Terminator’s Walking Frog and Popping Frog lures and SPRO’s Bronzeye Frogs are popular during this time of year, as bullfrogs are out in number in many a pond or reservoir. Their weedless design makes them perfect for running over the top of weeds without getting caught up, but it also can cause problems with getting a solid hookset.
A theme with several newer bait companies in the past couple of years has been to update the tried-and-true frog lure design to something that stands out. As a result, many anglers are now throwing frog-style hollow-body lures that are shaped to look like other animals, namely ducks, rats and baitfish like bluegill.
LiveTarget now offers hollow-body offerings in shad, sunfish, mouse, shiner and mullet. Savage Gear has bats, ducks (also known as frucks for being part frog, part duck) and rats.
In this month’s Mystery Tackle Box for bass, many customers were surprised to find a hollow-body duck lure called Danny the Duck, which is manufactured by Westin Fishing. The lure, which looks like a black-and-yellow duckling, is rigged with a sturdy frog hook that goes through the duck’s body and around the back toward its legs, with two groves on top where the hook tips can be concealed.
I’ll admit, I chuckled a bit when I first saw this quirky little quacker, but I’m not laughing any more.
It’s the real deal.
I put the lure to the test recently at a weedy pond, doubtful it would even draw a bite. After five casts, however, my jaw dropped when I tossed the lure onto some weeds that were sitting on the surface of the water and, after a slight pop to adjust the lure, saw a bass explode through the weed cover and hammer the little duck.
Even more shocking in all of the chaos was the fact that I actually hooked the fish on a frog hook. I have always had terrible luck getting a bass to stay hooked on frog lures — it wasn’t until last month that I actually landed one — and this bass was stuck perfectly.
He got tangled in the weeds a bit but stayed hooked as I reeled him in quickly and flipped him up onto the dock.
The very next cast, which hit near the edge of a weedline, moved only about five feet before a second bass gulped up ol’ Danny and dove deep. I set the hook so hard that my camera fell down over my arm, which I feared would let the fish escape, but the twin laser-sharp frog hooks stuck the bass deep in both the bottom outside of the jaw and the inside of the lip, and I pulled him in with ease. I never would have imagined going 2-for-2 with this bait.
A couple casts later, however, and my heart sank as the knot in my slick braided line came undone and Danny the Duck migrated about halfway across the pond. Luckily, my friend Brendan and I were able to get him back later using another topwater bait, a Storm Arashi Cover Pop.
Brendan, who hadn’t been having much luck, tied on the Cover Pop I had given him a while back and tried his hand at topwater popper fishing for the first time. After I showed him how to use it, he caught three bass on the edge of the weedline — each one exploding through the glassy surface as he dragged the lure across the top, causing a loud “GLURP!” with each tug. They are great lures in open water and along the edges of weeds or banks, but the treble hooks on their belly easily get tangled when drug over any vegetation.
While we were there, I also got out my ice pole that I’d recently strung up with new braided ice line and pulled up a few bluegills. I was hoping to get a small one to rig up as live bait in the hopes I would catch a nice bass or catfish, but the ones I caught were all too large.
I switched to a jig-and-bobber setup on my crappie pole and tried fishing a bit farther out from the dock. I caught a couple more big bluegill and a nice 12-inch black crappie, but nothing small enough for bait.
In the end, the duckling was one of my most productive lures of the day. I had also tried out a Rage Tail craw that I got in my Mystery Tackle Box and a Culprit Incredi-Frog. The Culprit had great action thanks to its thick hind legs that bubbled up behind it as I burned it across the surface of the water, but I didn’t get any bites on it for whatever reason. I used an all-black one to contrast with the overcast sky, but maybe next time I’ll try the bullfrog color pattern. The Rage Tail fluttered nicely in the water, but we didn’t have any luck bottom-fishing because of the thick weeds. We both tried the Ned Rig for about a half-hour but got disgusted as every time we’d get a fish on, it’d run and get tangled in weeds and get off.
The conditions were best for topwater fishing, and the results showed that. I originally laughed when I saw the retail price tag for Westin’s Danny the Duck lure ($11.99), but now I think it’s worth every penny for the hook alone. The fact that the duck design actually attracts fish is just a bonus.
I received an interesting email from Doug Mauck after my column last week about a giant catfish that snapped my bass jig at the Cedar Crest ponds.
“I walk by the ponds at Cedar Crest every morning at about 6 a.m. and have done so for 20 years,” Mauck wrote. “Your story about the big catfish reminded me that about 2 months ago I found a huge dead catfish floating in the east pond at Cedar Crest (or MacLennan Park) on the south bank.
“I’d guess the fish would have weighed in at 20 to 25 pounds when alive. When I found it, it was extremely decayed and covered with moldy fungus. I think it had been caught on a fisherman’s line and then became snagged on the bottom before the line broke. The fish remained snagged on the bottom and died. Somehow, it wasn’t consumed by turtles or other fish and came free of the snag when the decay allowed the hook to pull out and the rotten carcass floated to the top.”
Mauck said he carries an aluminum walking stick with a hook at the end and was able to pull the rotting carcass to the ban. He said it was so decayed that there wasn’t even a smell to it. He submitted a photograph of the rotting catfish carcass as proof of what he saw.
“I thought that it may have been a lone giant fish in the pond, but your story in today’s paper shows that there are more monsters,” he said. “Although there are many people fishing the ponds, most don’t know what they are doing and few fish with skill, so the fishing pressure is mostly illusion. There used to be a couple of dozen 18-inch goldfish in the east pond but now only about two. I think the monster catfish are eating them!”