Join Waitlist We will inform you when the product arrives in stock. Just leave your valid email address below.
Email Quantity We won't share your address with anybody else.

All NEW Vexan Rods

By Bee Xiong, Pro Staff – Blue Ribbon Bait & Tackle

Vexan Bass Rods 1

I wanted to introduce everyone to a new line of Bass and Walleye rods called Vexan Rods. Last summer was my first time trying out these new rods and I was thoroughly impressed. Tackle Industries from Le Mars, Iowa, entered the Bass and Walleye market last August with the new brand.

Vexan Rods were designed to fit the need of every Walleye and Bass angler out there, at a pretty affordable price point. Avid tournament anglers and recreational anglers alike can appreciate the incredible sensitivity and durability of this new line of rods from Vexan. They are built using TI blank technology and strong blanks teamed with a revolutionary new all alloy guide system made for both mono and braided line to stream off the reel with little guide resistance, guaranteeing ultra-long and accurate casts. Vexan Rods also offers a limited lifetime warranty on all their rods in case of any manufacture defects, so you have that peace of mind.

When field testing these rods, I found them to be super light in weight, yet incredibly strong, with plenty of backbone. The rod design is styled with quality, and offers very comfortable handles.

Vexan Rods 2

Vexan Bass Rods offers a variety of rods for every type of situation there is. I personally would recommend you have them in your arsenal when bass fishing:

For the best “do-anything” rod, I recommend the V74H-C (7’4” Heavy Casting). It’s great for all your flipping/pitching, frogs, swimbaits, big worms, lipless crankbaits, and spinnerbaits!

If you’re looking for the ULTIMATE punching rod for mats and other heavy cover, I’d totally recommend the V710XXH-C (7’10”Double Heavy Casting). It will easily handle all bass in pad country. This rod offers plenty of power and strength to get the bass up and out, plus the sensitivity and casting accuracy is excellent.

And if you’re into some finesse fishing, Vexan also offers spinning rods like the S610M (6’10”Medium Spinning). It’s an excellent choice for close quarters finesse fishing, including drop shotting and shaky heads.

If you’re looking for a new setup for Bass or Walleye fishing this upcoming season and if you want the best for less, stop in and get yourself a new Vexan rod. You won’t be disappointed! I know I wasn’t.

Sold exclusively at Blue Ribbon Bait & Tackle stores. 


Fishing Tournaments Can Make You a Better Angler

By Dave Becker

Tournament Fishing

A lot of anglers have the misconception that to fish tournaments, whether it be bass, walleye, muskie, or even panfish, you have to be a highly qualified professional to compete. Although at the highest level of tournament fishing you should be fairly adept, I’d like to offer some tips that will help you get into tournament fishing at any level. Hopefully this will make you a better angler for your everyday fishing as well. I will mainly focus on walleye tournaments, since that is what I fish most, but these tips would apply to all fish species tournaments.

A good way to explore tournament fishing is to first fish a tournament as a co-angler with a professional. On the walleye side there are a couple of circuits that encourage this type of participation. A couple to check out are Cabela’s National Walleye Tour, (NWT), or the FLW. The concept is fairly simple; you as the amateur are matched with a different professional for each day of the tournament. You work together as a team, and the weight of your catch goes with you into the next day, as you are paired up with a different professional. Most pros will help you with any questions you have, and if you have a basic understanding of how a rod and reel work, they will (in most cases) let you catch your share of the team’s total catch.

Fishing with pros has taught me more than any video I have seen, or any article I have read. Watch how your pro partner fishes—how they present their bait or lure, how they bring in their fish to the boat, how they net. Pay attention to what type of equipment and tackle they use, how they use their electronics, and how they use boat control to catch fish. It is also very important that you listen to your pro on what they want you to do, and how they want it done.

In these type of tournaments the pro will provide everything: rods, reels, bait, etc. All you need to bring is proper clothing, rain gear, your food and beverage (no alcohol though). It is customary to help the pro with some of the expenses, such as gas and bait. A small stipend is greatly appreciated. Most entry fees for co-anglers at these tournaments range from $200-$400. I believe this is money well spent for the type of education you can get out of this experience. Most of the pros I have fished with are very approachable and friendly, but it is crucial that you listen to them. After all, they are trying to earn a living by fishing tournaments.

