The Louisiana Outdoor Writer’s Association held it’s annual convention this past weekend in Gonzales, hosted by the Ascension Parish Tourism Commission. Trust me, there was no shortage of stories here. And I’m absolutely sure that every one of them was true with no exaggeration or amplification of fact by any writer or broadcaster. They are all just like me. I can vouch for them. Trust me.
There was lots of fun like a reception at the historic Houma’s House (once home of the world’s largest sugar cane plantation), lunch at The Cabin, our annual business meeting and awards banquet.
There are several items that might be of interest to sportsman in our area. I have to start by “tooting the horns” of our north Louisiana contingent of writers — Glynn Harris, Terry Jones and myself. Glynn won Third Place in the Newspaper category for his story, “A Giant of a Man Has Fallen”; Terry won Third Place in the Magazine Short Feature category for “The Great Deer Comeback in Louisiana” and I captured First Place in the Electronic Media category for “A Long Standing Friend” for an article published on lakedarbonnelife.com — if you are having a slow day, you can read it here:
I’m also thankful that a photo I took won First Place in a writer’s contest to be featured as the cover photo on the LOWA website for the next year. Special thanks to the National Wild Turkey Federation, Louisiana Sportsman Magazine, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation, the Louisiana Association of Professional Biologists and the Louisiana Charter Boat Association for their sponsorship of the EIC contests.
I was pleased that Peyton McKinnie of Marion accepted my invitation to come address the group as part of our member seminar segment Saturday afternoon. Peyton talked a bit about the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame, which will soon begin an effort to include more involvement from individual states. Peyton also did a great job touting Lake D’Arbonne Country and the outdoor resources of Union Parish and our area. Peyton wears too many hats to mention here, including being past president of the Union Chamber, President of the Union Long Spurs, owner of Tiger Bend Outdoors and the latest board member for the Legends Hall of Fame.
He made a lasting impression on the group. He talked about Union Parish leading the state in deer harvests almost every year. He spoke about all the hunting and fishing opportunities in the area, including the great fishing on Lake D’Abonne.
Most of the writers in our group are from south Louisiana because of massive fresh and saltwater resources, but they were particularly interested in the crappie fishing at Lake D’Arbonne. There was a lot of interest in the big crappie on D’Arbonne and the fact that the lake is now hosting two of the biggest professional crappie trails in the country, Crappie Masters and the American Crappie Trail, which will hold its National Championship on the lake next March. After the discussion several members approached Peyton and myself about coverage of the events and even seeing if the LOWA might consider hosting it’s convention in the area in the very near future so they could come go crappie fishing.
You can’t buy that kind of positive publicity, folks.
I want to take a minute to editorialize here. I have heard that there is some question whether it is a good investment to bring these events to Lake D’Arbonne. I understand the desire to be frugal with limited funds. But lets face it, nothing — NOTHING — has ever brought media and angler attention and economic stimulus to Lake D’Arbonne in the last 50 years like these two groups. And it isn’t just about the tournament itself. Lake D’Arbonne now has visitors from all over the country all year long. And they don’t just come for one of two days. Mostly because of social media around these events and the fishermen who follow them, the lake has also developed a national reputation as a “go to” lake on a lot of crappie angler’s bucket lists. Without these events, that would have never happened. Worth repeating: You can’t buy that kind of positive publicity, folks.
Let me summarize that previous paragraph: Is the time, money and effort to bring crappie tournaments to the lake worth it? Well, definitely YES! Here’s another fact: There are lots of other places wanting them to come to their area lake. If we lose them, don’t ever expect them to come back.
But . . . Saturday the most lasting impression Peyton left was about the importance of what we, as outdoor writers, do in some people’s lives. It’s about more than telling fishing and hunting stories. It’s about featuring the people involved.
That was brought to light in a way that brought an emotional response. Peyton attended a funeral of a man who he had written a story about. At the man’s funeral, a framed copy of an article he had written sat atop the casket. Having his story shared had been so important to him that his family that it stood as a memorial at his final event on this earth.
It made such an impression that outgoing LOWA President Lyle Johnson referenced the remark several times in his “President’s Remarks” to close his tenure. Pretty awesome.
There’s lots more to report, like the LOWA Fish of the Year and the youth hunter, angler and essay winners. We’ll get to that in the coming days. Until then, be safe out there and help out your fellow sportsmen.