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Enjoy these great insites into the life and works of Homer Humphreys

   

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Jimmy Watson: Claiborne crappie

HOMER — You turn here, you turn there, make a couple more turns and suddenly you're in what might well be the most beautiful area in Louisiana.

Although those who've seen the moss-covered plantations throughout south Louisiana might argue, it's hard to beat the rolling hills of Claiborne Parish in the area surrounding pristine Lake Claiborne. It's a night-and-day difference from the swamps of the Atchafalaya Basin, but watching a bull standing on a hillside and puffing steam out his nostrils is a memorable sight.

Lake Claiborne isn't at its best right now in much the same way other fishing venues in the area are suffering. Months of drought have taken a toll, leaving dry land where fish used to swim and stumps protruding from the parched earth. A steep ramp at Pleasure Point Marina provides one of the few launches allowing access to the lake and to the multiple species of fish that grace its depths.

Claiborne runs to 30 feet near the dam and on a recent Friday, a couple dozen boats, mostly easy-to-launch aluminum types, were scattered about with bundled anglers probing the depths for crappie, white perch or sac-a-lait or whatever you prefer to call one of the tastiest game fish to sit on your dinner table.

As Homer Humphreys pulled his BassCat within shouting distance of the dam and a respectable stretch from his nearest neighbor, we prepared to launch our lines baited with shiners.

"Drop your line to the bottom, then reel it back up two turns," said Humphreys, temporarily pulling off his Prato sunglasses.

Having just dropped my first hook into the water, I was surprised when the rod bent over while I was attempting to bait a second line. Grabbing the rod off the boat's floor, I reeled in a nice-sized crappie that I tossed into an open ice chest.

"That's a good way to start the day," said Humphreys who recently had melanoma cut out of the side of his head. We'll let you ask him about what he preferred when his dermatologist asked if he'd like a skin graft to cover the scar.

But the crappie was the first in what would turn out to be an ice chest-full-of-fish day on Claiborne. Although there were a couple of lulls, when Homer would ask if I saw anyone else reeling anything in, the catching was steady throughout the afternoon. Using his Hummingbird Electronics to locate bait fish hovering around the 28-foot mark, we continued to catch striped bass up to four pounds and large crappie when other anglers around us appeared to go empty handed.

Along the way, Humphreys talked about his decision to fish the Bassmaster Central Open trail, while eschewing the more strenuous and expensive Bassmaster Elite Series, which gives the professional angler the best chance of qualifying for the prestigious Bassmaster Classic. That 2012 event is coming to Shreveport and Bossier City Feb. 24-26 and Humphreys won't be among the 50 competitors, although he's qualified for two past Classics. He's not enamored with missing a Classic on his home waters, but more on that another day.

Humphreys is all about promotion and is one of the best in the business at keeping his sponsors at the forefront. It is, after all, businesses or product manufacturers like Minden Medical Center, Evergreen Presbyterian Ministries, Tidecraft, Synco Motors, Mercury Marine and American Rodsmiths that keep the 61-year-old angler on the water and away from the necessity of the Elite series each year.

He's currently letting his questionably handsome mug adorn a billboard on I-20 summoning visitors to Webster Parish. Maybe that's why so many folks speed by on the Interstate heading between Texas and Mississippi without stopping in one of the most unique communities in north Louisiana. If they bothered to visit the Humphreys house, just up the road from Dixie Inn's Hamburger Happiness, they'd get a mixed version of what life is like in Webster Parish.

While their home is beautifully manicured inside and out by the meticulous Lora, the winding access road must be one of the worst paved roads in America. Try drinking a cup of coffee while traversing it and you'll wind up with more on your shirt than in your stomach. Local drivers can get the same effect driving down parts of Flournoy Lucas, Leonard Road and other roadways in Shreveport and Caddo Parish.

Bad roads aside, Lake Claiborne proved that winter fishing can be productive if you are able to safely access one of the area fisheries that are in dire need of more rain. Pick a day that is cloudless and windless and you won't even notice the cold.

   
   

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jimmy Watson-The Times: Cane River bream worth the trip

 

NATCHITOCHES — It was a good hour into a steamy Monday afternoon before the big bream began biting in earnest.

But when they heated up as the thermometer pushed past 90, the Cane River delivered an experience that was memorable. A bucket of bream quickly became a 48-quart ice chest full of bluegills, redears and sun perch.

