Fish On! Bass Fishing after ICE-OUT on Lake Erie

  • Rust-free Jigheads w/Flambeau Outdoors Tackle Storage w/Zerust® Dividers
  • Abu-Garcia Veritas Rods, SX30 Reels, 8# Seaguar AbrazX clear fluorocarbon line
  • Strike King Tubes and Paddle Baits (Green Pumpkin)
  • Safety First! Wear Life Jackets, the Water Temp was 36 degrees
  • Eastern Basin Lake Erie EARLY SEASON SECRET: 3-Way Rigs, Long Leaders, Live Golden Shiners
Charlie Puckett (left) and Captain Terry Jones share the fun of catching that first fish of the year on Lake Erie near Buffalo, NY – the water temp was 36!

By Forrest Fisher

My alarm went off at 6AM, the coffee pot came to life, my gear was ready at the door to move to the truck and it was just then that I looked out there. SNOW?! What?! Can’t be, I thought, but sure enough, the white stuff coated my semi-new truck and made it really glisten. Santa would be proud. I just smiled to myself and said, “It’s ok, I’m going fishing with friends today.”

For the record, spring is here! You know it, I know it, we all know it. So this past weekend on Sunday, I contacted on old friend that is a bass fishing guide on Lake Erie and a new friend who works for Flambeau Outdoors – the tackle box storage company that never fails. We decided to wet a line in Lake Erie where ice-out happened just days ago.

Captain Terry Jones from First-Class Bass Fishing Charters asked us to meet at Anchor Marine boat launch on Grand Island at 9AM, so Charlie Puckett and I did just that. Terry hollered over, “I’ve got plenty of gear guys, just bring the coffee and hop in, got golden shiner live bait too, we’re good to go.” Don’t know about you, but anytime the moment of truth arrives, you know, that a fishing day plan is going to happen for certain, my heartbeat quickens a bit. It’s exciting! Especially when you head out to fish for giant springtime Lake Erie smallmouth bass in a brand new Lund 1875 Impact boat package, complete with a Motor Guide Xi5 electric bow motor and two Lowrance Elite sonar units that can spot fish to give us a little confidence that we might catch a few.

Motorguide electric bow motor, Mercury 4-stroke main engine, Lowranace electronics, Abu-Garcia rods and reels, Seaguar line…NICE.

Of course, Mother Nature was doing her best to remind us who is boss after every sunrise. The water temperature had dropped to 36 overnight, the wind was wavering between 5 and 15 mph from the west-northwest, the waves were growing. Not sure why we were all still smiling with wet raingear on after reaching the rocky shoal about 6 miles above the Peace Bridge.

The 4-stroke 150HP Mercury was purring along so sweetly to move us around on the shoal, we couldn’t even hear it. After 45 minutes, Captain Terry said, “OK, let’s go to another spot where we might find some active fish and the wind might be quieter.” I was thinking that’s exactly what other great smallmouth bass anglers like VanDam, McClelland, Hartman and my father – who loved to fish for smallmouth, might suggest too. One thing for sure, we would not be working topwater baits!

We headed for a rock pile near Woodlawn Bar, not far from the shoreline windmill farm near the old Bethlehem Steel plant in Lackawanna, New York. A few minutes later, we switched lures to Strike King tube jig tails (green pumpkin color) with Captain Terry’s custom (home-made) football jig heads inserted, all coated with a dash of his secret smell attractant, and we let our lines down to drift and jig in 33 to 38 feet of water. 

Flambeau tackle box storage divider systems are now coated with Zerust® to help prevent or minimize rusty hooks. It helps to keep your hooks razor sharp.

As we did that, with Captain Terry’s tackle box open and about 100 jig heads in all sizes looking at us, Charlie shared the latest about the new Flambeau tackle box divider packs. He said, “Yep, these are the best, our storage box divider systems are now coated with Zerust®, a patented, infused plastics technology that emits an odorless, harmless vapor in the container area of your storable latch-down tackle box. It provides rust and corrosion protection. No more rusty hooks!” You can check it out at The new gear today, like these dividers, do help anglers “be better out there.” The new stuff never ceases to amaze me.

My 7’-0” Abu-Garcia Veritas rod and Abu SX-30 reel with 8-pound Seaguar AbrazX clear fluorocarbon line was working perfectly. It was throbbing every now and then, my trailing jig tail was navigating the rocks and bottom rubble, hopping, dragging along, moving slowly, and acting attractive and vulnerable.  As I was concentrating on the highly visible white rod tip…so easy to see from inside the boat, Captain Terry hollered, “FISH!”

The lone line we had trailing with a 3-way rig and a golden shiner lip-hooked from a size 1 Mustad circle hook suddenly bent clear down to the water. Charlie grabbed the rod and the first fish fight of the day was on. A few minutes later, we slid the net under the 4.6 pound female that was still hard with eggs. The 20-inch fish was also waiting for spring weather. One or two pictures later, we carefully released this healthy bass back to the depths to live another day.

The perfectly-sized golden shiners came from Tony Scime’s Tackle Shop (716-444-1704) in the heart of the Upper Niagara River fishing district on Niagara Street in Buffalo, New York.  A good place for anglers fishing the FLW Costa Bass Fishing Tournament out of Buffalo to pick up Strike King jigs, tails, tackle, supplies and the hottest baits at the time.  The summer tournament is set for July 26 – 28, 2018, ( 

We tested the Lake Erie Buffalo Harbor waters near the south gap, the middle gap and near Motor Island in the Upper Niagara River before realizing it was already 3PM. How did that happen? When you’re having fun with friends, time flies.

Dressed for warmth, Charlie Pukett and Captain Terry Jones cross under the Peace Bridge that connects Buffalo, NY with Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, as the current rushes by at up to 18 mph.

The Lowrance sonar showed us that fish were present, but they were sluggish and the water color was not the best. It didn’t matter, we were enjoying conversation, fresh air and outdoor camaraderie.

All of us had spring things to do, like everyone, but this day was simply the best way to kick off the Lake Erie fishing year. If you want to do the same, give Captain Terry a call at 716-875-4946 or look him up at

Imagine that sound, “Fish On!”

Be sure to dress in layers to stay warm right after ice-out on the big water lakes, but GO GET ‘EM!