Let’s Take A Trip To North Louisiana
All of us like to go to new and interesting places and North Louisiana offers a potpourri of exciting things to sample. Recently I had the privilege of joining a group of outdoor writers and we sampled some of what this part of the state has to offer and I would like to take you on that journey. Hopefully you and your family can also enjoy some of these attractions.
The group of outdoor writers included Glen Harris (Ruston), Brad Wiegmann (NW Arkansas), John Flores (Patterson), Jimmy Watson (Shreveport) and me (Toledo Bend Lake). Our tour director for this Louisiana North Media Fishing FAM event was Johnny Wessler from the Shreveport area
So what is a FAM trip? Well it is a “familiarization trip or tour” offered to members of the media on behalf of an organization with the purpose of getting the public familiar with their destinations and services they have to offer. It’s a great way for area organizations to get positive publicity and for the media members to have an opportunity to write articles about new and exciting things they have experienced.
Our journey began from the newly renovated and beautiful Holiday Inn, Downtown Shreveport that is located just one block off I-20 right beside the scenic Red River. The facility includes 5,500-sq-ft of flexible meeting space, free wi-fi access, clean rooms and you will have to go a long way to find a more customer-focused group of folks than the staff at the Holiday Inn.
This Shreveport/Bossier area is a beehive of activity and offers much to do whether you are in town for business or pleasure. Attractions include the Festival Plaza, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, theatres, churches, shopping at the Louisiana Boardwalk and Pierre Bossier Mall, casinos, Louisiana Downs and a multitude of eating establishments. Keep in mind that there is an old saying in this Cajun Country: We don’t eat to live – we live to eat.
Our first day began with a hardy breakfast and then a short drive to Epic Boat Company located in Vivian, Louisiana. Steve Hutchins, Lamination Manager, gave us a tour of the facilities and explained how this beautiful line of boats is created. It is amazing how manpower intensive the task of building a boat really is.
Two types of boats are produced at the facility – bay boats and wake boats. Epic Boats founder Chris Anthony wanted to produce the absolutely best boat for wakeboarding and I believe that he has accomplished this task.
The wake boats are designed with quick-fill gates that allow water to fill a cavity in the boat which in turn allows the boat to do exactly what Anthony wanted it to do – create a huge wake behind the boat. The boat also has many bells and whistles such as a dual rudder vector steering system, collapsible tower, convenient storage compartments and an eight speaker transom audio.
The bay boat line features sleek 22SC and 25SC models that offer shallow draft, provide large casting decks and are available in multiple color options. All of the boats produced by Epic are created with a process called resin-infusion. This technology allows Epic achieve a 30% resin to 70% fiberglass ratio which creates a boat that is advertised to be lighter and stronger than any bay boat on the market today. If you are looking for quality be sure to check out Epic Boats. They are definitely a winner.
Caddo Lake is the next stop and it is the largest naturally formed lake in the South and the only natural lake in Texas. This beautiful 25,400 acre lake begins in Texas and ends in Louisiana. Caddo Lake is a photographers dream with quite coves, swampy sloughs, bayous and thousands of cypress trees, some of which are probably more than 500 years old. The lake is named after the Native Americans called Caddoans or Caddo who lived in the area and features the largest cypress forest in the world.
Billy Carter has been a licensed hunting and fishing guide for more than 35 years and probably has more knowledge of the lake than anyone in the area. Billy and his wife Dottie operate Spatterdock Inc., which includes guest houses, lake tours and guided hunting and fishing trips. Unfortunately about this time on our trip the rains began so our picture taking on this most beautiful lake was somewhat limited.
Caddo’s fishing can be outstanding with largemouth bass (lake record 16.17 pounds), yellow bass, white bass, crappie, bream and goggle eye, and catfish getting most of the attention. Carter offers a variety of accommodations for duck hunters and his personalized tours will allow you to see a wide variety of native and migrating birds. This is definitely a lake to see and Billy Carter can make your stay as comfortable and entertaining as possible.
Be sure to check out the Caddo Parish official web-site at www.caddo.org for latest info.
Lake Claiborne is just east of Homer, Louisiana and in Claiborne Parish was our next stop. This popular man-made reservoir is about 6,400 surface acres and was created by the United States Corps of Engineers in 1970. Lake Claiborne State Park, a Louisiana state maintained camping and recreation area, lies on the southern shore of the lake.We had a tour of the lake and managed to do a bit of fishing with seasoned guide Donny Hood, who I think is on a first-name basis with most of the fish in this lake. What a beautiful lake this is! In fact, I believe this is where I would move if I didn’t already live on beautiful Toledo Bend Lake
Donny Hood is referred to as “Captain D” and has extensive knowledge of the lake. His Dad had property in this area and Hood has walked this land even before the lake was formed. Largemouth bass, bluegill sunfish, black crappie, chain pickerel, bream, channel catfish, spotted bass and white bass are all in this enticing reservoir but Hood keys his fishing primarily on the hybrid striped bass.
It was a delight to be on the water with Hood because he truly loves to fish – especially for those stripers. He is also one of those rare guides that doesn’t mind sharing information with others – and that is certainly unusual in these times. He just likes to see people learn how to catch fish.
The rain was still pesky but Hood managed to get our group into about 10 hybrids, and two were caught at the same time while trolling an A-rig with small white curly-tail grubs. Most of these fish were in the pound size but the lake also has some real line stretchers. Hood mainly uses spinning tackle and trolls with either a 3/8-ounce white Worden Rooster Tail with a silver spinner or deeper diving crankbaits. But this sage guide also keeps a Storm Chug Bug handy for those times when schooling bass are feeding on the surface. And for those times when the bass go really deep he reaches for a silver jigging spoon. If you are looking for a fun day on the water with family or friends I suggest that you contact Captain D.
