2011 LOWA Annual Conference in Houma

General Motors, 2011 Annual Conference Sponsor

The sights and sounds of South Louisiana were all around, as LOWA took the 2011 Annual Conference  to Houma, Louisiana.  Special thanks to our 2011 Annual Conference Sponsor, General Motors, and their representative, Craig Eppling, who we were able to welcome and thank at our Awards Banquet this year.

On Thursday evening, several members who were going to be fishing met up at the Quality Inn and then headed out to local eatery, Griffin’s Po-Boys and Grill, for an informal dinner.

Early on Friday, several of the members headed out for a day of redfish fishing with Captain Bill Lake of Bayou Guide Service in Dularge.  Twelve members split up with Captain Bill and three other captains, George Landry, Travis Lovell and Ricky Brondum, for a great day of bullred fishing.  All four boats caught many bull reds with several topping 30 pounds. After the redfish bite turned off, the boats headed further down the beach and found some hungry trout.  If you want to experience south Louisiana fishing at its finest, with the best guides in the area, you need to book a trip with Bayou Guide service.

The members returned to the Quality Inn for the first seminar of the conference presented by John Balance, the Photo Department Manager for The Advocate.  John gave a great presentation showing the members how to capture print quality stills from video clips.  A great question and answer session followed where the members were able to “pick John’s brain” on a wide variety of photo and video topics.

Next up on Friday was a reception hosted by the Houma CVB to welcome the LOWA Conference to town.  Angela Morehead and the other members of the Houma CVB staff put on a great party with wonderful food prepared by the Quality Inn banquet staff and music by the local Cajun band Treater.  Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet stopped by to thank and welcome LOWA members to Houma.

Supporting Member Liaison, Gerald Gaspard with Pure Fishing set up a great display to showcase and discuss new products (and some old favorites!) from the Pure Fishing family of brands.   Also, Louisiana Fish Fry products were abundant for all to share!

It’s not the first time there’s been dancing at a LOWA conference, but it’s probably the MOST dancing that’s ever happened at a LOWA conference!  From Joe Macaluso and Gary Rispone sporting dueling washboards, to new member Steve McNemar serenading the crowd as Hank Sr., to the girls taking over the mic, and finally a very wooly bully version of “Wooly Bully” by the guys . . .  a fun time was had by all!

The evening was capped off in the hospitality suite with everyone, uh I mean Ada Bruhl, agreeing that we need a band EVERY YEAR!

Early on Saturday morning, the members met for a complimentary breakfast at the hotel and then it was off to the Southern Shooting Center in Thibodaux for some skeet shooting and Louisiana Fish Fry jambalaya cooking (and eating).

LOWA visited Southern Shooting Center in 2008 while in Morgan City.  They had just been struck by the effects of Hurricane Gustave.  It was great to see that they have recovered nicely from the storm.  However, some things never change and sometimes that’s a good thing!  Owner Rickie Pellegrin is still a great character and even better host!  Shooting day was a hit!

Once the shooting was finished, the members traveled back to the Quality Inn for two more seminars.  The first was presented by Chris Macaluso of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation.  Chris spoke about the National Wildlife Federation’s “Vanishing Paradise” program.  This great initiative is gaining a lot of national support and really helping to focus the country on the need to save our Louisiana wetlands.  The presentation was very informative.

Next up was Mike Woods, LDWF Director of Inland Fisheries and  Harry Banchett, LDWF Director of Marine Fisheries.  Mike and Harry gave the members a thorough update of the state of Louisiana fisheries and the status of some new programs.  Having direct access to these Department biologists is extremely helpful to our members when trying to get facts and quotes for a story.  We sincerely appreciate them taking their time to present these informative seminars to our members.

After these three informative speakers, the members convened to the General Membership Meeting to discuss LOWA business.

