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  • Yakima Bait Company

Plug Fishing In Frog Water

By: Mark Romanack

To the avid stream steelhead fisherman the term “frog water” has a special meaning. Slow moving water is often called “frog water” and unfortunately slow moving water can be challenging to fish

Traditional steelhead fishing tactics such as side drifting spawn or

Spin-N-Glo rigs just do not work well in slow moving water.

However, one iconic steelhead lure thrives in slower moving water. The legendary U-20 Flatfish by Yakima Bait is one of the few plugs that delivers an aggressive wobbling action at slow trolling speeds and yes in “frog water” river fishing conditions.

“Here in the Great Lakes many of our most popular steelhead streams flow through drowned river mouth lakes,” says Josh Crabtree a Michigan based angler and Yakima Bait Pro Staffer. “Drowned river mouth lakes provide steelhead the opportunity to come and go freely from the Great Lakes to the upstream limits of these rivers.”

Plug fishing specialist Josh Crabtree of Michigan likes the iconic Flatfish for targeting steelhead in slow moving water.

The upstream limits of these rivers feature fast moving water, strong currents and rock filled rapids that are perfect steelhead holding water. Further downstream however in these same rivers the current is sluggish and the best water for holding steelhead tends to be the deeper pools with back eddies, undercut banks and log jams.

Anchoring a boat above these spots and dropping baits back to waiting fish is one of the most popular ways of fishing slow moving and also deeper water. Most wobbling plug are all but lifeless when drop back fishing in “frog water” conditions.

“The U-20 Flatfish has been my “go to” plug for fishing in slow moving water for decades,” says Crabtree. “The wide wobble and hunting action of the Flatfish is legendary, making this plug the perfect choice for fishing from an anchored position in slow to moderate currents.”


To target steelhead in slow moving and deeper water, rig the Flatfish on a three way swivel equipped with a 24 inch dropper line to a weight and a 50 to 60 inch leader of fluorocarbon line to the plug. A main line of 10 to 15 pound test monofilament works well. The fluorocarbon leader and dropper line should be one or two sizes smaller than the main line.

When anchored and drop back fishing most anglers in the Great Lakes state prefer to fish a pair of lines positioned in rod holders off each side of the boat. On two of these lines position the rod so it is parallel with the hull and about half way between the corner of the boat and the outboard. These lines are effectively running straight out the back of the boat.

On the other two lines position the rods in holders so they are perpendicular to the hull. This simple four rod spread spaces out the plugs, presents lures to more water and helps avoid tangles. Often it is necessary to move the boat and anchor several times to effectively fish a location.

The iconic Flatfish is one of the best plugs for targeting steelhead in sluggish or what anglers call “frog water”. This Metallic Silver Clown is one of the most popular colors among avid river steelhead anglers. Photo: Buzz Ramsey


The ability to fish multiple plugs allows anglers the unique opportunity to experiment with lure color options. Some of the most popular Great Lakes steelhead colors in the U-20 Flatfish include the Metallic Silver Clown, NFL, Metallic Gold Green Pirate, Metallic Gold Red Tiger, Double Trouble and Metallic Gold. On the west coast where rivers tend to have a little more color to them, good steelhead colors include the Double Trouble Chartreuse Orange, FireTiger and Perch Tiger.


The final piece of the puzzle is creating a natural scent stream in the water. Some anglers tip the Flatfish by using a maggot or small piece of a nightcrawler on the back hook. Others prefer to use a sticky gel based scent such as Pro-Cure Super Gel to create an attractive and long lasting scent stream.


The U-20 Flatfish is a dynamic plug with an aggressive side to side wobble and hunting action. On the west coast and also in the Great Lakes states, the U-20 Flatfish has for decades been the lure of choice for targeting steelhead in the frog water. Even better you’ll find these lures at literally every tackle shop coast to coast.

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