Most of the fishing public in northwest Louisiana don't realize what a gem the Cane River can be for anglers looking for productive outing usually unaffected by high winds or muddy water. The Cane River (Lake) is 32 miles of tree studded shoreline dotted on one side with cabins and trailers looking across 250 feet of water at well-manicured, $200,000-and-up homesteads.

The tributary, more popular for water skiing than its fishing, meanders around the edge of the Northwestern State campus and eventually becomes the setting for Natchitoches' annual Christmas lighting ceremony that lures thousands to the city's historic downtown district.

But stately mansions, antiquated churches and cobbled streets weren't on the menu on this Monday. Just a long stone's throw from downtown Natchitoches can be found bream beds so productive they even invoke a giggle out of a grizzled fishing veteran like 62-year-old Homer Humphreys.

Figuring on a hundred crickets per hour, Humphreys purchased 400 crickets in an effort to showcase a fishing venue he's been visiting for well over a decade. After launching at the Shell Beach Launch, located near the old Bermuda Bridge, it was just a 10-minute run toward town before Homer's first "hot spot" produced just a few mini bream.

"I've never been out here this time of day (2 p.m.), so I'm not sure if the big ones will bite," Humphreys said. "We're usually here in the mornings and have a ice chest full by 11 o'clock."

The sounds of chain saws cutting tornado-damaged trees and workers shingling slightly damaged roofs cut through the silence of this weekday afternoon. One homeowner, who walked up near where we were fishing, said the recent rough weather cost him a couple of hardwoods without affecting his sleep.

"My wife woke me up and told me a tornado was coming, but I just rolled over and went back to sleep," the man said. "I'm not too worried about the trees because we now have a better view of the water."

One thing you don't do on the Cane River is get in a hurry. A posted speed limit of 40 miles per hour is far below the capability of Humphreys' Bass Cat. But moving from spot to spot requires little more than a trolling motor anyway.

By the time we arrived at Homer's third spot, the bream in the bucket started getting bigger — significantly bigger.

"This is what we usually catch all morning," Humphreys boasted.

The fishing quickly turned from okay to a fish-per-cricket, as the larger bluegills didn't just nip at the bugs' legs, they literally took it hook, line and sinker. One hole alone produced about 50 hand-sized bream in a 45-minute span. Within the allotted four hours, 395 of the 400 crickets had been put to the test. And PETA wasn't there to protest their plight. The five survivors were turned out into the wilds of Natchitoches Parish.

Normally a backup plan for Humphreys' guiding expeditions when the Red River is high and muddy, the Cane River proved its worthiness as a first-rate bream fishery on this May day. But there are rules and regulations on the venue that must be followed including proof of completion of a boating safety course being required for all boat operators, not just those born after 1988, as is required on most Louisiana waters.

Other regulations can be found at www.caneriverwaterway.com/Rules.aspx.

 

 

 

 

   
   

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Jimmy Watson-The Times: 20 casts, 20 bass

ELM GROVE "” Actually, it was a little more like 40 casts and 40 bass along with a couple of worn out anglers.

In approximately one hour and 20 minutes Homer Humphreys and I made maybe five casts between us last Thursday afternoon when we didn't snag a sand bass. I've never been on a fishing trip when I've caught that many fish in that short a time and been so dog tired that I just quit.

But the Red River is giving up tons of the tasty little sand bass right now if you know where to find'em. Despite the 100-plus-degree temperatures, the fish were tearing up my Homer-designed lure in a remote section of Little Ninock. They can also be found in Caspiana and the mouth of most of the cuts, according to Humphreys.

"I have about 10 places where I can take people and we'll catch'em like this," Humphreys said while wiping the sweat from his brow.

It was a gloriously hot, cloudless day when we launched out of Clark's Red River Marina about 4 o'clock. We made a quick run up the river to look at a silted in area inside Caspiana where a break in the rock levee has allowed mud to build to just under the surface.

The trip to Ninock was a cool ride, but once the BassCat went off plane, the heat began hitting us in the face. Even with nothing to break a breeze, the heat was sapping ... not that there was any breeze.

My instructions were to wear a gardening glove to protect against the side fins of the sand bass. I was also warned not to hook Homer. There's nothing angrier than Humphreys with a treble hook hanging from his cheek.

While I was trying to figure out how I managed to get my hooks hung in my gardening glove, Humphreys reeled in the first modest bass. He had a second one before he started chiding me for not having my deep diving crank bait in the water. I finally freed myself from the glove, but not before I stabbed a few holes in my fingers.

