Catching Bass In Full-Grown Lily Pads

By this time of year, lily pads have reached their full-grown state, requiring special tactics to extract the bass living within.

Two presentations provide the bulk of my fishing when faced with heavy lily pad fields. First, would be one of the funnest baits to fish — the floating, hollow frog (Snag-Pruf frogs, Scum Frogs, etc.). And second would be the jig and craw; the lure I go to when the bass refuse to move much to grab a meal.

Jim Moynagh (Photo courtesy of FLW Outdoors)

Why are hollow frogs so fun to fish? The few moments of seeing a wake bearing down on the frog are some of the best moments in fishing. Of course, then there’s the visual blow-up on the bait that follows. Oh, if only every lake and every day I could find bass hitting frogs!

Hollow frogs are well suited for fishing heavy lily pads (and other heavy surface vegetation) because their weedless nature allows them to skim right over the pads without hanging up. The same thing can be done with weedless spoons, but a frog can be fished much slower. It also can be stopped in the openings where it can tempt more reluctant bass to take it.

Use Stout Tackle
However, don’t tie your frog on to just any rod and reel combo. A stout stick with heavy line is required. Since I also sometimes fish muskies, I prefer to use a 7-foot muskie rod that I normally use for throwing large bucktails. It has more backbone than even the heaviest of flippin’ sticks. This rod is necessary in order to minimize the chance of a bass wrapping around pad roots.

Heavy, no-stretch line also helps to avoid this trouble. This is one of the few techniques where I’ll use one of the no-stretch superlines. I’ve been using Berkley Gorilla braid in 50-pound test. Spool it on a reel with a decent retrieve ratio such as my favorite reel — the Shimano Curado — in a 6.3:1 ratio. This whole combination allows a hooked bass to be “surfed” across the pads once you get its head up. This can be tough with big bass, but you wouldn’t even have a chance with a standard bass outfit.

Hollow frogs seem to work best when the bass are somewhat active and are suspended directly under the pads. You’ll often see the bass waking for the bait from more than 10 feet away!

When a cold front shuts down the bass activity, I prefer to go below the surface with a jig and craw. Usually these subdued bass are right near the bottom and simply refuse to come to the surface after a frog. Obviously, the area you cover during the day is less than if you were frog fishing, but in the end, you’ll have more bass to show for it.

Jig Size? Check The Wind
The jig size I use depends primarily on the wind speed. I like to use the lightest I can, usually a 1/4-ounce, but strong winds may require as much as a 3/4-ounce.

Floating weeds blown into the pads also may require a heavier weight to “punch” through the mess. Why do I like the 1/4-ounce size? First, you really don’t need a heavy jig to “punch” through the pads. Lily pads always have little creases and holes between them that a light jig can be dropped through. Also, I like the way a lighter jig can be crawled over the pads as I move it forward to the next hole. Moreover, a light jig falls slower, giving a reluctant bass more of an opportunity to eat it.

I’ll tie the jig onto a stout flippin’ stick spooled with at least 25-pound monofilament. This rig is well-suited for digging the bass out of the heavy cover. And of course, it is the best tool for making the long pitches to the little openings in the pads.

Of course there are other tactics that can be effective for extracting bass buried in lily pads, but often under special circumstances. Overall, the hollow frog and the jig-and-craw combine to make a partnership that will produce fish from lily pads just about anywhere you go.

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Jim Moynagh writes a twice-monthly bass fishing column on Visit Jim on Facebook at!/pages/Jim-Moynagh/167413610047622?fref=ts He is a FLW touring pro, and a former Forrest Wood Open Champion with multiple top 10 finishes. In 2012, he finished in fourth place for Angler of the Year honors. He also finished in fourth place two-straight times in FLW events in 2012. His expertise is deep-water structure fishing for large and smallmouth bass. Jim’s sponsors include M&M’s, All-Terrain Tackle, Chevy Trucks, and Ranger Boats.

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