The Georgia Bullfrawg
Combine unusual materials and construction techniques to create this knockout topwater bass bug.
by Craig Riendeau

Nothing excites a bass angler more than a monster-size largemouth blowing up on a topwater fly. The grass and lily pads move as the fish hunts down your fly, alerting you to its presence. The bass thunderously explodes on your bug in a wall of water that looks like someone tossed a brick into the pond. It is a thrilling visual and audible experience, and after the strike, the ensuing slugfest to get the fish out of the weeds is almost anti-climatic.

The South is blessed with an abundance of weedy lakes and streams that harbor shallow-water largemouth bass almost year-round. The South doesn’t have an exclusive on topwater fishing; we just have a much larger window of blissful opportunity. And since weeds, frogs, and bass naturally go together, my favorite pattern to use in this situation is a concoction I call the Georgia Bullfrawg.

Lying in Wait
Weed beds provide cover for both predator and prey. Baitfish and crawdads hide deep in the weeds, while frogs crawl over the canopies en route to open water. A bass lies in wait on the edges of the weeds near a hole or trail, waiting for some poor victim to cross an opening in the cover where it becomes vulnerable to attack. With only seconds to respond, the fish moves in fast and violently captures and kills its prey.

Look for the densest mats of weeds located near a winding creek channel or other open water. There should be some deeper water near the weed bed, but this is relative. I had great success in one cove where the average water depth was less than two feet deep with a four-foot-deep creek winding through the weeds; on one obnoxiously hot August afternoon, I caught several nice bass in the weeds directly along the edge of the channel.

Even during the dog-day heat of summer and early fall, a largemouth bass can find refuge beneath the dense canopy of weeds. There are two ways to tell that you’ve found the right type of weeds. First, the weeds are so thick that you might mistake them for a lawn along the shoreline. The large green mass of weeds might appear solid, but underneath there are a series of open channels of shaded, cooler water offering the fish a respite from the heat and an abundance of food. Second, there is the omnipresent sound of bluegills sucking insects from the underside of these floating 
mats. This kissing sound is the key that separates the good from the bad weed beds; it’s an excellent indication that the entire food chain—bugs, baitfish, panfish, and larger gamefish—are present. Fish these places hard.

Even though we are using a frog imitation as our bait, oftentimes the bass are really seeking bluegills that throw themselves over the tops of the weeds in pursuit of insects. These smaller fish must flap their way across the weeds in an effort to find openings to slip back into the shadows; that is, unless a bass gets them first. A weedless frog crawled across the top of the weeds does a good job of imitating this event, and in open water, the Georgia Bullfrawg represents a more traditional swimming frog. Bass are not picky: if it’s alive and fits in their gargantuan mouths, they’ll eat it.

I devised the Georgia Bullfrawg with this style of fishing in mind. It is an excellent imitation, and it can crawl or swim through the thickest cover without snagging. When a bass strikes, hesitate for a second or two to allow the fish to turn away from you before burying the steel. The lifelike texture of the soft foam body fools the fish into hanging on to the fly and gives you ample time to set the hook.

Whenever the bass in your area are feeding in the shallows, or it’s the heat of the season and you’re wondering where all the fish have gone, check out those thick weed beds you’ve been avoiding. Toss a Georgia Bullfrawg in there, and you’ll get it back—unless a big bass finds it first.

Craig Riendeau is quickly developing a reputation for designing unique fish-catching bass flies. This is the second article he has written for our magazine, and we are eager for more. Craig lives in Georgia.


Georgia Bullfrawg

Hook: Gamakatsu 65113, size 3/0. (You may substitute your favorite brand of similar weedless plastic worm hooks.)
Thread: Fine monofilament thread.
Body: Goody’s large foam hair rollers. Use blue-green rollers 
when making a bullfrog, or select chartreuse for crafting a leopard 
frog. Look for these rollers in almost any discount store.
Underbody: 1-inch-long piece of round medium closed-cell foam in any color.
Legs: Sili Legs, color to match the finished body, and one spinner-bait skirt collar 
for each leg. (Look for spinner-bait skirt collars in tackle shops that carry large 
selections of lure-making supplies.)
Eyes: Solid plastic eyes molded on stems.
Glue: Goop cement. (You’ll find Goop in any discount and hardware store.)
Body markings: Permanent markers in colors to match real frogs.


