Frog Fly Fishing A Tampa Bay Area Treat By: Joshua W. Broer

Are you a hardcore largemouth bass fisherman who loves the excitement of an explosive topwater bite? Maybe you’re a diehard saltwater angler who lives to see a big snook or gator trout crush a popper on the flats or up against the mangroves.  Either way, fresh or salt, there’s nothing like the thrill of seeing an aggressive eat on top.  If you’re into fly fishing, you’re likely no stranger to the adrenalin rush that comes with a hungry fish smashing a topwater presentation. Saltwater fly fishing in the Tampa Bay area has exploded over the past twenty years, but there’s another hidden gem that will appeal to topwater enthusiasts–largemouth bass fishing with a frog fly.

This may not be a surprise to veteran fly fishermen who fish the salt and sometimes hit the fresh in our area, or the seasoned rainbow trout angler who grew up out west or up north, but fly fishing for largemouth bass in the Tampa Bay area, using a frog fly in particular, can be exhilarating. One of the great things about living here is that there’s no shortage of bass fishing opportunities, and you don’t have to live on a large lake to catch a lunker. Some of the biggest bass we find come from small bodies of water including tiny backyard ponds, roadside spillways, and the numerous retention ponds that are spread out across our area. These are all great places to hit using the long rod and a frog fly.

My go-to fly rod of choice for this mission is a five weight, which is extremely versatile and can handle both large and small flies.  If I’m scaling down my frog size, I’ll switch to a three or four weight.  The majority of frog flies I use are size #10 – #6, but if I’m targeting bigger fish, I’ll tie on a larger #4 – #2. Some of my favorite flies are the:  Freaky Frog, Swimming Frog, and my all-time favorite Messinger Frog.  The Messinger frog, a deer hair pattern created by Joe Messinger in the 1920s, is irresistible to largemouth bass.  When the bite is slow and I’m desperate for an eat, this is what I tie on.

When considering a body of water to fish for my next frog fly session, I look for two things–lily pads and duckweed.  We all know that bass love to hide beneath lily pads and use them for cover to ambush passing meals, but duckweed is frog fishing gold. Whether fishing conventional artificial frogs with your baitcaster or whipping a frog fly across a thick carpet of duckweed, if there are bass below, you’ll likely get a strike. I like to perform a series of quick, short strips of your fly line that make the frog jump, then long slow strips that make the frog swim.

The strike, or in the fly fishing world, the “eat” you’ll get, come two different ways.  There’s the eat we all love when topwater fishing and that’s fish crushing the fly, sometimes sending it sailing into the air.  The other eat is more subtle, in which the bass will surface just below the fly and suck it in.  Whereas the other strike is more explosive and exciting, the softer take results in better hookups.

A few of our local fly shops sell frog flies.  If you cannot find them there, try online. My suggestion is to start out on the small side.  Frog flies are often bulky and difficult to cast so the smaller the fly, the easier the cast. Shortening your leader can help, and a weed guard is a must. And don’t hesitate to hit those dirty little roadside ponds, where you just might find a lunker!





Joshua Broer, a Tarpon Springs native, is the Facility Manager for the College of Arts & Sciences at USF.  His specialties include flats and bass fishing, fly fishing, and sea kayaking.  Reach him at