I ordinarily leave my "as big as they grow" comment to the last paragraph of this monthly column. However, this month I just can't help myself. I've got to tell you about two of the very best days I've ever had catching 'em as big as they grow.

As you can understand, my deadline date for turning in each month's crappie column is the first of the month - that's the first of the month preceding the issue date. So this January 2010 column is being written on Thanksgiving Day.

The turkey is on the Big Green Egg. I'll check on it in six hours. So in the meantime, let me tell you about two magical days on Barnett Reservoir - yesterday and the day before. I took the two days before Thanksgiving to try my luck on the fall-pattern crappie on Barnett. And, man, am I glad I did!

I started out trying to long-line jigs in the Long Lake area of the Rez. No luck, not even a bite. So I moved to the S-curve, trying my long-lining skills again. No luck - so on to the Highway 43 bridge area. I started to break out my 8-foot jig poles forsaking this long-lining tactic. After my first two stops, I figured I just didn't know how to long-line jigs yet.

But I do know how to pull crank baits, and I had some new "secret" cranks with me. Now let me tell you, I've had "experts" tell me that crappie don't chase cranks when the surface temperature goes below 60 degrees. I was told just a few days ago that it was too late in the year to crank for crappie.

Wrong!!! The surface temperature was 54 degrees. The water color was moderately stained. The skies were overcast that first morning. I tied on four "secret" baits that I had painted with some "secret" paint potion, and found the edge of the main river channel. Immediately, I started catching really nice slabs trolling these deep-diving baits at 1.6 m.p.h. behind my boat.

The first couple of fish actually startled me when they violently rattled my back deck rod rack. BAM!

This was my first long-lining trip after replacing the monofilament with braid on all my long-lining poles, and, brother, let me tell you, when a slab slams a fast-moving crankbait, that braid just amplifies the effect. What a treat!

I caught well over the one-man limit both days. And I had witnesses. In fact, these were the kind of days where other fishermen stopped fishing and just became spectators. All who watched marveled at my success. I heard some of them mumbling to themselves or to their partners, "There he goes again. Look, he's got four fish on at the same time."

I kept retracing my path, eventually narrowing my trolling track to a couple of sweet spots that were holding the largest fish. So, that repetitive route between these two spots put me going back and forth in front of the same witnesses over and over. Some began to ask for advice or were just curious about my crankbait technique.

One of the witnesses on day one was fellow MCC member Sid Steen of Kosciusko, who was doing the same thing I was - pulling crankbaits. Steen hadn't heard the "it's too late for cranks" advice from the pros, and when I told him about it, he just laughed.

"Don't tell 'em any different, Paul," he said. "Maybe they won't get them Bandits out until next summer."

Steen, fishing with a buddy, told me he caught the two-man limit (60 crappie) just before he rolled up his long-lining poles and headed to the boat ramp.

Other witnesses were a couple of game wardens - young fellas, new to me, checking licenses, boat registrations and such. They just waved at me as they went by on Tuesday, slowing way down to watch me battle fish on three different poles at once. But they were back on Wednesday, and when they spotted me again, here they came - straight to me.

"Mr. Johnson," the young man asked as he checked my license, "what are you doing? We noticed you yesterday on the other side of the bridge, and you were wearing 'em out! But we have no idea what you're fishing with back here on the end of your boat."

I showed them my catch, my gear, my new auto-pilot trolling motor, even my secret crankbaits. They were impressed, and they told me so. In fact, they asked several questions - details, you know - about the kind of crankbaits I was using.

After such a banner day on Tuesday, I decided to try it again on Wednesday. Problem was, I figured, the cold front had cleared out the overcast from the day before, and the blue-bird day would make the bite tough - especially for a fast moving crank bait.

Wrong again!!!

In fact the first slab hit my first pole before I could get the second rod in place. I knew it was going to be another sweeeet day.

Some of the same folks were under and around the Highway 43 bridge, and they had seen me put on a show on Tuesday. On Wednesday, they just couldn't stand it any longer, and as I started the show again, they moved from under the bridge right out into my trolling lanes, making it impossible for me to hit my sweet spots.

So I just moved south of the bridge, leaving them to the crowded conditions on the north side of the bridge. That's where I ran into another MCC member, Bo Hudson of Madison.

Hudson was on a similar pattern, except Hudson was long-lining jigs. He knows how to slow-troll long-lining jigs. I don't. We swapped advice, stories and mutual respect for one another's fish-catching abilities.

Hudson said to me as he reeled in one after another, "Paul, you know they say it's too late in the year to be doing this, don't you?"

"Yep. That's what I hear."