My first cast with Humphreys' cheap spin-cast reel (beggars shouldn't be choosers) made it about 10 feet from the boat and didn't result in a bass.

"You need to throw it a little further," Humphreys said.

"As if," I thought.

Second cast ... bass. Third cast ... bass. Fourth cast ... bass. Fifth cast ... bass. You get the picture? The only thing that broke my string was a cast when the trail hooks on my lure were wrapped around the line on a toss that made a horrible return on top of the water.

Somewhere around cast 15 to 20, Humphreys and I threw at the same time and began reeling in unison. We set the hook within seconds of each other. When we hauled our catch into the boat there were two fish on each line.

"We work pretty well together, don't we," Humphreys said smiling.

We kept casting, kept catching and kept throwing white bass into my 48-quart cooler. We caught fish on good casts and we caught fish on bad ones.

I tore up my borrowed gardening glove and I lost the treble hooks off my diving bait three times. It takes a lot of fish to do that.

Homer stopped long enough to take a phone call from someone checking on the fishing.

"We're catching fish on every cast right now," he told the prospective customer. It was his third such call of the day and yet another fishing trip booked.

I never thought I'd say this, but after a little over an hour, I was tired of reeling in fish. I was a little over heated and I had given a pint of blood to charity the day before, so I needed hydrating. Homer was drinking out of my well, since his water was hot, so the go-juice was disappearing fast.

"You ready to call it a day," Humphreys queried.

"The ice chest is full ... you betcha," I responded.

The fish were unequally divided up between two good homes (Deb Lyles and James Carter), who should have enjoyed a taste treat, provided Deb found someone willing to clean her take.

Sand bass fishing is good on the Sabine River and on Toledo Bend we're told, along with other area venues. But if you live in the immediate Shreveport and Bossier City area, there's no reason to go further than the Red River for one heckuva good time.

   
   

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Jimmy Watson-The Times: Local anglers miss Classic field; Humphreys, Johnson must try again next year.

 

Minden's Homer Humphreys will have a prettier smile when the 2009 Bassmaster Classic rolls into Shreveport and Bossier City in February.

Not that Humphreys' smile was ever that pretty.

But rough waves on Lake Texoma in last weekend's Bassmaster Central Open, the final qualifying event on the professional trail, caused Humphreys to chip about one-fourth of his front tooth. Minden dentist Richard Campbell restored the trademark Humphreys' smile, but he couldn't help the 36-year veteran and two-time Classic qualifier make it to perhaps the only Classic to ever be held on Humphreys' home waters.

Humphreys, along with Bossier City angler Aaron Johnson were in the top five in the Central Open points standings heading into the final event. Only the top three points producers would qualify for the most prestigious event in professional bass fishing.

Humphreys brought 6.03 pounds of bass to the scales over two days, while Johnson didn't weigh a fish. They dropped to 14th and 26 respectively in the points standings.

Johnson, who was fishing the Opens for the first time, and Humphreys will now be watching the Classic, slated for their home course on the Red River out of the Red River South Marina, from the sidelines.

"The fat lady has sang," Humphreys said. "The chance to fish in a Classic in your own backyard only comes around once in a lifetime. I would love to have had the chance to take home that trophy."

For Johnson, missing the most prestigious event in professional bass fishing was disappointing, but the young angler isn't hanging his head.

"I never thought I would win an Open event or be in contention for a Classic berth when I began the season," Johnson said. "A lot of guys have been trying to do that for years, so I can't complain."

Johnson said he was doing well during practice on Texoma, but then his pattern disintegrated.

"I didn't have an effective backup plan, so I didn't have any keepers on the first day," Johnson said. "After the first day, I knew I was out of it. It would have taken a miracle for me to get back in it. Too many guys jumped by me."

Johnson said he fished more aggressively than he should have, going after big bass, rather than filling his live well first with 2-pound keepers.

"I made a go of it on the second day, fishing as hard as I could, but I knew I didn't have enough weight to make a difference," Johnson said. "I didn't even go to the weigh-in. I just packed up and came on home to spend some time with my boys."

Missing the Classic doesn't take away from an outstanding season by Johnson, one of the most consistent local anglers over the past couple of years. He won a Central Open event, captured two Reeves Marine Tournament Trail tournaments and won the Thursday Night Tournament trail championship.

"It's definitely disappointing not to make the Classic, but Jerry (Lutterman) and I had a good year," Johnson said. "I'm just trying to focus on the future ... not patting myself on the back too much for the good and not beating myself up too much for the bad."

