Kenny Covington was watching a bass tournament on television a while back when he noticed something he just knew he had to incorporate into his own fishing.
“One of those guys was throwing a buzzbait,” the West Monroe tournament angler said, “but instead of a skirt, he had a frog on the back of it. That wouldn’t have gotten my attention other than to think it was a little bit odd, but the bass that were smashing it made me sit up and take notice.”
Being one who likes to be at the forefront of new bait trends, the next time he was on the water he slid off his buzzbait skirt and threaded on a Zoom Horny Toad.
“That was two Novembers ago,” he said. “A buddy and I were just out playing around on Lake D’Arbonne when I decided to give it a try. I caught the biggest bass of the day on that buzz-frog, so I put it in the back of my head that they would hit it in November.”
A big honkin' bait
One year later, this past November, Covington was fishing a local tournament on Lake D’Arbonne when he pulled his buzz-frog out again. The end result was he weighed in more than 20 pounds of fish — 8 pounds ahead of second place.
Covington says that while he was covering lots of water just to try to get bit, he stumbled across a seawall with scattered milfoil on it and almost instinctively picked up his buzz-frog.
“Man, a big bass just hammered it,” said. “After I got that fish in, a light bulb went off in my head because I knew where there were more seawalls with scattered grass on them. I started running those spots and mashed them. I must have caught 25 fish on that thing.”
Looking back afterward, Covington said he realized he caught very few small fish on it. At one time he had a 14-pound stringer in his boat that if he had thrown out, he still would have wound up with 17 pounds at weigh-in.
“I think what it does for you better than any other bait is cull fish on the water rather than out of your livewell,” he said. “It’s a big honkin’ bait that gets big honkin’ strikes.”
Although Strike King has recently come out with the Hack Attack Select ToadBuzz, Covington says he first started playing around with the buzz-frog technique by buying a ½-ounce War Eagle buzzbait to get a big bait with a big blade.
“I just took the skirt off and threaded on the Horny Toad,” he said. “What I wound up with was a bait that I could fish really slowly that put out a lot of commotion.”
Covington theorized the big, slow-moving bait was just the ticket for a big lazy bass that didn’t want to exert much energy chasing down its next meal.
“The slower you can crawl a bait, the easier a target it becomes,” he added.
Through lots of trial and error, Covington finally settled on fishing his buzz-frog on an old 7-foot, medium-heavy Quantum Dean Rojas frog rod that he already had in his rod locker.
“This is a pretty stiff rod with a fast tip,” Covington said. “Of course they don’t make this rod anymore — Dean Rojas now has a frog rod he designed for Duckett — so just about any 7-foot medium-heavy action rod with a fast tip will work well.”
Covington pairs his rod with a 6.3:1 Abu Garcia Revo reel spooled with 50-pound braided line.
“Combined, this set-up allows me to fish the buzz frog all day long without wearing me out,” Covington said. “And that’s definitely the key to catch a lot of quality fish on it — throw it all day long.”
But the same bulk that makes a buzz frog somewhat of a chore to fish is the same bulk that Covington believes makes it better than a skirted buzzbait.
When a bass grabs a regular buzzbait, there isn’t much substance to it that would make a bass want to hold on. That’s why missed fish are so common and trailer hooks are popular for skirted buzzbaits.
“That big old chunk of frog, though…” Covington said. “When a fish bites, it wants something to grab hold of, and a frog gives him that substance it’s looking for. A skirt is just a skirt. There’s hardly anything there that feels realistic to a fish.”
Target grassy flats in May
Although Covington’s first experience with the buzz frog was during November, he says it is a technique that will work all year around as long as the water is warm and the bass are shallow.
During May that means he’s looking for grass flats.
“Not grass mats as much as I am flats with scattered patches of grass,” he said. “You can’t really throw this thing on top of grass mats. That’s why I want scattered grass; it gives me lots of edges where the buzz frog really shines.”
Covington says the ideal grass flat for him on a lake like D’Arbonne would be about 3 feet deep where bass move up for the sole purpose of eating. Similar grass flats can be found at neighboring North Louisiana lakes like Claiborne and Caney.
Bet on black
With so many different colors of topwater frogs on the market today, Covington keeps it simple by restricting his choices to black or white.
“And to make it even easier, I throw black about 99 percent of the time,” he added. “I keep white just in case they won’t eat the black… show them something a little different.”
While fan casting his buzz-frog across his target grass flats, Covington pays close attention to areas on the flat that are a little bit deeper than the surrounding area, and to smaller, more isolated clumps of grass.
Get the edge
Anything he can find that presents an edge for him to fish — whether it’s the edge of a depression or the edge of the grass — increases his opportunity to catch a big bass.
“Big bass love edges,” he said. “And the obvious edges are great places to fish, but there is a hidden edge — what I call a wind edge — that can really pay off big time.”
This hidden wind edge is an edge of a grass patch that has wind blowing directly into it. Bass are already patrolling the edges of the grass, and the wind pushes bait directly to where they want to be anyway.
Now they’ve got every reason in the world to eat.
“Would you rather get up and go to the kitchen to get something to eat or have somebody bring some food to you?” Covington asked. “Bass are no different. Why work for it when you can just sit there and eat?”
Covington believes that — contrary to the theory of wind pushing plankton and the shad following the plankton — shad just move into spots like these grass edges simply to get out of the wind.
As for the frogs themselves, Covington says he knows some anglers that prefer the paddle style frogs like the Ribbit while others prefer more of the swimming action of the Horny Toad.
“It’s probably more of a confidence thing than anything else but I prefer the Horny Toad,” he said. “But there is a place for both styles when you put them on a buzzbait.
“One style frog might work better in one lake than another while a lake just down the road might be better for the other style. Just keep playing around with both until you find what works for you.”
While many anglers would consider a buzzbait to be a low-light-early-and-late kind of technique, Covington says that throwing a buzz-frog all day long is a great way to sack up a heavy bag of bass.
“Heck, you can do the same thing with a regular buzzbait… throw it all day… but the buzz-frog is going to get you bigger bites. You may not get a bunch of them, but you can just about bet that the bites you do get are going to be good ones. About the only time I wouldn’t throw a buzz-frog would be right after a cold front, but how many of those do we get during May?”
Covington concluded by saying that bass just don’t seem to hit a regular buzzbait like they used to. Maybe it’s because they see so many of them skimming across the surface.
If that’s the case on your home water, and you can’t get them to blow up on a buzzbait, take the skirt off and thread on a frog. You’ll be on the cutting edge of bass-fishing techniques — and the bites you get will probably be more than enough to keep you there.