If you are ready to start fishing tournaments on your own, there are a couple of basic things you need to know. First and foremost, although some tournaments require a minimum length boat of 16ft for safety reasons, you don’t need a $70,000 tournament boat outfitted with all of the latest electronics and gizmos to enjoy the tournament experience. I fished one tournament that was won by a father/son team that used a 17ft tiller style boat.

Second, most tournaments are team events, so find a good partner that has the same passion for fishing that you do. Keep in mind that teams are not just two guys. There are a lot of husband/wife, father/son, mother/daughter, brother/brother teams, and so on.

Next, consider which tournament(s) you would like to fish. A couple of state and regional circuits are the Minnesota Tournament Trail, (MTT), and the AIM Weekend Walleye Series, (AWWS). There are a few others too. These circuits usually consist of 4-8 qualifying events that lead into a championship tournament. You don’t have to fish every qualifier to get the tournament experience. Each tournament offers a cash payout to the top finishers, depending on how many teams have signed up. Most of the tournaments are one or two days in length, so you don’t need to take a week’s vacation to participate. Most fall on weekends, so plan on 2-4 days, including prefishing.

There are a couple of different formats for walleye tournaments: live weigh in, and catch and release. Catch and release is a fairly new concept. You are issued an SD card for your camera, a certified measuring board (like a Judge rule), and a score card to record the length of fish. When you catch a fish, you put it on a measuring board and your partner takes a picture of it to show the length. You then record that length on the score card which is converted to weight. It is a great concept and the wave of the future. This format will help protect the resource and isn’t subject to slot sizes and possession limits.

Another choice is 1 off tournaments. There are many to choose from around the area. These tournaments are also team events. Some are two days in length, but most are only one day, so not a huge time commitment is needed. They offer very generous payouts and are generally held on popular walleye lakes. Again you don’t have to have all the latest and greatest equipment to participate. Skill levels range from intermediate to expert. For more information on all these tournaments you can search the internet, check out some of the outdoor publications, or check with your local sporting good store or bait shop like Blue Ribbon Bait and Tackle.

Here are some basic tips for fishing your first tournament. After you and your partner have decided which tournament and body of water you want to fish, make sure you do plenty of prep work before you head out. This includes researching the body of water you will be fishing by consulting both electronic and paper maps. Note what type of structure it has, its water clarity, and predominant forage. DNR lake maps also provide a lot of helpful info, such as size of fish, stocking, and so on. Before you leave, make sure your gear is in order and working properly. Get fresh line on your reels, the correct tackle on board, and make sure your boat motor and trailer are in proper working order.

Prefishing is a very important way to prepare yourself for tournament success. Try to arrive a day or two (or more) in advance to get to know the body of water you’ll be fishing. Before you launch your boat, check with the local bait shops to see what the dominant bait will be,  the presentations that work best, and the areas the locals fish. Don’t expect to get specific information on spots, but anything will help. Once you reach the boat ramp don’t be afraid to talk to the locals. Be friendly with a smile. Also make sure you know what the weather will be. Is it cloudy? Or clear? What direction is the wind coming from? What is the water temp? These factors help determine what presentation will work best and help dictate which strategy will work for that day.

Once you are out on the water keep track of what is working and what is not. Don’t be afraid to try something new if what you’re accustomed to using isn’t working. If you are locating and catching fish, don’t linger on that spot too long, as you don’t want your competitors crowding in on you. And the more important point is that you need to have alternate spots in case that particular spot doesn’t work out during the tournament. Pay attention to what other boats are doing, both locals, and other competitors. Don’t worm in on their spots, but see what they are using for presentation and pay attention to what kind of boat control they may be employing. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to making decisions on locations and presentations. You don’t want to be arguing about these things the day of the tournament.

Once you have completed your prefishing, make sure you arrive early to the tournament rules meeting, usually the night before the tournament. This is a good time to network with other competitors and get to know people. Once the rules meeting starts, pay attention to the rules. You don’t want to be penalized fish or get disqualified because of inattention. Listen to what other competitors are talking about. Some of the information you can use, some of it might just be to throw competitors off their game. In turn don’t give out any specific information you have garnered, but be friendly on general information. You may see these competitors at other tournaments so it may benefit you to have relationships with other people.

