It is safe to say that the Australian fishing scene is a little behind the times. It wasn’t long ago that jig fishing for Australian Bass became somewhat popular, spoons for schooling fish took off and the Australian freshwater swimbait scene kicked into gear. What hasn’t been overly popular in Australia is frog fishing. It was seen as a technique that Americans used to catch “small” (small compared to a Murray Cod) Largemouth Bass with really heavy braid. The hook set alone seems to be comical for many Australians. But, how can they be wrong in their techniques when fishing is a fine art in America. I for one, am a giant fan of fishing American techniques in Australia, especially hollow body frog fishing. It is simply something different from what many others are doing.
There may be no better species to target on frogs than the dinosaur-like Saratoga, not to be confused with the Arowana. You can sight cast them while they’re swimming on the surface seeking an easy meal of insects, frogs, and small fish. They hit extremely hard, you can see them tracking your frog from meters away and they are aerobatic. I have caught plenty of Saratoga within the South East Queensland region, but I had never caught one in Central Queensland. This is weird because I lived in Gladstone for 18 years and fished most days. Luckily since opening Lure Me In almost two years ago, I have dealt with some incredible fisherman. One of the very first people who supported Lure Me In was a guy by the name of Drew Hedington (@the_flogmattic_fisho). I admired Drew’s passion for frog and swimbait fishing for some time. He catches GIANTS! on a range of baits and techniques which I personally like and cater the store towards. Drew’s collection of swimbaits may be the best in Australia. Not many Australians have a custom painted Roman Made Mothers, among others.
For the past two years, Drew and I have been in communication talking all things fishing and baits. I don’t claim to know everything in fishing and would often send him a message saying, “What do you think of these baits?”, because he has frankly used pretty much everything. I don’t recall a time where he didn’t know. We would always speak about how I needed to come to Central Queensland and frog fish his local haunts for Saratoga. Unfortunately between my busy full-time university schedule (PE teacher - be nice to me as I could be teaching your children in the coming months….. LOL), casual work and the store, I had/have little time to do anything else. After the busyness of Christmas had wrapped up, I made a trip to Gladstone to have a holiday with the rest of my family. There was no way in hell I was going to Gladstone and not fishing with Drew. Screw the family plans, I have frog fish to catch. We planned to fish some of Drew’s best spots slightly inland of Gladstone.
I packed my clothes bag in 2 minutes, but my fishing gear took hours. What swimbaits do I take? (stuff it, all of them) What frogs? How many frogs? Which Millerods? Which reels? The list of contemplations goes on. Normally when I am packing for a fishing trip it’s for a multi-day trip so I take an ungodly amount of gear. I tried to be conservative with the amount I took for just one day's fishing, but I still took an ungodly amount. The night before I took all my fluorocarbon line off my reels and replaced it with 65lb.
After a short drive from Gladstone, I met up with Drew at one of his local haunts, a landlocked lagoon covered in weed and lily pads. It was something you would expect to see in the Northern Territory. It was incredible and the exact setting I LOVE to fish. Fishing small water is my passion. There is nothing better than pulling a big fish out of a small waterway. The only downside was the 43-degree heat. I hate summer! If I could have winter all year round, I would be over the moon. Due to the small walk which felt like an absolute mile (I almost died about ten times) I opted to only take one combo,
Millerods SwimFreak Power 782
Daiwa Tatula CT-Type R with a 6.3:1 gear ratio
65lb braid straight through
I also had one box full of Deps Basarisky frogs and Teckel Sprinker frogs. I would like to stock the Teckel frogs as they are a fantastic product that catches fish, but that is another story that angers me. No leader material, no pliers, no spare hooks just one pair of braid scissors. It is fantastic having to carry very little. Normally I am lugging around a giant pack. The key to the session was two crucial components, the straight-through braid, and the Millerod. Fishing straight through braid is a must. It cuts through the weed and mats, has no stretch, limits the potential for breakages from hook setting shock and from running your leader through your guides. When fishing straight through braid, it is direct. You can feel everything and when you set the hook, it is automatic in the mouth. Many would say, but why 65lb? The main reason is because of the country we were fishing in. A lagoon filled with thick weed and lily pads. You can’t give them an inch. Drags are locked and you are ready to drag them in as quickly as possible. If they get their head into the weed or around a lily pad, they will use it as a tool to get free. When tying braid directly to the frog I used a knot called a Palomar Knot. It is extremely simple to tie but very strong. There are plenty of YouTube videos showing you how to tie one. The second key component was the Millerod SwimFreak Power. I took this rod by accident and didn’t realise until an hour into fishing. I meant to pack the SwitchFreak 732. In all honesty, I am glad I grabbed the wrong rod. The SwimFreak Power is sensational. I prefer to fish longer rods as I feel a better connection to the bait and can cast further. The SwimFreak Power is exactly that, powerful. It has a nice soft tip which aids in working smaller baits, but man does it have some balls once you load it up! It is light in the hand so you can fish it all day and long enough that I could bomb long casts from one side of the lagoon to the other optimizing the water I could cover.