While the members were busy with shooting, seminars and the annual meeting, the spouses joined Angela Morehead of the Houma CVB in the DELUXE mini bus to travel to the dock for a swamp tour with Captain “Black” Guidry.  Captain Black not only treated the spouses and a couple of the members to a great swamp tour, he also serenaded the group and played the guitar and homemade accordion.  The day was capped off with a great lunch at the Bayou Delight café.

Saturday night at the LOWA Annual Conference means Banquet and Awards time!  The banquet was opened with an entertaining speech by Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne.  We sincerely thank the Lt. Governor for taking the time from his very busy schedule to attend our banquet.  After an invocation by LOWA president, Lyle Johnson, the members and LOWA guests enjoyed a delicious dinner.

The first award of the evening was Fish of the Year (FOY). This year, awards were given for both the Rod and Reel and Fly Fishing categories.  First up was Corey Crochet who received the FOY in the Rod and Reel category for his 6.81 pound White Bass.  Not only is Corey’s big fish number one in the Louisiana records, it has also been certified as an IGFA World Record!  Corey gave a great talk with all the details of his impressive catch.

Next up was Bennet deBoisblanc who captured the FOY award in the Fly Fishing category for his 8.17 pound sheepshead.  Sheepshead are very difficult to catch on a flyrod, much less one the size of this brute.  Ben’s fish is also a number one in the Louisiana state records.  Ben also gave a great talk with all the details of his record catch.

A nice touch this year was that both FOY winners had their fish mounted and had them at the banquet for all to admire.

Next up was the presentation of the Youth Hunter Awards.  YHA Chairman, Dave Moreland, kicked off the presentation by introducing Larry Reynolds, Waterfowl Study Leader with the LDWF.  Larry presented Ben Broussard with his 2010 Male Youth Hunter of the Year Award.  Ben stole the show with his hilarious recounting of all the details of the hunt where he took his first duck.  Ben is the first duck hunter ever selected for a Youth Hunter award.

The 2010 Female Youth Hunter of the Year Award was presented to Megan Boles of Pineville.  Megan recounted the hunt with her father where she took a nice buck with a muzzle-loader, her first with such weapon.

Next up was the presentation of the Youth Journalism awards.  YJC Chairman Gordon Hutchinson was joined by Ron and Jackie Bartels representing YJC sponsor Louisiana Chapter of Safari Clubs International (SCI) to present the awards.  Seven of the 13 YJC winners were present to accept their awards.  As always, applause was thunderous and the flashes from the cameras were blinding!

Once the youth awards were all presented, it was time for the adults to join in the fun!  Excellence in Craft Chairman, Bo Boehringer, took to the podium to introduce all the category sponsors and present the awards to the LOWA members.  The EIC award recipients represent the “best of the best” in LOWA and earn the awards for their outstanding work as outdoor communicators.

The raffle topped off the night and was enjoyed by one and all.  Prize master Joe Macaluso sold tickets during the banquet and awards ceremony.  As in years past, we had two guns (thanks to Marlin and CVA), as well as a great camping package from Coleman, Pure Fishing stepped up as usual with some great rods, reels, and great fishing accessories.  The prize tables were full with tons of great items donated by many generous supporters of LOWA.  The Louisiana-shaped gift baskets donated by Louisiana Fish Fry were a big hit, as usual!  Youth Hunter Award Winner, Ben Broussard, helped to distribute the prizes.

As usual, the members retired to the hospitality suite for a final chance to catch up with old friends and to bid each other farewell.  Even the “real” Glynn Harris made an appearance this year!

We can’t say enough about the hospitality that was shown to LOWA by the City of Houma!   Angela Morehead and members of the Houma CVB went over the top to give LOWA members a great 2011 Annual Conference.  The staff at the Quality Hotel did a great job welcoming our members and making them feel at home.  Thanks to our Supporting Members and all others who contributed to LOWA to make our conference a huge success.

Several LOWA members lent a hand to help make the conference a great time for all. Special thanks to Joe and Cheryl Macaluso for their usual assistance in making the conference a success.