Apply what you have learned prefishing in the actual tournament. Be patient, don’t get stressed out if things aren’t working out as planned, and be positive. Learn by your mistakes and file away what worked for the next time. After the tournament is over talk to the other anglers to see what worked for them, and in turn what worked for you. Most anglers will give you more specific information once the tournament is over and you can use this for the next tournament, or the next time you go out fishing for fun.

Following these basic tips will hopefully make you a better angler, enhance your fishing experience, and boost your confidence in all of your fishing endeavors. 

Fishing Matters

By Bee Xiong

Fishing Opener 2015

Did you know that our great state of Minnesota is the third most-popular inland fishing destination in the country?! What a great resource—11,842 lakes and 8,000 miles of fishable rivers and streams. And even if you don’t have a boat, it’s not a problem. There are hundreds of public fishing piers, docks and platforms statewide. (You can find more information from the DNR’s page “Find a Fishing Pier” for these on-shore options.)

According to the MN DNR, roughly 500,000 anglers fished the Minnesota Fishing Opener on May 9th. That is a large number, but it is only a third of the 1.5million anglers who will be licensed this season.

The economic impact from these anglers is significant. Fishing contributes nearly $2.4 billion to the state’s economy in direct retail sales, ranking Minnesota fourth in the nation for angler expenditures. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that each angler spends about $1,500 annually. This in turn supports 35,400 jobs statewide.

Beyond the benefits to our economy, fishing is fun! Anglers of all ages and backgrounds are drawn to this pursuit because of the challenge, the relaxation, the thrill of the catch and the joy of being outdoors. Fishing is also a great way to build a strong respect for nature, and is a ready made opportunity for parents to spend time with their kids and make memories in a natural setting.

Wherever you live in Minnesota, there are likely plenty of waterways nearby to explore. So instead of staying inside, unplug and go fishing! It’s good for the soul, our economy, and it’s enjoyable—a win, win, win.

Early Ice Fishing

By: Bee Xiong

 Early Ice Fishing

Early ice can provide some of the best ice-fishing action around. The most important thing to remember when early ice fishing is to first check to make sure the ice is really safe. To review, the Minnesota DNR offers the following ice safety guidelines. The measurements here apply only to NEW, CLEAR SOLID ICE. White Ice, or “Snow Ice” is only about half as strong as new clear ice, so double the thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice.

2″ or less: Stay off
4″: Ice fishing or other activities on foot
5″: Snowmobile or ATV
8″-12″: Car or small pickup
12″-15″: Medium Truck

Once you’re sure it’s safe on your lake of choice, keep as quiet and still as possible once you get on the ice. Later in the season it’s a good idea to keep moving in search of active fish. But early in the season, if you know there are fish in the area, it’s often better to sit and wait for the fish to come to you. When the ice is still relatively thin, and especially when there’s no snow on it, the fish can easily see you moving around right above them. Fish that are spooked by such movement won’t be interested in eating. Many ice anglers choose to fish from a portable shelter, which can really assist in preventing the fish from seeing them.

In many bodies of water early in the season, anglers do a lot of sight fishing. It’s fun to watch the fish come up and look at your bait, then eat it. But if they’re swimming away more often than they’re eating, you need to make some adjustments to your presentation.

If you know you’re going to be sight fishing, tie on some light line. Light line allows tiny baits to be presented more naturally, and it’s harder for the fish to see. More and more, anglers are turning to Trilene Fluorocarbon in two pound test for line-sensitive panfish. When the fish are finicky, small baits will usually work best. There’s a greater selection of smaller baits and jigs available every year, and that’s because they catch fish.

So get your ice fishing gear ready, keep the above tips in mind, and get out there as soon as the ice is safe. Good luck!

Panfish in the Fall

By: Bee Xiong

Panfish in the Fall, Bee XiongFall is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s one of the best times to be fishing, especially for panfish. Many anglers tend to hang up their hats with the change in season. Some move on to hunting, and others just wait until ice season comes. Some of the best fishing of the year takes place during the fall months, and panfish can provide some of that action. All types of panfish go on an aggressive bite this time of year. If you’re looking for lots of action, as well as a fresh fish fry, panfish can provide both.

So often in the spring and summer months we see lots of bluegills and crappies around docks and shallow water vegetation. It would be easy to assume that’s where they live. But in the fall months most of the panfish will be a little deeper, especially the bigger ones. This is when your sonar equipment becomes a major factor in panfish-catching success.

