Although I now live in western Montana's Bitterroot Valley and spend most of my time pursuing trout, my thoughts often turn to bass flies. I grew up in Texas and learned a little about fly tying when I wasn't chasing bass and panfish in the numerous stock tanks near Austin.
I learned then that big bass pounce on frogs, and I recently designed a foam frog imitation to take advantage of this. The Swimming Topwater Popping (STP) Frog has an accurate, multi-colored body with rubber legs that provide animation. It is weedless, durable, and lands upright on almost every cast. It's easy to tie but requires enough artistry that it is enjoyable to tie, regardless of your skill level. Most importantly, it catches bass.
The foam clamshell design of the STP Frog forms a three-dimensional frog shape and allows you to use a variety of colors for the top of the body with a contrasting light-colored underbelly. The key to producing a neatly finished body is to perfectly match the top and bottom body shapes. You can cut two matching foam bodies with scissors, but it's easier to cut identical shapes using the foam cutter I designed, available from River Road Creations, (406) 777-1046, www.riverroadcreations.com.
Use medium Speckled Olive Centipede Legs from Montana Fly Company to simulate the mottled camouflage of real frog legs and eliminate the need to color white rubber with a permanent marker. The rubber material sinks, so the frog sits butt-down like a real frog floating on the surface.
In addition to mimicking the silhouette of a frog, the STP Frog emphasizes the protruding eyes of a real frog with Spirit River 3D Molded self-
adhesive eyes, and the head pushes water when you chug it, a time-tested attribute of many bass bugs.
The finished fly is relatively easy to cast and does not spin and twist your leader with 2X or heavier tippet. The weedguard does not inhibit your ability to hook fish but provides sufficient protection to pull or hop the fly through or over obstructions where big bass lurk.
There is some good bass fishing in Montana, and the fish love this fly. I have also tested the fly across the country with excellent results. The gurgling sounds the fly makes get attention but aren't too loud, and the action is extremely realistic. Since the mouth is effectively vented at the sides, you can also swim the frog just under the surface without the fly spinning underwater. This is a deadly tactic along weedbeds.
While I like the natural look of the original STP Frog with its olive-and-white body, don't be afraid to experiment with yellow, red, white, and even purple top colors. These color combinations are proven bass attractors and one may work better than another on any given day.