Blog & Angler Education
Fall River Smallmouth Strategies 0
Fall River Smallmouth Strategies
As our water temperatures continue to cool, opportunities increase to capitalize on aggressive smallmouth bass. They’re easier to catch for awhile right now folks, so follow these tips until you put the boat away for winter.
Early to Mid-Fall
Fish will be shallow when the water temperature is in the low 60s. You can fish the banks if there’s something unique to it. Riprap is good, as is any change from rock to sand. I stay away from uniform looking banks. Points off the bank are the best piece of structure. Fish are often on the shallow portions of these points right now. Connect with them by throwing topwater baits in the lower light hours, or if it's calm and overcast. Rapala Skitter Walks are awesome walk the dog baits for these conditions. During the daylight hours, fish may be a bit deeper around shad schools, and jerkbaits like the Rapala X-Rap work well. Smaller swimbaits on jigheads can really produce, too. Try the Top Water Tackle swimbaits found at Blue Ribbon.
Mid to Late-Fall
Smallmouths and their forage will be well off the banks again (like they were in the heat of the summer), relating to the bigger points in the rivers. Use the areas where the points break into the deeper water. When bass are chasing shad, the topwater baits can still work into the low 50-degree water. However, the swimbaits fished slower (often ticking the bottom on the retrieve) and jig/plastic combos often produce the most fish. White and silver colors that mimic shad will get the most grabs. The Rapala X-Rap produces into the latest weeks of the season, but longer pauses are often necessary. Think slower and lower in the water column, as the temperature dips. Live minnows can be the key at this time of year, too. Dragging them on the rocky spots of these points is dynamite. The crew at Blue Ribbon will hook you up with the live meat you need.
Keeping it simple on the rivers with these strategies will produce good catches for you this fall. I look forward to it each year, and you certainly don’t contend with as much fishing pressure or recreational traffic on the water. Good luck out there.
Let Scott know what you think; leave a comment below, thank you!
About the Author: Scott King, Blue Ribbon Bait Pro-Staff
Scott enjoys fishing in northern Wisconsin, Mille Lacs, the St. Croix, and various other metro waters. He has fished for trophy bass (both largemouth and smallmouth) for the past decade, participating in several bass tournament circuits from 2001−2006. He’s also fished muskies for nearly 30 years.
Ice fishing four or five days a week for crappies and walleyes on the St. Croix has given Scott his winter fix since 1998.
Another of Scott’s specialties within fishing is youth education. He relates well with kids, and has helped with several kids tournaments and derbies with the Cub Scouts.
Scott also enjoys writing, and has a few fishing-related articles under his belt, which include publications in Fish and Game Finder Magazine and Musky Hunter.
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Blue Ribbon Owner Featured on "Minnesota Bound" TV Series 0
Blue Ribbon owner since 2004, Josh was recently featured on the iconic outdoor television series Minnesota Bound when he took Laura Schara out for a fishing trip chasing Minnesota's trophy muskies!
Catch a glimpse into the background of how Josh came to be such an experienced fishing guide and how we became the owner of Blue Ribbon Bait & Tackle in Oakdale, MN.
Special thanks to Laura Schara and our friends at Minnesota Bound for making this awesome story happen!
Aired on 9.17.2017, Epison #831 of Minnesota Bound
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Fall Fishing Tips from the Pros 0
Sept. 13th, 2017
Late Summer & Early Fall Muskie Patterns
Scott King, Blue Ribbon Bait & Tackle Pro Staff
As our days get shorter and the sun’s intensity diminishes, our water temperatures gradually dip from their summertime peaks. This is good news for muskie fans! Fish activity definitely heats up as the water cools, and your hours on the water are often more productive as summer becomes fall. You’ll see more fish per hour on the water, if you’re doing it right. Here are a couple of tricks to stay in contact with the muskies you’re after.