Bluegills will be found along deep weedlines in the fall, and crappies can be located near the basin of the lake, often near the bottom, in twenty to thirty feet of water. And, at times, both will be found in the same areas at the same time. On a recent fishing trip I cruised deeper reefs for signs of life on the sonar. I didn’t stop to fish until I saw clusters of what I suspected to be panfish, and usually, they were. Once the panfish are located, the rest usually comes easy. Hover over them by anchoring, or troll over them with your electric motor. When the bite is on, it’s unlikely your bait will reach the bottom before it gets hit.

Crappies will usually go for a bigger bait than bluegills. For one thing, crappies have a larger mouth. When the crappies and ‘gills are mixed together, I go with a sixteenth ounce Minni-Mite jig tipped with a 1” Gulp! Minnow or  with a small minnow. A presentation this size is great for the crappies, and will also trigger the larger bluegills. You can also try tipping the jig with a wax worm but it has become apparent in most cases that the Gulp! and live minnow will catch more fish per bait than the wax worm. If most of the fish are bluegills, go with a smaller jig for more action.

This is the sort of fishing that appeals to almost any angler. Whether you are a kid or an adult, the fast action can be a lot of fun. So before you call it a season, try panfishing this fall. You’ll have the lake to yourself in many areas, and the fish will keep you entertained.

River Walleyes: The Crankbait Effect

By: Chris Raisanen

Chris R Walleye BlogRiver walleyes are constantly on the move. They move up river in fall and through the spring, and then migrate back down the river in preparation for the summer months. Even in rivers known to harbor “resident” fish, walleyes are constantly on the move in search of just the right current and feeding opportunities. A river is an environment of constant change. Water levels rise and drop, current goes up and down, and the abundance of forage is constantly changing. This could mean that where you found an ideal backwater or current break that was holding a ton of walleyes one day might be either a dry sandbar or a raging channel the next. That means the walleyes are constantly needing to move to find ideal feeding and resting areas. One of the best ways to locate these scattered fish is to cover water quickly with fast paced presentations such as casting crankbaits.

River Crankbait Technique
Casting crankbaits in a lake is not the same as casting crankbaits in a river. In a river it is important to keep your bait near the bottom because of the way the walleyes position themselves in relation to the current. The best way to locate walleyes, especially in the late summer and fall, is to find structure that offers forage, current, and cover. Wing dams are one of the best pieces of structure that will hold fish regularly. When I fish a wing dam, I generally will use a crankbait that dives anywhere from 3-8 feet below the surface mainly because I want the bait to dig and bounce off of the submerged rocks and timber. A few of my favorite crankbaits include the Rapala DT-6, Rapala Shad Rap, and the Storm Smash Shad. All of these baits produce a lot of vibration, which helps the walleyes locate the baits by using their lateral lines. Most of the time the walleyes will position themselves facing into the current on the front side of the wing dam. This gives them the best vantage point for seeing and picking off prey, so vibration and sound can play a key factor when trying to intercept fish. However, I always fish the entire wing dam (front, top, back, and tip) mainly because walleyes will utilize the entire piece of structure throughout a portion of the day.

River Crankbait Equipment
The typical setups that I will use when casting crankbaits on the river consist of a 7’0” medium power and moderate action bait casting rod paired with a 10 pound test braided line and also a 7’0” medium light power and fast action spinning rod paired with a 6 pound test braided line. With these two setups I am able to fish any sized crankbait that is needed for the situation I am fishing. The key to the setups I’m using is the small diameter braid that cuts through the water more efficiently than mono, which allows me to get a little more depth from my crankbait. Because the line is no-stretch, it’s also very sensitive, making it easy to feel the vibration of the lure and helps me detect if the bait picks up any debris, stops working, or got bit by a following predator.

Crankbaits play an important role in a serious walleye angler’s tackle box. Used properly, crankbaits can be the best things to use in certain situations. So if you’re looking to put more and bigger fish in your boat this summer and fall, add a few crankbaits to your arsenal and be prepared to start catching quality fish.

Late Summer Bass Fishing: ABC’s to Catching Big Bass

By: Bee Xiong

Late Summer Bass : Bee XiongLate summer can be one of the best times to land the biggest bass of your life. But if you use the wrong tactics and gear, it can be one of the most frustrating times to fish. Countless lakes and rivers in parts of the Twin Cities Metro Area offer outstanding opportunities to catch Largemouths and Smallmouths alike from the season opener through well into the fall. To keep you in the action I’m offering some of my best strategies and techniques for chasing monster summer bass. Before you hit the waters, check out these tactics and bait suggestions.