And he definitely learned his lesson about Open fishing, where finishing high consistently in the points is more important than winning an event.

"I had never fished for points before, so that was different," he said. "I didn't give myself the opportunity to catch enough 2-pound keepers."

Humphreys also said he was doing well in practice, but knew things would be difficult on Texoma where underwater structure is tough to come by.

"I knew the history of Texoma and I played the weather, but the 20-25 mile per hour winds both days killed me," Humphreys said. "I knew that if I got by a stick, I could catch fish."

While fishing in a cove the second day, the wind knocked Humphreys' Bass Cat into some logs, bending the shaft on his trolling motor. More waves knocked out his front tooth.

"The water temperature dropped nine degrees, which was real detrimental to the fish," Humphreys said. "It was just a rough week."

Humphreys said that his wife, Lora, is glad the competition is over.

"To be doing this as long as I have and not to be able to weigh in five fish a day ... that was a reality check," Humphrey's said. "But I don't think it was anything I did wrong. I've been real close to making the Classic eight to 10 times and didn't make it. This time I beat myself out of $500,000 (the first-place check)."

Both anglers will attend the Classic, although Johnson hopes he doesn't spend his days thinking "what if."

"I'll have other things on my mind at that point, but it would have been awesome to be competing," said Johnson, who registered for the 2009 Open trail on Tuesday.

Humphreys will work the Classic for his sponsors, showing off his new tooth, while taking condolences from friends about not being one of 51 competitors.

"I'll be busy and I'll be fishing the Southern and Central Opens again," he said. "I love this sport and I love doing what I'm doing. Coming this close just makes you appreciate the wins that much more."

PULLOUT: 2009 Bassmaster Classic qualifiers
Alabama: Randy Howell; Aaron Martens; Steve Kennedy; Timmy Horton; Kotaro Kiriyama; Boyd Duckett; Kim Bain; Matt Herren; Greg Pugh. Arizona: Dean Rojas. Arkansas: Mike McClelland; Mark Davis; Scott Rook. California: Skeet Reese; Ish Monroe. Florida: Terry Scroggins; Bobby Lane; Bryan Hudgins; Shaw E. Grigsby; Peter E. Thliveros; Bernie Schultz. Kansas: Brent Chapman. Kentucky: Kevin Wirth. Louisiana: Greg Hackney. Michigan: Kevin VanDam . Missouri: Brian Snowden; Rick Clunn. New Jersey: Michael Iaconelli. North Carolina: Dustin Wilks; Dave Wolak. Ohio: Bill Lowen. Oklahoma: Edwin Evers; Kenyon Hill; Fred Roumbanis. South Carolina: Casey Ashley; Davy Hite. South Dakota: Jami Fralick. Texas: Todd Faircloth; Alton Jones; Gary Klein; Kelly Jordon; Byron Velvick; Michael Burns. Virginia: Rick Morris

Six more Classic berths will be filled Nov. 7, when the BASS Federation Nation Championship winner will be named in Junction City, Kan., and the final 2009 Classic competitor will be known Nov. 15. That person will be the winner of the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series Championship operated by American Bass Anglers.

   
   

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Jimmy Watson-The Times: A fishing odyssey with Homer to Homer; A cold day on Lake Claiborne nets meager results

HOMER "” When you're driving through Homer on Homer Road with Homer (Humphreys), you drive right by Homer Oil and Gas. Some folks might say that was being too much of a homer for one day, but this was an odyssey that was worth making.

Homer not only doesn't own Homer, he doesn't even live in the quaint town, located in the rolling hills of northwest Louisiana.

A fishing excursion into the middle of beautiful Lake Claiborne during the dead of winter with hopes of catching some white bass is for the hardiest of souls "¦ or for gullible sports writers who listen to professional anglers who sometimes talk a better game than they perform.

Not that Homer Humphreys can't catch fish. It's just that he's like most anglers, whether professional or not, who sometimes do and sometimes don't.

"We've been catching as many as 50 or 60 in a day up to five pounds," Humphreys said earlier in the week.

"Yeah, right."

Temperatures last Saturday started at 26 degrees but had warmed to a robust 32 by the time we launched from Pleasure Point Marina, a pristine site on the north side of the lake. When Humphreys throttled up his BassCat to full plane, the brunt of the cold caught us square in the face and brought tears to our eyes. I found myself praying for a short ride to the fishing hole.

