It has now been a week, and while I feel blessed to have it over and done with, I am of the opinion that any surgery is the pits at best. It now appears that I will begrudgingly spend the remainder of the month on the injured reserve list, but I will fill that time helping Santa and reconditioning tackle in expectation of a big year in 2010.

For the few folks that knew that Dec. 7 would mark the end of my fishing for 2009, I appreciate every single prayer. The surgery went very well and it is hopefully just a matter of healing up and not over doing it. The latter will be next to impossible for me, but my wife is keeping tight reins on her investment!

Every good fishing report that I receive from the folks that I fish with when not guiding is eagerly anticipated, but also dangerously tantalizing as I patiently mark the days off the calendar. Each change of seasons affords a different fishing opportunity and I hate missing even one of those late evening stops on the river in hopes of battling a bullying striper. Depending on the severity of the winter, that bonus action can be very short lived.

Water clarity in the river is an asset when targeting stripers, but surface temperature is even more important. The very best days I have experienced all took place when the water temperature was between fifty-two and sixty-three degrees. They love the colder water and will chase bait to the top like it was the end of summer.

I also rue missing out on any opportunity to probe the shallow flats for arm length trout. It will still be going on in January and February, but once again my logs show that December is not a good month to stow away the gear if you are serious about catching a career best!

No one does a better job of stalking big trout on Sabine in December than Johnny Cormier and he has already enjoyed several great days. At least a portion of his success lies in the fact that he will fish on days not fit for man or beast and he is relentless once he is on the water. As you would expect, he grinds through a lot of fishless days, but every hit is a home run when his persistence is rewarded.

A winter option that we have both availed ourselves of for several years is alternating trips between Big lake and Sabine Lake. The same lures work and both bodies of water yield huge trout, but they fish very differently. Big Lake’s salinity level recovers faster after heavy rains and there is far more shell to target over there than here on Sabine.

Assorting and inventorying tackle is a task that is never ending, especially when you are providing gear for three other people most every trip. There are always hooks to change and plastics to separate, but I am shocked at the number of fishermen that take their rod and reel for granted. Rinsing them off at the end of each trip certainly helps, but you need to take them completely down at least once a year.

The No. 1 rod-related problem that shows up time and again with clients that bring their own rod is damaged or even missing guides.

The ceramic inserts on the eyelets crack and eat both braided and monofilament line and in many cases are no longer even in the wire frame. Tips are usually the first to go, but the smaller eyes are equally susceptible to abuse.

I take care of the majority of my own work, but the folks over at R-1 Bass have almost always had anything I needed in stock and they do a great job with repairs as well. Gene Locke and I ran over to Groves last week and visited with Terry Brickerd who has recently re-opened what used to be Gus’s Tackle on 39th Street.
He has some tackle, but rod and reel repair is his specialty and he too has a lot of parts on hand. He said that turn-around time was usually less than two days and that he takes every reel down to the last washer, cleans and oils it for less than $20. That is a small price to pay each year to maintain a $200-$300 investment!

This is a good time to strip all of the old line off your reels and at least reverse braided line on the spool. I think it is far too expensive to not take advantage of the 50 to 75 yards of unused braid that seldom sees the light of day. I can assure you that it will still be in great shape and will get you through the next several months before having to replace it.

One more tip before I attack my next box of well used Catch V’s. I have not found anything better than Bon Ami cleaning powder for cleaning everything from soft plastic tails to your favorite topwaters. I remove the hooks and leave the split rings in place before wiping the lure down with a moist rag and the powder. Dry them thoroughly after rinsing them off and you will be pleased with the results!