Can you believe it? With December, we're reading the last chapter in the 2010 book.

It's funny that we haven't decided what to call it exactly. You know we had no problem saying, "It was in December Oh-nine" or "Oh-eight" or, further back, "in December of '99." Yet, saying, "The Gulf oil spill was terrible in one-oh" or, even, "The fish didn't bite in the summer of '10" just doesn't come out right, does it?

Let's re-cap "one-oh," fishing-wise. We went from high-water conditions the first half of the year to extreme statewide drought conditions in late summer and fall.

My home lake, the Barnett Reservoir, was "filled to the brim" until after the 4th of July. Then, as late summer and fall came on, it went dry, bone dry, everywhere in Mississippi, and Barnett and every other lake's water level dropped faster than we could keep up with it.

Nonetheless, 2010 produced some fishing success. Here's what happened to the fishing that I know about. My Mississippi River buddies say the 10 months of "high water" before the drought re-stocked those old oxbows like Chotard/Albermarle, Lake Lee, Lake Ferguson, Old River and Tunica.

Currently, the fishing has never been better.

I had one of the best Mays ever on Barnett. Usually, the month of May is my absolute worst month of the year. But this past May I did nothing but pull crankbaits on The Rez. New friend Jack Mitchell of Ridgeland and I burned 'em up, getting ready for the Magnolia Crappie State Championship, in which I'm proud to report that, fishing by myself, pulling crankbaits, I finished in third place.

I know that crappie bit like crazy all summer long at Wolf Lake. Another new friend and crankbait rookie, Cal Lucas of Brandon, learned on his own with some limited advice and encouragement from me to pull cranks on Wolf.

Cal's small flat-bottomed bay boat is no good on big bodies of water with any kind of wind or chop.

"Where can I go to get out of the wind and waves?" Cal asked early in the summer.

"Ever been to Wolf Lake?"


"If you want to learn how to catch crappie trolling crankbaits and you need to get out of the wind and waves, go to Wolf," was my recommendation.

"Why?" Jack asked.

"Wolf is long and skinny and really, really crooked. If the wind bothers you in one area on Wolf, just go around the next curve, and you'll be in slick water, and the crappie are right out in the middle chasing shad. They're everywhere!"

Cal took my advice, and after only a couple of trial runs, he was calling me practically every day bragging on his catches and giving me advice, which I appreciated.

You see, I had no idea the fish were actually "burning it up" when I sent Cal that way the first time. And my last crank bait trip on Wolf had not been successful, but I didn't tell ol' Cal that. So I was overjoyed, naturally, when Cal found success, and I came out sounding like I knew what I was talking about.

I was able to brag to you last month about the great success MCC realized with our first-ever Big Mama Open held in September on Grenada. We pulled off this huge event like we had been doing this for a long time, and the best part is that we have new members fishing our regular tournaments right now because of it.

In fact, "one-aught" served up another first for MCC in October, and one of my most enjoyable tournaments ever. For the first time ever, MCC held a tournament on Arkabutla Reservoir - that's up north, close to Memphis, for you South Mississippi folks.

As MCC gained new members from North Mississippi, we committed to trying Arkabutla at least one time. Oh, you can imagine the fussing from some of our South Mississippi members when it officially hit the 2010-11 tournament schedule - I never heard such moaning and groaning. Some of them refused to attend.

Still, Arkabutla, our first stop on the new season's tournament trail, brought 38 teams to the registration table that Saturday morning. Thirty-eight's a good number for us. And half the folks were brand-new members! I've never seen that many new members show up at one of our regular tournaments in 19 years.

My tournament partner this year is Jim McKay, who has been a fishing buddy of mine for the last 15 to 20 years. We've fished together a lot, but never in a tournament setting.

Problem with finding the right tournament partner is that only one guy can be captain and the other guy has to be the deckhand. For those of you who don't personally know McKay or me, let me just say that neither of us makes a very good deckhand.

We're both hard-headed, and we both think we know what we're doing, and we both think we know how to catch fish. And Jim will argue with a compass and a GPS system.

But, on the positive side, because Jim and I share some of the same dysfunctional personality traits and communications styles ( that's a nice way of saying we're both you-know-whats), we get along just swell.

Anyway, up at Arkabutla, ol' Jim and I rolled into Hernando early, real early, on Thursday morning. Neither of us had ever seen Arkabutla. We found our way to JR's bait shop, and proceeded to get a lesson on catch the big 'uns at Arkabutla.

Man in the chair outside the front door of the bait shop says, "You fellers in that fishing tournament Saturday?"

"Yes, sir."

The elderly crappie-wise looking gent continued, "What's that there on the back of your boat? That one of them racks for pulling crankbaits? Y'all can forget that. And y'all can forget everything you've heard about 'em being shallow. Forget the shallows, go deep. Fish with the biggest minners you can find in the deep water."

"How deep, sir? Which way to the lake? Where do we put in? Got any big minnows left?"

So what'd ol' hard-headed Jim and Paul do once we found the lake and the boat ramp? We pulled crankbaits in deep water - for two whole days. We caught three on Thursday and two on Friday.

Then, finally late Friday afternoon, I said to Jim, "Wonder if all those boats close to the bank are catching anything?"

"Paul, that water ain't 3 feet deep. You know damn well they're not."

But we eased that way anyway, and when we got in about 5 feet of water, we caught a couple - the biggest fish we'd seen in two days. Then we saw everyone around us catching fish. I looked at the depth sounder, and it showed we were in 3 to 3.5 feet.

Hurriedly, we grabbed a couple of minnow poles and bam, bam, we learned in 10 minutes what we'd been trying to learn for two days.

Although we hadn't used but a couple of minnows those first two days, we headed back to the bait store. Partially to find that "local expert" and tell him a thing or two, but, mostly, to make sure they still had plenty of big minnows for Saturday's tournament.

We didn't finish in the money, but we had a whole lot of fun on Saturday catching 'em as big as they grow in water so shallow my trolling motor was kicking up mud.

Arkabutla, we're coming back - I gua-ran-tee it.