAction Ribbits hit the water. Anglers everywhere started experimenting with them against other frog baits, and the results were clear. The Ribbit became an essential lure for anglers who frequently fished grassy lakes.

"What happened after that was totally unexpected," Dean admitted. "My tournament partner and I were out on Toledo Bend one day during the spawn, and we were stuck in shallow water because of the wind."

The two anglers were throwing spinnerbaits around shallow brush and grass, but neither believed they were getting the bites they should be getting. To shake things up, Dean grabbed his buddy's spinnerbait and took off the skirt. Rather than adding a different colored or thinner skirt, Dean threaded a Ribbit onto the hook.

"It was like somebody flipped a switch," Dean said. "We immediately started to get more bites slowrolling that spinnerbait. By the time the wind died down and allowed us to move to the outer ridges where we knew some bass were spawning, we had a five-fish limit that would have gone about 12 pounds."

Realizing there might be something more than met the eye, Dean took the lizard off his Carolina rig and put on a Ribbit instead while his partner was throwing the old ReAction U99, Fluke-style bait.

While Dean's fishing partner landed fish after fish on his Carolina rig, Dean struggled to even get bit on the Ribbit - then it happened.

"The first bite I got was a 6-pounder," he said. "We went on around the ridge, and Bobby was continuing to catch fish behind me while I'm not getting bit."

Dean's next bite a while later was a 7-pound bass. With two bites, Dean had two fish over 6 pounds. Undetermined if it was just a fluke or something more was going on, the tournament partners moved to another ridge. His first bite on the second ridge was 5 pounds.

"Long story short," Dean said, "by the end of that afternoon, I had five fish over 30 pounds compared to his 5 fish that were 12 to 15 pounds. This was a test, and I pretty much saw that the Ribbit on a Carolina rig was very selective on size. Now there's no question in my mind that if you're looking for big bites, fishing a frog on a Carolina rig is the way to go."

As Dean continued to explore the different ways to fish his Ribbit, which is now the Stanley Ribbit, he discovered that fishing it on top and on a Carolina rig was just the tip of the iceberg.

Dean wasn't the only angler experimenting with fishing a frog in places other than on the surface. Tournament angler Jason Pittman, a regular on the Pearl River system, began to do the same to see what kinds of applications it had in river conditions.

What the two of them combined have learned will help Mississippi bass anglers catch more fish from the Pearl River to Pickwick Lake and everywhere in between. While their advice applies mainly to the Ribbit, these techniques can also be applied to other frogs, and for that matter, any piece of plastic in your boat.

These three methods only begin to scratch the surface when it comes to figuring out different ways to fish the soft plastic frogs. As Dean said, anglers haven't even begun to learn all the ways these things can be fished.

As bass anglers are wont to do, though, they're going to figure out new ways to fish a frog. Cut the eyes off? Split the feet? Slice the body? The only way to learn is to experiment. However if you don't feel like dissecting your frogs to get ahead, consider using them in different ways to figure out what the fish want.

The great thing about figuring it out, though, is that you have to go fishing. If only we could all call it research and development like Dean does.