50-plus Years of Frogs

Snag Proof ad circa 1975.

Snag Proof ad circa 1975.

When one thinks of hollow-bodied frogs these days, there are a lot of choices to choose from. In fact it seems every manufacturer out there is making one. But when one thinks of the original frog companies, there’s only one – Harry Ehler’s Snag Proof Frog.

The Snag Proof frog was produced way before its time. The design was brilliant – a hollow rubber body with an integral double hook where its points rested tight against the top of the body. Designed this way the angler could cast the frog into the nastiest weeds or brush and not have to worry about getting snagged. Unfortunately, when the frog was originally manufactured in 1961 it lost more fish than it caught.

This wasn’t the fault of the design, though, it was the fault of the period tackle of the time. Short, fiberglass rods, monofilament lines that stretched and slow reels made it difficult to hook the many fish that would blow up on the bait. In fact, when I started seriously bass fishing around 1974, relatively few fished them because of the heartache they would provide. It was this way until roughly the late ‘80s when the tackle industry made some significant changes in the tackle we used.

First, anglers started fishing longer rods with more power than the 5-foot 6-inch pistol grips from a decade earlier. Second, reels started to be manufactured with much higher gear ratios. Those two factors alone were good but the final piece of the puzzle was a new line.

Here are some words from renowned California frog angler Bobby Barrack from an interview I did with him almost ten years ago.

“When I first started fishing the frog in the ‘80s I knew if I could get every fish in the boat that blew up on it I could win a lot of money. It was that devastating. Problem was the monofilament line wouldn’t cut through the grass and pads and you’d end up losing about 80% of the fish you hooked.

“Then came braided lines. That’s what changed frog fishing forever. In the early days there was no one that could beat us. We had the frog all to ourselves for quite a while until the word started getting out.”

From that point on, anglers started paying more attention to this simple bait. In California and the west, too many tournaments to count were won on the hollow amphibian. And, as anglers started throwing the bait more and more, they realized it wasn’t just a slop bait – it also caught fish in open or near open water with regularity.

Anglers learned that the frog could be “walked” the same way as a Zara Spook if they trimmed the knees of the bait and shortened the legs. They also started putting bells and weight into the body to add noise and make the bait sit lower on top of the slop – so fish could eat it easier.

All this started a revolution in the fishing industry. It seemed everyone was turning to the Snag Proof Frog. Now there’s a number of different frog designs out there, each offering a different action, size and/or bells and whistles.

I’ve had the opportunity to talk with, and even fish with, a number of the major frog guys over the course of the last 12 years. I even netted a 10-pound frog fish for Barrack back around the 2005 timeframe at the end of a 50-fish day on the California Delta – every one of those fish caught on the frog. After seeing the ad above in a 1975-era magazine, I had to give some props to Snag Proof and the anglers who brought us a whole new way to catch some big fish. Sorry folks, I’m just a sucker for old ads.

  • JWM

    The SnagProof Popper pictured in teh ad does not get enough credit! That thing will flat out catch fish and you dont hear alot about it.

  • Andy

    Don’t forget about Mann’s Rat. A terribly made lure but it was the one featured on Bassmaster from Lake Guntersville I think.

  • paul wallace

    I always thought the originals suffered from the double hook being too small and too close together?? I lost/missed more fish on that thing in the 70’s and early 80’s than I can remember. When guys started chopping the legs off and pulling skirts through the leg holes..Snag Proof started making the bigger size frog. That thing was.is a super bass catcher. I still like to bend the double hook up, a little bit and still like heavy mono on a med. heavy rod. Now days I rarely lose a fish on the frog.
    On another note, can you believe the prices for some of these fancy frogs…?? Outrageous for basically the same thing Snag Proof has been making for years??