It is an annual ritual of necessity that briefly rekindles memories of fishing trips throughout the past year, some very good and some not so good, but days on the water nonetheless. It starts with removing the Day Planner calendar from the previous year and inserting a new one. The client phone directory is the only carry over from year to year.

The second chore involves wading my way through the names and dates scribbled on a larger calendar covering a significant portion of my desk top. Each page is littered with everything from neatly written names, phone numbers and meeting times to arrows pointing to any blank space large enough to jot down a phone number in haste.

Not surprisingly, a number of the days are marked “canceled” with a new booking squeezed in the remaining space. Recounting the actual trips, however, is really only a by-product of the process. The main reason for the careful purging is to not overlook those phone numbers that may have been last minute bookings and eluded the permanent client directory.

The most overwhelming task involves rounding up receipts from the past year for everything from gas to sunscreen and consolidating them before they find their way into this year’s collection. Faced with book keeping chores at tax time, my wife would contend that consolidation is a little too generous in describing my filing skills. She more pointedly describes it as having piled all of my crap in one empty drawer!

While I never consider the year completely gone and done until the NFL crowns its champion on Super Bowl Sunday, everything else started over for me Monday morning and that includes fishing. Because the spawn is not as significant an issue in saltwater as it is in fresh water, there is really no designated starting and ending period for most saltwater anglers.

For the average bay fishermen this is just a time of the year when they slow down strictly due to inclement weather conditions. The most determined of that miniscule group, however, take no breaks. They simply dedicate their allotted fishing time to the pursuit of trophy trout, add another layer of clothing under their waders, and grind their way through January and February and into the warmer days of early March.

Traditionally, the impoundment bass fishermen impatiently make do by focusing their attention on cold weather crappie and yellow bass suspended at depths seldom fished any other time of the year. While the crappie fishermen will often resort to lowering a live minnow directly over the side of the boat, the spoon or lead tail-spinner is the choice of the yellow bass fishermen.

Vertical jigging is the standard technique and interpreting your chart or fish finder is the most important part of the process. Once the tightly bunched schools of fish are located it can result in non-stop catching for long periods of time. The easy bite is the calling card, but the possibility of catching everything from a 20 pound striper to a double digit large-mouth makes this technique more palatable for even the most dedicated bass fishermen.

Unless flooding of epic proportions takes place above both Rayburn and Toledo Bend this month, I think we are looking at a very frustrating spawn and it won’t be because the exceptionally low lake levels make it difficult on the fish. It will be more of a case of the fishermen being unable to get to the fish!

Launching is a major problem on both lakes that is currently affecting even lakefront home owners on Toledo Bend. If you cannot safely get to the fish the most anticipated bite of the year will become a spectator event for many.

The irony lies in the fact that with less water and less submerged vegetation the number of staging spots leading to shallow water has been greatly reduced. That in turn translates to less time spent hunting and more catching for anglers that are able to target the reduced number of key spots.

Bass fishermen introduced most of the south to catch and release and it may have never been as important as it will be for those anglers able to get on the water this year. The largest of the female bass will be even more tightly bunched and the bite of a lifetime could be remembered as the slaughter of a lifetime if excessive numbers are harvested simply because they are so vulnerable.

Depending on the severity of the weather, the larger percentage of both freshwater and saltwater anglers will bide their time inventorying and refurbishing tackle, maintaining a winterized boat and attending Boat shows from Houston to New Orleans. The Houston Boat Show kicks off this Friday and runs through Jan. 16.

Well, I’ve worked my way through April on the calendar at this point, but I have a blurred phone number that looks more like a zip code to interpret before officially putting 2010 to rest. Hopefully we will be blessed with unseasonably warm weather and just the right amount of rain the remainder of the month. I have never been much on Plan B’s anyway!