April 09, 2020
Toads kick up a topwater frenzy on Florida bass lakes.
Most bass anglers are familiar with soft-plastic frog lures. Some would think that a toad would be a similar squatty amphibian-type bait. But, they'd be wrong.
Frogs float at rest, and slowly pick their way over thick cover. Bass fishing toads don't. They just quickly skim over the top of it. It's a subtle difference in nomenclature regarding amphibian species, but a big difference in performance, and toads have been one of the hottest bass baits in Florida during the last five years.
The Zoom Horny Toad was the first to truly capture both the bass, and the angler's, attention. That lure has long since been followed by the Berkley Chigger Toad, Uncle Josh Sizmic Toad and many others. All share similar characteristics. They feature a pair of dangling legs attached to a solid plastic body. Rigged weedless, they skim their way across the surface while making a different sound signature than a metal- bladed buzzbait, but with a similar commotion. Bass love them, including the 14.11-pound bass Dean Jackson, of High Springs, caught on Orange Lake in the spring of 2010. That's the largest toad-crusher I've heard of, but there've been more than a few in the 10-pound-plus range caught on toads, as well.
Big bass seem to like toads, and fishing them isn't difficult.
Toads are rigged with an Extra Wide Gap hook (EWG, in some makers' vernacular). There is a lot of plastic to punch through to get to the bass, and this is the best hook style to accomplish that. A 4/0 hook is minimum, and only for the thinnest toads. A 5/0 to 6/0 hook is preferred and some anglers use a 7/0. Slip the hook into the hook channel on the underside of the bait and bring the hook point out the top of the body to lay flat along the top side of the bait. Weight is not normally needed. When it is, the Sebile Soft Weight System is one solution. This is an EWG hook with slip on soft tungsten weights that slide over the hook and allow the angler to control the balance of the bait.
Toads are power baits. Wimpy rods are a recipe for failure. Experienced anglers favor casting rods with a minimum 6½-foot length, with 7-foot being preferred. A medium/heavy action is about the lightest you want to use, and a heavy action is a better bet. Some anglers get by with 20-pound monofilament line, but successful anglers spool up with 50- to 65-pound braided line, and tie the line directly to the hook eye without a leader.
With the proper rig and rod, the actual use is simple. Cast it out, reel it steadily to the surface over whatever cover exists, and then continue a smooth and steady surface retrieve without additional rod action. Those curly legs will create all the commotion/action required. The most effective retrieve is a simple cast-and-reel. It's the hookset that requires some thought.
Like any weedless plastic bait, the bass has to be given a brief moment to grab the bait, turn down, and have it taken solidly before the angler sets the hook. This is “old hat” to anyone who has ever felt the familiar “tap-tap” on a Texas-rigged worm. The way bass strike a toad is different, but that delayed hookset is still critical.
Bass may blast, slurp or boil on a quickly moving toad. Regardless of the strike, it's important the angler react the same way every time—drop the rod, give the bass some slack line, pause a beat or two, and then hammer the hook home!
The easiest way to do that is to hold the rod—on the retrieve—pointed at the lure, and at an angle about 20 degrees above the bait. When the strike comes, immediately drop the rodtip to point directly at the lure, and watch the line. If the line goes slack, the bass is moving toward you and you have to crank the reel to get a tight line. If the line tightens, the bass is moving away, and a brief pause is all that's needed. But, regardless of the type of strike, the delayed hookset is critical to success.
The actual lure color isn't important. Most pros figure a dark color or a light color will handle the task. On some days the bass may prefer one over the other.
The key to toad success is proper rigging, proper rod and proper hookset. Accomplish that, and this new pair of legs is well worth space in your tackle box. FS
First Published Florida Sportsman May 2011