ImageShaping the Body
1. Cut a template out of a piece of thin foam. The template matches the rough outline of the frog’s body. The overall dimensions of the template are 1 5/8 by 11/16 inches.
2. Draw a centerline down the center of the foam curler. Align the template on the centerline. Trace the outline of the template on the curler using the fine tip of a permanent marker. DO NOT squeeze the foam as you trace or you will create a larger body than the template.
3. Remove the foam from the frame. Cut the foam across the nose of the frog outline. (The nose is the narrowest part of the outline.)
4. Hold the foam in your hand so that the nose of the frog outline faces you. Make two ¼-inch-deep vertical cuts into the foam outlining the nose; make the cuts just outside the center hole in the foam.
5. Carefully cut out the rest of the body. Once again, DO NOT squeeze the foam, because this will change the dimension of the body. From now on, the side of the foam with the outline will be considered the top of the frog.
6. Split the foam into an upper and lower half to the hip of the frog; the hip is the widest point in the foam. Use a heated nail to burn two ½-inch-deep holes into the lower butt end of the body on either side of the center hole. Lay the hook against the bottom of the body so the eye extends just beyond the nose of the frog. Place a mark where the hook bend meets the foam. Use a hot nail to burn a small hole in the center of the foam. (In this photo you can see the two small holes in the end of the foam, and I’ve made a mark where I’ll burn a hole in the bottom.) The frog body is now roughed out.

 

ImageComplete the Body & Make the Legs
1. I use a product called Extreme Bait Weight to add a small amount of weight to the rear end of the fly; this forces the butt of the imitation to hang down in the water just like a real frog. (If you can’t locate Extreme Weight, try substituting thick lead fly-tying wire. This will achieve about the same purpose.) Cut two ½-long pieces of 3/64-ounce Extreme Bait Weight. Next, smear a little cement on the weights. Insert the weights into the two small holes in the rear of the body. Here we see one weight going into the body; I’ll eventually push it all the way into the foam.
2. Cut two bunches of Sili Legs to length. Each frog leg has almost a dozen strands of Sili Legs.
3. Slip a spinnerbait skirt collar over the nose of a thin pair of needle-nose or jeweler’s pliers; a bobbin threader or the tip of sharp scissors will work if you have nothing else. (The purpose of using a tool is to spread open the rubber skirt collar so you can insert the Sili Legs.) Slip the skirt collar onto the end of the bunch of Sili Legs. Repeat this step to prepare the other leg. Clip the legs almost to the edge of the rubber collars.
4. Smear a little cement in the cut in the back of the foam. Insert the legs into the cut; the legs should touch in the middle of the body. Position the legs at less than a 45-degree angle to one another; the legs should protrude from the back edges of the body, not from the sides. If the legs stick out of the sides of the body, the fly will spin while casting and twist the line. Place the body in a large hair clip and allow the cement to dry.

 

ImagePlace the Body on the Hook
1. Bend the weed guard forward. Insert the tip of the weed guard into the hole in the bottom of the body. Push the weed guard through the foam into the hollow center of the curler. Continue pushing the hook shank through the hole until the eye is in front of the body.
2. Coat the inner hollow of the curler with adhesive all the way to the tie-in point; the cement stiffens the foam and keeps it from tearing from the hook. Place the hook in the vise and start thread 1/8 inch behind the hook eye. Next, cut a 1-inch-long piece of round closed-cell foam. Clip a point in one end of the foam. Insert this piece of foam into the hollow of the curler with the point facing forward; push it as far into the body as it will go.
3. Align the foam body with the back of the hook eye. Tie the tip of the body in place; make two loose wraps around the foam, and then slowly pull the bobbin up to lightly bind the body to the hook.
4. Press the upper section of the foam down to the hook shank and lightly tie it in place; do not apply too much pressure or you will cut through the foam. Wrap a neat thread head. Clip the thread and coat the head with cement.

 

ImageFinishing the Frog
1. Remove the fly from the vise. Smear cement in the cuts around the sides of the body. Allow the cement to partially dry for three to five minutes. Next, press the foam together starting at the end of the body. Work your way around both sides, and continue pinching the foam together until the cement dries. Allow the cement to cure for several minutes before continuing.
2. Clip any excess cement edges. Color the body using permanent markers. Allow the ink to dry for several minutes. Coat the entire body with Goop; use just enough to seal the foam without leaving a heavy buildup. When the cement is no longer tacky, squeeze the top and bottom of the body together. Hold the foam together for several seconds and repeat as necessary to make the body form an oblong shape; the glue it will hold this appearance as it cures. Apply another coat of cement to the entire body. Once again, squeeze the body between your fingers.
3. Place the fly back in the vise. Use a heated nail to burn two holes in the top of the head. Apply a drop of cement in each hole and insert the eyes.
4. Remove the fly from the vise and bend the weed guard back into position. Your Georgia Bullfrawg is ready to go fishing!

 
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