For late summer bass, you have to know where to find them. Largemouths and Smallmouths are often deep and lethargic during this time of the year, and they’re also frequently starting to relocate and suspend at mid-depth ranges as forage begins to move. This is when a lot of professional anglers and tournament anglers start following the ABCs of summer fishing. The ABCs stand for aquatic vegetation, bridges, and current, three shortcuts to finding big fish.

I’ve learned through many years of chasing bass here on the waters of Minnesota and fishing many bass tournaments to know that these fish do not stop feeding. Bass often burn a lot of fuel, so they need to feed very often.

 Aquatic Vegetation: Bass love lily pads, hyacinths, and other greenery because they hold forage such as baitfish and sunfish. Also they provide cover, shade and higher oxygen. I would look for edge irregularities, especially depth changes; brush, logs, or rocks with vegetation; or patches of greenery. My techniques and tackle include Topwater frogs over the top and through openings, flipping jigs and Flappin’ Hawgs into open holes; run shallow crankbaits along the outside edges. I use 40-to 65- pound braided Power Pro line for frogs and jigs; 15- to 20 pound fluorocarbon for crankbaits.

Bridges: Bass love cover, shade, and abrupt depth changes. Nearby rocks often hold forage. I constantly look for brush lodged on the upstream side of pilings, current breaks behind pilings and baitfish around pilings. I cast a spinnerbait or crankbait parallel to pilings. I also love fishing this area with a drop-shot rig with a finesse worm. Use 8- to 15- pound fluorocarbon line.

Current: Bass like moving water because it produces higher oxygen, washes in food, and usually creates cooler temperatures. I would look for eddies and protected calmer water; rocks, small islands, and other visible cover like stumps and logjams. I prefer to cast light jigs, plastic grubs, or Texas-rigged Senkos and Wacky worms upstream and let the current carry them into the quiet eddies. You can try working small buzzbaits across calmer areas, especially in early mornings or late evenings. I use 12- to 15- pound fluorocarbon line for strenth and visibility.

There’s no doubt the summer’s winding down, the kids are getting ready to return back to school and most of the bass on your favorite lake or river have seen it all by now. Now is the perfect time to also change gears and try something new or different. Bring some new life into your bass tactics and you never know—you might land that trophy bass into the boat.

Walleye Fishing: Slow or Fast Fall Rate?

By: Christopher M. Lagergren

C. Lagergren

When it comes to jig fishing, you have the option to add weight for a faster fall rate, or decrease the weight for a slower descent. How do you know when a slow or fast fall rate is best?

Working at Blue Ribbon Bait & Tackle, I have had the opportunity to talk with fishing guides and customers about how they feel about the fall rate of a jig. When looking through boxes that belong to walleye jig fishermen, such as Minnesota’s legendary guide, “The Griz,” you can see multiple sizes of jigs. Most people who jig for walleyes will have three main jigs in their box (1/8, 1/4 &, 3/8). Griz, however, has over 10 different sizes of walleye jigs. He is a strong believer in how the fall rate of a jig has more of a triggering aspect on a walleye than the color of the jig. Many people come into the shop and ask what color the fish have been biting on. But the color does not matter as much as the fall rate of the jig. On the Mississippi and the St. Croix River, Griz keeps only one color of jig in his box because he believes that the color is irrelevant, as long as the jig is falling at the rate of the baitfish.

My rule of thumb (of course there are always exceptions) regarding the weight and fall of a jig is to first consider water clarity. In clear water I want my bait to fall fast to get a reaction strike out of the fish. If the water is clear, walleyes and many other fish have enhanced visibility and you do not want to give the fish a chance to get a good look at the bait before he realizes what it is. In dirty and dingy water I like to have a slower fall rate because I want to give them a chance to locate it using their lateral lines in the dirty water. I start with this tactic and can usually work my way through my jigs to find the perfect jig for that particular fishing situation. 

So if you’re looking to enhance your jig collection, I’d first recommend adding a few different sizes, rather than a few different colors. That way you can hone in on the fall rate that works best for the particular water you’re fishing.