Fishing a soft plastic frog—aka topwater toad—is a mighty fun way to fish. The excitement of watching this little kicking-leg frog scurry along the surface, while the tension of an anticipated blow-up builds— there’s nothing quite like it in all of bass fishing. Sure you can reel a buzzbait or a Whopper Plopper along the bank. But these toads are all-terrain vehicles. And because these topwater toads can be fished fast, the bites are often heart stopping. Whether you call it a buzzing toad, topwater toad or soft plastic frog these baits are made to be steady reeled to draw vicious strikes—almost like finesse buzzbaits
You can launch one of these baits rigged weedless way back into the thickest cover imaginable, reel it over dry land if you’d like and get a bite from a big one in just inches of water. For all these reasons and more, we decided to compile a list of the best topwater toads for bass fishing.
BEST OVERALL TOAD – ZOOM HORNY TOAD
The Zoom Horny Toad is the gold standard when it comes to a buzz toad. This bait has a crisp action thanks to its two sharply cut, thin feet. This design allows the Horny Toad to be reeled moderately fast to very quickly while giving off a crisp and consistent sound and disturbance. This sharp action makes the Horny Toad a great bait for fishing during the warmer months of the year, starting around the spawn and lasting all the way into the late fall.
This bait can be rigged weedless with a technique-specific frog hook or with a simple 4/0 Extra Wide Gap (EWG) hook. A Horny Toad is also great for rigging on a skirtless buzzbait. Both of these styles of rigging can be used to fish this toad around a wide range of shallow cover. And, because the body of the bait is meaty and the legs are thin, the Horny Toad is great for skipping, both on the back of a buzzbait and rigged weedless. Many anglers don’t know that this bait in a shad color is dynamite in shallow clear water as well, especially going into the fall. It’s like a finesse buzzbait on highland impoundments.
Read our full Zoom Horny Toad Review.
BEST SLOW TOAD – Stanley Ribbit
There are two basic styles of toads: those that have a better action while reeled quickly, and those that have a better action when reeled slowly. The Stanley Ribbit is the perfect example of a slow-reeling toad. Its two paddle-style feet offer a good bit of resistance, allowing an angler to reel the bait slowly across the top of the water while creating a nice and subtle gurgling sound.
The Ribbit’s ability to be fished slowly makes it one of the best toads for fishing early and late in the year. When the water is cold, the fish are less active and less likely to eat a topwater. That being said, there’s a turning point around 60 degrees where the bass become more active and willing to commit to something on top. But the bait has to be subtle. This is when a Stanley Ribbit and a few other toads like it are the most uniquely suited for the topwater task.
BEST TOAD SWIMBAIT – Zoom Uni Toad
This is the youngest of our best toads, having only hit the market in 2023. But the Uni Toad has rightfully earned it’s spot on this list by filling a hole most of us didn’t even realize existed. This bait is a hybrid between a swimbait and a toad, and unique in a sense. Sure, there are other great swimbaits that can be fished along the surface, like the Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper and Gambler Big EZ, but these other baits are still swimbaits in a traditional sense.
Though you can reel them along the surface, these other baits can also be fished subsurface, through vegetation, in open water and as a trailer on other baits. The Uni Toad on the other hand was designed specially and only for topwater application. Going with a wider, toad-style body as compared to the slimmer body of a swimbait, Zoom produced what amounts to a one-legged toad that stays up on the surface better than any other remotely similar bait.
Read our full Zoom Uni Toad Review.
BEST NOISY TOAD – Strike King Rage Toad
In the late 2000s, Strike King took a look around the toad market and found a niche all their own to fill. The Zoom Horny Toad and Stanley Ribbit had long since come along and established themselves as the front-runners in this space, but neither of these baits were particularly loud. So in 2010, the Rage Toad came in like a wrecking ball.
Strike King had already used their unique “Rage Tail” flange design to create some of the best soft plastic baits of all-time, like the Rage Craw. By incorporating this Rage Tail flange into the legs of a toad, Strike King built a bait that created absolute chaos on top of the water, whether reeled slowly or quickly. This aggressive action isn’t always the best thing for a toad to have, but when it is the deal, you’re liable to see a bass wake on this bait from a long distance to annihilate it.
BEST SCENTED TOAD – NetBait BaitFuel BF Toad
The NetBait BaitFuel BF Toad is another newcomer to the market that has already cemented itself into this “best of” list. Using technology to impregnate their baits with a less obtrusive but still highly effective scent, NetBait launched several BaitFuel soft plastic lures in 2022. While scents are proven to be effected at helping a bass commit to a slow moving bait, there’s understandable skepticism as to its necessity when it comes to a faster moving surface bait.
However, once the action of a bait like the BF Toad draws the attention of a bass and generates a strike, there’s no reason to doubt that the scent in the bait will help the fish hold onto it long enough for the angler to reel down and set the hook. Scent aside, the NetBait BF Toad’s build and action alone make it a solid toad option at any rate.
Read our full NetBait BaitFuel BF Toad Review.
BEST TOAD TRAILER – Kalin’s Sizmic Toad
There are dozens of different brands of toads on the market today. Big brand names and big-time advertising budgets help a few of these baits rise to the forefront of our minds as consumers. If these baits are also high quality, they become the preferred lures in their prospective spaces. Taking all this into consideration, it’s easy for a quality bait to fall through the cracks. Look no further than the Kalin’s Sizmic Toad for a good example.
The Sizmic Toad has been around for decades. Manufactured by Uncle Josh and sold under the brand name Sizmic Lures originally, it’s now a part of the Kalin’s brand of baits. This toad works well and blends the sounds of a Horny Toad and Stanley Ribbit together, while also holding a pretty unique spot in the toad market as a bait suited well for use as a trailer on swim jigs, vibrating jigs and other baits.
TOAD FISHING RODS
Fishing a soft plastic frog or buzzing toad is not hard. It’s matter of threading one onto an EWG hook and then picking the right setup to fish it. The rod is a very important companent of toad fishing. You need a rod that can throw a pretty light bait. Most toads on a hook with no weight are going to weigh less than 3/8 ounce. So they are not the easiest to cast. So you need a rod with a good tip action to load the lighter bait on the cast and be able to get it out there. I like a medium heavy rod with a little softer tip to aid in casting accuracy.
You need backbone in the rod to get the fish out of cover usually. So a medium heavy power fast to mod-fast action rod is right. I personally like a little shorter rod. Something in that 6-foot, 10-inch to 7-foot range is right to me. If you are fishing it in really heavy matted vegetation you will probably have to go up in rod length and power and sacrifice a bit of casting distance.
FROG AND TOAD FISHING
Fishing a hollow bodied frog is usually done with the rod, imparting action on the bait with a series of downward rod twitches. While fishing a toad is generally done with the reel. Make a long cast and then straight reel it back to the boat. The weight of the hook is usually enough to sink a toad slowly so when you pause it’s going to go under the surface. So you keep it moving to keep it gurgling on top. I generally like a 30-65 pound braid for frog fishing and usually a 30-40 pound braid for toad fishing.
We also have a great best hollow-bodied frogs guide if you want to see great options for frog fishing.