You can't beat fishing the lily pads with a rubber frog at Ross Barnett in July. The lily pads provide shade and cover for the bass. Since Ross Barnett's a fairly shallow lake, the bass have to utilize the shallow-water cover in the hot summer months. Also, the bluegills that the bass will be feeding on will be under the pads.

Wherever you find the bass's dinner (bluegills), that's where the bass have to be.

I'll concentrate most of my fishing this month on the upper end of the lake, fishing around the pads and along the ledges of creek mouths and the mouths of sloughs. I'll also be concentrating on the river bends, where the lily pads are really thick, particularly where there's deep water right on the edges of thick lily pads.

Remember, at Ross Barnet, lily pads may grow in water depths of 7-8 feet, and these pads produce plenty of shade and numbers of good fish. Sometimes the bass will hold in the 3-foot-deep water in the pads, but often they'll be all the way out in the edges of the pads in 7- to 8-foot-deep water. The number of strikes you get will tell you which depth of water the bass prefer on the day you're fishing.

I'll be fishing two kinds of frogs this month - the Mann's HardNose Swim Toad and the Mann's Super Frog. If the bass are aggressive and want something to eat, the Mann's HardNose Swim Toad is my choice, because it makes a lot of noise, like a buzz bait, and it has kicker feet that create action on the surface.

I like fishing 30-pound-test Berkley Fireline Braid with the Frog and the Toad since that line is strong. You need a strong line when you're fishing the pads because even a 3-pound bass that eats a frog can pull the line down under the pads. Unless you've got a strong line, you will get broken-off. This Fireline Braid actually saws through the pads.

I like the Mann's Super Frog because it doesn't have any action. If the bass are feeding slowly or really don't want to bite, you want to present a bait that they can look at for a long time, sneak up on and suck in without much commotion. By having two frogs tied on, you can determine the mood of the bass on that day. The number of strikes you get on either frog will tell you which frog is best for you to fish. I like to fish white frogs on a clear day and black frogs on a cloudy or rainy day.

Many fishermen think that the frog bite is an early-morning or a late-afternoon bite; however, I like to fish the frog all day long. The bass are holding in the shade, more than likely looking up. So when that frog comes across the surface, they can see it move through the pads. The bass never have to leave the safety of the pads, except to break through and eat the frog.

Move quietly through the lily pads, and listen for the little "pop" sounds the bluegills make when they suck bugs off the lily pads. You'll catch the most bass where you hear the most bluegills feeding.

If I can't find bass in the lily pads during July, I'll fish the shallow main-river ledges with a square-billed Mann's C-4 crankbait and a Mann's 15+ in blue/chartreuse or any of the shad patterns. I'll crank the tops of the river ledges. Most of these river ledges have stumps on them, and I'll crash the crankbait into those stumps.

When the crankbait hits a stump, I hesitate for about half a second and then speed up my retrieve. The bass will take the bait either just after it hits the stump or after one of those fast cranks.

For crankbait fishing, I prefer 15-pound-test fluorocarbon to help get my bait deeper than it will run on monofilament. You also can feel the bait better as it digs the bottom. The ledges I'm looking for will be 5-8 feet on top, and you'll find some 10- to 12-feet deep.

I use a Mann's 15+ because I like to overpower the water that I'm fishing, meaning I like a crankbait designed to run deeper than the bottom I'm fishing. By using a deeper-running crankbait, you can make sure that the lure gets down to the bottom and digs the bottom with its bill. I've found that the Mann's 15+ is ideal to fish in the 5- to 12-foot-deep water.

To get the crankbait over stumps and roots at the edges of these creeks, point your rod tip at the crankbait, and reel directly from the tip of the rod to the reel. As the crankbait hits the cover, raise your rod tip up to cause the lure to run over the top of the cover. When you're reeling a crankbait, the bait's moving forward. When the bass attacks a crankbait, most of the time it will hook itself. You won't have to use a dramatic hookset.

On an average day of bass fishing on Ross Barnett in July, I'll expect to get 20 bites while fishing either one of the rubber frogs. If I can hook up with half of those bass that bite the frogs, I'll have a really good day.

Don't set the hook when you see the strike. If there's an explosion on the top of the water, and you can't see your bait but your line is moving to the left or the right or away from you, then set the hook. However, if you can see your bait after the bass blows up on it, let it sit still.

If you can't see your bait, and the line's not moving, more than likely the bass has hit the frog and turned it loose. The bass is sitting under the pads. Often the bass may circle back around and inhale the bait. Before you try to cross that bass's eyes with a dramatic hookset, make sure that fish has the frog in its mouth. When I get a bite, I stop retrieving and start looking for at least 2-3 seconds. After that is when I make the decision to set the hook or not to set it.

The bass at Barnett you'll catch in July will weigh from 1-1/2 to 5 pounds each, and you have to work to get them out of the water and into your livewell. You can enjoy a great July day of fishing with a frog at Ross Barnett.