It’s a pleasure to dine at Port au Prince Restaurant that is right on the lake. If you like fried catfish or prime charbroiled steak – this is the place to go. (318) 927-6792. Also check out www.mainstreethomer.org for a list of upcoming events in and around Homer. Each year events such as the Main Street Art Festival, Great Louisiana Harmonica Festival, Cruising The Loop’s Reunion & Rhythm Festival and Taste of Homer draw large crowds and provide food and entertainment.
From here we go to Jimmie Davis State Park which is located on a peninsula on Caney Lake. Opened in the fall of 1996, Jimmie Davis State Park was originally named Caney Creek Lake State Park, but in 2003 was renamed in honor of two-term Governor Jimmie H. Davis. A beautiful mixture of mixed pine and hardwoods surround the lake and make this another spot that will delight photographers. The park has a playground for kids and nature trails for those that like hiking. Extremely functional and clean cabins (like the one we stayed in) are available along with lodges, camp sites, RV sites and pavilions.
Time slows down here in the piney woods, the air is clean and a watchful eye may spot a doe and her two fawns, squirrels scampering through the trees or a mother duck and her offspring gliding smoothly across the surface of a quiet cove. Its moments like this that memories are made. No honking of horns, no traffic jams or workday stress. Life is good in the woods of North Louisiana.
Breakfast the following morning was just a short distance from the state park at Brown’s Landing on the famous Caney Lake which is situated between Jonesboro and Chatham just off Hwy 4 in Jackson Parish. Jackson Parish is called the “Sunshine Parish” because of a native son Jimmie Davis who became Governor and made the song “You are My Sunshine” famous.
Caney Lake Reservoir was created in 1986 by building a dam on Caney Creek near Chatham Louisiana. If Lake Fork is the big bass champion of Texas then Caney Lake is certainly the big bass champion of Louisiana. Caney Lake’s record largemouth bass is 15.97 pounds, and sixteen of the Top 20 largest bass caught in Louisiana came from this small 5,000 acres impoundment. The deepest part of the lake is around 15- to 20 feet, but it is a lunker factory at certain times of the year, especially springtime. There are public launches at Ebenezer Landing down near the dam and an excellent launching facility right in front of the Brown’s Landing restaurant.
Donny Freeman of Jonesboro was our tour guide on Caney Lake but after about 30-minutes the rain started coming down in buckets so we headed back to the launching area. Over a warm cup of coffee, Freeman schooled our group on tips and techniques for catching some of the fish in Caney Lake.
The lake has largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, catfish, spotted bass, white bass and striped bass, but for the next few months lunker largemouth bass will be the target. Drop-shot rigs using plastic baits are frequently used, along with large plastic worms, jigs & trailers, crankbaits and artificial frogs or topwater lures fished near brush and lily pad areas. Springtime offers the best chance for a double-digit bass but big bass are brought in throughout the year.
Jackson Parish was formed in 1845 from parts of Claiborne, Ouachita, and Union Parishes. It was certainly my pleasure to meet Fannie William and Mac who do volunteer work for the Jackson Parish Tourism Board and the Chamber of Commerce. These folks would be good contacts if you are interested in activities such as the Sunshine Festival, Halloween In The Park, Chatham “Honor Our Heroes”, Jackson Parish Museum or the Christmas Parade and Lighting Display. And did you know that Jackson Parish has even appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest unbroken sidewalk in the world? The two mile sidewalk connects Jonesboro to its nearest neighbor, the village of Hodge, where world-recognized Stone Container Paper Mill is located. For more information and schedules for family-oriented events call the Jackson Parish Tourism office at 318-259-4693 or
Our next stop in the “Sunshine Parish” was mostly devoted to former governor Jimmie Davis. The Tabernacle on Beech Springs Road is the site of weddings, revivals, gospel singings and the annual Jimmie Davis Memorial Homecoming. A cemetery where Davis is buried is nearby along with his childhood home and the Peckerwood Hill Store.
The Jackson Parish Museum & Fine Arts Association offers a variety of items related to this mans life and is another very interesting place to visit.
James Houston “Jimmie” Davis
(September 11, 1899 – November 5, 2000) was a songwriter of popular songs and served as governor of Louisiana for two nonconsecutive terms from 1944 to 1948 and from 1960 to 1964. He was a popular country music and gospel singer and was inducted into six halls of fame which included Country Music, Gospel and Louisiana Music. He has state parks and bridges named after him and appeared in seven Hollywood movies. Davis was 101 years and 55 days old when the Lord took him home, which made him the longest-lived of all U.S. state governors at the time of his death. What an exciting life he had.
The final stop in our journey was supposed to have taken place at beautiful Cypress Bend Resort
on the Number 1 Ranked Bass Fishing Lake in the nation – Toledo Bend Lake. But Mother Nature had other plans and decided to unleash rain, wind and occasional lighting so that part of the trip has been delayed until a later time.
Well there you are a journey through a magical part of Louisiana that offers exciting adventures for people of all ages and the opportunities are endless. Camping, shopping, fishing or just a quiet walk in the woods … This area offers it all. I love the woods and a day spent in the beauty of Gods work offers a peaceful serenity to the soul. Make a special point to add these Northwest Louisiana sites to your bucket list of things to do in the future. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.
Good fishing and traveling – JB
Holiday Inn Downtown Shreveport
102 Lake Street
Shreveport-Bossier City Convention & Tourism Center
629 Spring Street
Shreveport, Louisiana 71101
680 South Pardue
Vivian, LA 71082
Donny Hood- Lake Claiborne
675 Harmon Loop
Homer, Louisiana 71040
Lake Claiborne State Park
225 State Park Rd.
Jimmie Davis State Park
1209 State Park Road
Chatham, LA 71226