From the very first cast, I had a big Saratoga follow and hit my frog, five times in fact and I missed him every time. Setting the hook is vital and I was striking too quickly. I would see the bite and strike, feel the bite and strike, feel him swimming with it and strike. It was probably because I was so excited. Drew said we would definitely catch at Saratoga, but I wasn’t expecting it to happen so quickly. When retrieving the frog, it was at a fast rate with no pauses. I most certainly had the wrong reel for the job. I should have had a reel within the 8.0 ratio region so I didn’t have to crank so fast and I would have been able to retrieve line quicker when I set the hook. From then on, I had somewhat calmed down allowing the Toga to swallow the frog for approximately three seconds before ripping into it. The hook set is hard as you want to drive the hook deep into their boney mouth, so it doesn’t come out when they jump and fight. From the very first cast, I was hooked! It didn’t take long before another Toga had a go, actually the very next cast. I bombed out a long cast and began cranking fast. Within 3 seconds of retrieving the frog, I could see a big Saratoga angrily steaming towards my frog. He hit it so hard that he came completely out of the water and hit the frog away. Within the first 10 casts, I would have missed 8 hits all in the space of 5 minutes.
After a quick sit down in the shade to avoid death by sun, I was back into action. Again, I bombed a cast to the other side of the lagoon and began cranking at a fast rate. The frog had landed in thick weed and I was burning it off the weed into open water. As soon as the frog reached the weed edge, a little 60 odd centimeter Saratoga smoked it. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, I didn’t care that it was only 60 odd centimeters. I am overly dedicated to fishing. If I don’t catch fish I am PISSED! but once I do, the trip is worth it and I can go home happy. I am competitive, it is me vs the fish. After a quick picture, he was back into the water. I don’t carry a brag mat or any measuring device. I am not out to prove anything or best anyone’s personal best, but rather compete against the fish.
After struggling to right my frog as the Saratoga had turned it inside out, I was back and more eager. The stretch of water was only 100 meters long at best. After another 10 minutes, I had again missed plenty of fish. A big Saratoga attempted to smoke my frog and again came completely out of the water. The only issue was he missed the frog. I got a good look at him as he would have been 40 centimeters out of the water. At a guess, I would have put him into the mid 80-centimeter bracket. I continued pumping out casts in anticipation. Strangely my frog didn’t return to the surface when I sent it out which is strange as they float. I stood there for a second staring at the meat ants trying to eat me when I felt my line moving. I set the hook like an American. There wasn’t a splash from the fish eating the frog and I didn’t feel any hit. I am going with the theory that I landed a three-point swish and it went directly into his mouth. None the less it was big. After a short fight, Drew was knee deep in weed and mud wrangling my Saratoga. All he was saying was “HOLY SHIT
IT IS BIG!” “IT IS FAT!”. Not only did I catch 10 kilograms of weed I also landed a fat Saratoga which would have been somewhere in the 70-centimeter range. He had chocked the frog and wasn’t coming off anytime soon. Again, more photos and a lot of swear words later, he was happily back in the lagoon wondering why his throat was so sore.
The outstanding fishing continued, hit after hit. I could have gone home so happy, but another mid 60-centimeter Saratoga wanted to play the game. By this time, he wasn’t going to best the previous fish, so we didn’t bother about getting a photo. The time had come to drive back to Gladstone. I hadn’t eaten and the heat was killing me. The nearby town is small with only 300 people living there. I went to go to the local watering hole to have a beverage and steak, but the locals scared me. I promptly drove across the road (the town only has one road) and sat in the gutter eating a whole chicken with my hands sending photos of the day back to my family. Not only was it one of the best fishing sessions I have ever had, but it was a delicious chicken. WIN WIN!
I would like to thank Drew for providing me with such an exceptional day and for always continuing to be a loyal Lure Me In customer……..this guy is clued in!