With my tears now frozen to my cheeks, we finally stopped in the middle of the lake, about a hundred yards from a tightly knit group of six or seven boats loaded with anglers who were just as stupid (err"¦ gullible) as we were.

Homer began trolling in a large circle watching his depth finder for the tell-tale blips of fish lurking in the warm depths of 30-plus feet of water. After twiddling my thumbs for several boring minutes, Homer found what he was looking for and started preparing our equipment for fishing.

"We're all over a bunch of fish. You should be gettin' bit," he said.

I wasn't.

Aside from its clean, sometimes rocky banks that give way to the bases of small hills, the first thing you notice about Lake Claiborne is the lack of structure. If you were going skiing or wanted to sail a boat unencumbered by underwater stumps, Claiborne is the place for you.

But Claiborne doesn't have the kind of structure that you find on other area fisheries, like Bistineau, the Red River and Caddo Lake. Cypress trees, water hyacinths and stumps are nonexistent on the 6,800-acre lake. So finding fish requires a thorough knowledge of the lake, hidden brush piles or on-boat electronics.

Humphreys rigged our rods with heavy sinkers, 4-pound test line and a hook baited with a live minnow. One bait would be lifted two turns off the bottom, while the other would sit on the bottom, as we began trolling along a ledge that dropped quickly from 26 to 32 feet.

It didn't take long for Humphreys to reach back, set the hook and loft a small white bass into the live well. That seemed to indicate the day would be full of rocking and rolling with bass being hauled in by the dozens.

But five hours later, there were just 18 bass and crappie on board, none weighing as much as a pound. To add insult to injury, the wind was picking up, the temperature was dropping and most of our fishing neighbors had headed in for warmer climes.

"I'm ready to head in any time you are," I told Homer, who said it was up to me. Neither of us wasted much time reeling in our lines and storing the rods.

The ride back to Pleasure Point Marina was another tearful affair, but at least there was a warm light at the end of the tunnel. There were five trucks and trailers at the launch when we arrived, but just two remained.

The ride back to Homer's mansion on the hill just outside of Minden was uneventful, except for Homer inhaling my second deviled ham sandwich in about two bites.

I marked the day down to an odyssey that even the historical Homer would have written off as a day better spent indoors. But at least one local family was able to enjoy the fruits of our labor with a fried fish meal.

   
   

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Jimmy Watson-The Times: 500 crickets catch a lot of bream

ELM GROVE — Any experienced bream fisherman knows that a good afternoon's catch begins with a wire cage full of spunky crickets. And Dennis Mitchell at Clark's Marina has some of the liveliest chirpers on either side of the Red River.

When fishing guide Homer Humphreys purchased 500 crickets for our four-hour tour last week, you had to figure that it would be a successful day of fishing. And that it was, by anyone's standards.

Escorting Times photo editor Mike Silva, Humphreys had us try a bank about a hundred yards south of Clark's. But methinks that was just a ploy to make us more appreciative of finding a real bream bed a few minutes later.

This story was supposed to be about bream fishing in the spring, but with temperatures soaring to the mid-90s during the week, it felt more like midsummer fishing. The water temperature had just reached 80 degrees, however, and the bream were just starting to move onto their beds. If you think the fishing was slow, think again.

Humphryes revved the motor on his Bass Cat, covered in CenturyTel logos, and ran us upriver a few miles and into the Beehives oxbow. After maneuvering the boat through a minefield of stumps, we arrived at one of Humphreys' secondary fishing spots (he saves the really good ones for paying customers), and began baiting our hooks.

Seconds after the first tasty cricket went into the water, the first fish was hoisted into the boat. The bream, in a wide variety of colors and sizes, came in a flurry of activity over the next couple of hours.

Silva claimed he'd caught the largest fish on several occasions, and we let him think that. In truth, there were so many pan-sized, fat and sassy bream in our livewell that choosing the largest was an impossible task.

But four hours, 500 crickets and three snakes later, we had an ice chest full of bream that would provide a fine feast for the family of James Carter. Carter, who does his own fishing in the Spring Lake area when he isn't working at the Northwest Louisiana Crime Lab or cutting lawns, looked shocked at the sight of 300-plus bream. He and at least two of his sons, would spend the next several hours cleaning the fish and depositing them in their freezer.

The PETA folks might not be too happy with the death of so many crickets, but their passing did go for a good cause.

"We really appreciate this," Carter said. And we appreciated the outing.

You can book a similar successful fishing trip through Humphreys by calling (318) 371-2020.