Canada or Minnesota is generally associated with incredible fishing, but the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau near Buffalo, New York, might be the last place you would look for a world class smallmouth bass fishing area.

Guide and successful tournament fisherman Darrin Schwenbeck, of Varysburg, New York, suggested we use jerkbaits around several Lake Erie seawalls and shipwrecks in sight of Buffalo.

The city was in plain sight while we worked down a long harbor. The edges of ships that sank in heavy storms were visible. It was hard to imagine these vessels were that close to a port but didn’t make it, a tribute to the power of Lake Erie.

“Now jerk the Rogue (a longtime favorite jerkbait) once, then twice and let the line go slack,” Schwenbeck said after watching our casts. “Let the lure set for a second or two, then pick up the slack and be ready.”

I cast my cotton-candy-colored Rogue toward the corner of a barely visible shipwreck and tried his technique three times without success, then on the fourth I picked up the slack and, suddenly a big hit. I set the hook hard and hung on as the unidentified assailant dove for the rocky bottom. Line slipped off my reel as the well-set drag made high-volume protests and sharply benr my sturdy Carbon X rod.

The speed of this fish was surprising as it ran back and forth in a panicked effort to shake free of the meal that bit back. I soon landed the big fish, a fine smallmouth bass, just missing the coveted 5-pound mark by ounces. Our morning continued like this, fish after fish from 2 to 5 pounds in sight of the city.

Occasionally a good-sized yellow perch would engulf the jerkbait. The fish were gorging for winter.

“The fish bite like this in the spring, too,” Schwenbeck said. “We have plenty of quality fish and they have a strong pull in this cold water.”

We caught several more 5-pound smallmouth bass before returning to shore. The bite was incredible and sleep would be difficult knowing we would return to do this the following morning.

Next morning my longtime friend, Brook Droese, marketing administrator for Frabill Outdoor Gear, and I met Captain Jeff Draper, fishing guide from Grand Island, New York, to try a different technique for Lake Erie “smallies.” The fishing trip started when the veteran guide pulled up to a sea wall, dipped in his long-handled net and brought out 200 to 300 emerald shiners.

I had never seen bait caught so easily and immediately realized why the fishery was world class. Big, healthy fish start with a good forage base. Lake Erie predators had all they could possibly eat.

Draper rigged two hooks on each line with a torpedo-shaped sliding sinker designed to go over big rocks while the shiners were suspended a foot or two above the bottom. The minnows would be captive in a lake where being a small fish likely meant a short life.

Droese dropped her rigging down and was quickly rewarded by a firm strike. She set the hook on a good smallmouth bass that made several fine runs before sliding into the net for pictures and a quick release. The smallmouth bass patrolled the rocky bottom in search of shiners or crawfish. The suspended baits made a tempting target.

Later in the morning we dropped our baits beside a long, concrete wave barrier, where several hundred arctic terns were nesting. The birds flew off their elevated perch in protest of our very presence in their sacred nesting place. This delicate bird with an intimidating sharp bill flies 10,000 miles in the fall to spend the northern winter months at the edge of Antarctica. Several hundred flying a few feet over your head can be an intimidating sight.

I was watching the birds fly when a solid “thump” made my sturdy spinning rod double. I quickly lifted the rod to set the hook into the jaw of a good smallmouth bass.

I noticed Droese lifting her rod about the same instant and we were both fighting good fish, our first double of the day. Both runaway torpedoes burned up a lot of energy with slashing runs and dives that almost pulled the rods from our hands. But even well-fed bass run out of energy. Soon both bass gave in and we paused for a quick picture of the 5-pounders.

The three-day trip ended too soon with more than 200 big smallmouth bass, a big yellow perch and a northern pike caught and released – and all in plain view of downtown Buffalo. Remarkably we were a short drive from Lake Ontario, where big lake trout and salmon are caught, and the Niagara River for big lake trout and trophy smallmouth bass.

Want to add this amazing fishing opportunity to your bucket list? You can call for more information from the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, call 716-357-4569 or check their website at www.chautauquacountyvisitorsbureau.com.

– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at kieserkenneth@gmail.com.