It’s a double shot of adrenaline that widens the eyes, flares the jaws, red-lines the heart rate and elicits a broad spectrum of amazed responses; not all of which may be suitable for a family audience. Unquestionably, frog fishing over weed mats can deliver some of the most aggressively exaggerated strikes you’ll ever see — but it’s not as simple as throw-frog-onto-mat-and-pull.
Indeed, while every inch of a mat could potentially hold a bass, it’s more common for fish to cluster near certain sweet spots or favorable areas. Remember, bass inhabit mats for shelter and feeding; with the latter being more specific in nature. With that in mind, let’s look at a round up of considerations that’ll help dial in your efforts.
Target your casts
First, get to know the mat’s features; treat it like a hard shoreline and realize that straight edges are not only boring, but they’re usually less productive. Bassmaster Elite Series pro Ott DeFoe knows that changing contour means redirected baitfish and ambush potential for savvy bass. That’s why he’s constantly scanning a mat’s perimeter as he advances.
“Anytime you can find a point or a dip, that means there’s a grass change, maybe a subtle depth change,” DeFoe said. “You want to make sure you focus on those places. I’ll make a cast across those points with my Terminator frog and also hit the back side of those dips. Be sure to work both sides of a dip; even the open water in the middle.”
In addition to hitting both corners of the opening and bisecting the interior, you’ll also want to cast into the mat and work your frog across the cut’s boundaries for bass watching from the edges.
Here are a handful of additional items to consider for maximized mat action.
As DeFoe points out, isolated reed clumps, or scattered patches of grass detached from the main mat often hold a couple good fish that stake out these satellite locations for solitude and optimal feeding opportunities. Just like those dips and points, work the angles on your casting.
Now, as far as where a mat is positioned, FLW regional pro Todd Castledine prefers main lake mats because they tend to get the best wind current and have the highest probability for reloading. That being said, he’s particular about his mat depth.
“I don’t want to fish any grass mats that are deep; I want to fish the shallowest mats I can find,” he said. “The shallower the mats, the less likely the fish will be near the bottom. They have to be closer to the surface to feed.”
Expounding on the previous point, understand that while sunny conditions typically push the fish into the mat’s thickest cover, low-light periods usually find the fish roaming the mat’s edges and adjacent open waters. It could be early morning, late afternoon, cloudy and/or windy conditions — anything that minimizes sunlight penetration.
“Early mornings, we try to stay away from the mat and throw over the thinnest part of the vegetation, out over the open water,” Castledine said. “It’s a feeding deal; but even in the middle of the day, if they go to feeding, they might be out on the edges.”
In sunny conditions, when fish are most likely to move deeper into a mat, Castledine simply will not waste time blind casting. His experience tells him that bass will almost always align themselves to some type of edge, so he’s all about pinpoint casting.
“I like to slice up a mat; I want to go every 5-8 feet and cover it methodically,” he said. “But I also want to work angles. I want to bring my frog by edges of thicker spots, holes, or a break. I never randomly throw out in the open and hope they bite it. Fish will always be on some type of edge.”
DeFoe agrees and adds this point: Look for vegetation variances such as scattered clumps of pads, or blown in hyacinth rafts. The latter is a floating plant, while the former grows on thin stalks. Both block hydrilla and milfoil, which can form such dense walls that bass simply can’t push through for a surface strike.
“I look for patches of isolated pads because any difference in the grass means a little more open water,” DeFoe said. “Those pads (and hyacinth) create a lot of shade, but they’re not going to let the grass grow up around them. So you’re going to have some openings where those bass can sit.”
A couple more elements to seek:
Inner pockets: This could be a modest gap the size of a full size pickup door or a lagoon big enough to hold that truck. In any case, bass treat the inner edges just like the mat’s exterior, so tickle those boundaries with your frog. Also like the perimeter zone, bass are less likely to venture into the open water of a gap or lagoon during sunny times, but any low-light period (time or day or weather related) could turn a cast down the middle into a big-time bite.
Blow-up holes: When bass punch through passable mat cover to grab a frog, they leave a distinct hole that can take days to refill. It’s a good bet that whatever attracted that fish to that spot will still attract others, so swallow your pride and take advantage of what someone else found. Suffice it to say that an area with lots of “frog tracks” (lines created by previous anglers) but no blow-up holes isn’t worth your time.
“If you see little areas in the mat where bass have been feeding, you’re crazy if you don’t target those,” DeFoe said. “A bass ate there for a reason, so make sure you put your frog in that same place.
Secondary structure: Laydowns, standing timber, big logs, even patches of reeds — any hard structure punctuating a weed mat always merits a few casts because it offers the right mix of shade, cover and ambush potential. Think of it like this: A mat is your beach umbrella and that secondary cover is your lounge chair.