“Of course—this works all summer,” you’re saying, and you’re correct. Just think about it in a grander scheme as fall approaches, though. Look past the smaller patches that you’ve targeted with your summer casting techniques. Troll the biggest weed lines, weed flats, or weedy bays in the lake and start your efforts there. Inside edges can produce, but the outside edge is where you’ll connect with the most fish. This is just a high percentage technique and can work on our small or massive lakes. Trolling big spinnerbaits is a fantastic way to keep your bait in the strike zone the longest, and these baits can easily clear weeds with a good pull of the rod. Try varying weights of the Ace Bait, Ace Baits available online. They’ve been a staple trolling spinnerbait for Minnesota anglers for nearly twenty years. Lots of tournament winnings on this bait in late summer/early fall!
Topwater rocks and weeds:
If trolling is not your thing, casting topwater baits will continue to produce as summer fades. Muskie activity levels are up, and they are very willing to chase topwaters. Often more so than they would during the peak water temps of July and August. Find the rock areas near weeds, rock outcroppings of islands, or key weedline features (turns, changes in weed height, etc). This is where you’ll connect with active fish. During prime conditions, the topwater presentation can really get the attention of a lot of fish in short order. Some of the hottest baits at Blue Ribbon right now are from Lake X Lures, Lake X Topwaters available online.
Certainly, many other patterns are available during late summer, but these are two simple ways to get started, or stay focused if the chore of locating fish is overwhelming. Good luck!
Guest Contributor, Get The Net Guide Service & Tackle
As late August fades away to the cool mornings of early September, the first signs of fall appear: changing leaves, cool winds and early morning fog over the river! This is my favorite month in the Muskie season. But sometimes it can fool you into changing to a fall pattern too soon.
One thing I have learned is to stick with the late summer pattern until the fish stop using those areas. There is often a warm up as we get closer to October, which will keep those fish in their shallower spots longer then most people think. As other anglers up-size baits and head to deep water, you can capitalize on these summer areas by sticking with smaller, faster bucktails like “Little Rippers" that can be found in-store at Blue Ribbon. If you stick with this pattern until the fish are no longer showing up in these spots, you can put more fish in the boat, and once they disappear you know it’s time to switch to your fall tactics. Let the fish tell you when they switch to their fall movements.
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Kid Rock Calls Upon Blue Ribbon's Owner Josh Stevenson for Fishing Trip 0
Detroit rocker Kid Rock squeezed in a fishing session after his show at Grand Casino in Hinckley last weekend and before headlining the Iowa State Fair.
Kid Rock played Grand Casino in Hinckley on 8/19/17 and held his private jet off Sunday afternoon so he could get in some fishing with Blue Ribbon Owner & Fishing guide Josh Stevenson before departing for another show in Iowa that night. Josh guided Kid Rock in the Pine City area Sunday morning.
But fishing was slow for the group, which included fellow musician Uncle Kracker.
“They were not biting,” Stevenson said in a Sunday evening phone call. He wanted to take Kid Rock to Lake Mille Lacs, but they didn’t have enough time.
With the short outing on the Snake River and adjoining Cross Lake just about finished, Stevenson asked Kid Rock if they could try one more spot. The move paid off: Kid Rock caught a northern pike estimated at 8 pounds.
“It was a lot of pressure because they weren’t biting,” Stevenson said, adding that “Kid Rock was patient and hard-working, persistent.”
Josh is available for half-day and full-day guide trips for Musky, Northern Pike, Bass, Walleye & more.
Josh's guiding availability is visible at www.MightyMusky.com
Josh's news interview on Kare11:
Josh's guiding availability is visible at www.MightyMusky.com
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Late Summer Bass Fishing: ABC’s to Catching Big Bass 0
Late 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.
- Josh Stevenson
Fishing Tournaments Will Make You a Better Angler 0
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 fishing tournaments 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 fishing tournaments 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 fishing 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 during the fishing tournament, 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 fishing 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 fishing 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.
Pre-fishing 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 pre-fishing, make sure you arrive early to the fishing 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 pre-fishing in the actual fishing 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 fishing 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.
- Josh Stevenson