Cotton County, Oklahoma: The home turf of Animal Planet’s Hillbilly Handfishin’. On Sunday, Season Two of America’s favorite noodling show got started catching some giant catfish.
One of the funniest things about every episode of Hillbilly Handfishin’ is watching the guests “check in.” This time around, one pair of girls had enough beauty products to stock an entire shelf at your local drugstore—very helpful and necessary when one is planning a few days in the mud with catfish. And, a C-Pap device—possibly the first one on Hillbilly Handfishin’. But, as Tom told bunkmate Tim, “You’re gonna appreciate me putting this on.” Of course, it would have been helpful if he had also turned the light off before getting C-Papped up—Tim was in the top bunk—but, hey, gotta work out those details when one is at “summer camp,” right?
This season, partners are being split up into teams. At the end of the trip, the team with the most pounds is deemed the winner. Tom, the C-Pap guy, was picked last—he was scared of everything, so no wonder. Overall, it seemed a fair process.
It’s hard to blame Tom, however, for being scared. The whole noodling process is rather scary, after all. As Jackson said, “The water is full of surprises.” And, contestant Dusty described noodling by saying, “It’s literally like you’re being shoved into this underwater tomb.”
Yes, that sounds like a lot of fun.
But, from the reactions of the participants, it seems like, overall, it actually IS a lot of fun, if quite scary at times. Shoving one’s feet/body into an unknown hole in the water, that’s got to produce quite the adrenaline rush, considering one has no idea what might actually be in there; having a catfish latch onto one’s foot with its teeth, well, that has to get one’s blood pumping on a whole new anxiety level—it certainly did for “preacher” Tom, who, after a lot of prodding, found his courage, along with a whole slew of expletives.
“Tom, being a preacher, I guess he started speaking in tongues, because he started saying words I’d never heard,” host Skipper Bivins joked.
“I hope he hasn’t disqualified himself from ministry,” his friend Tim, also a minister, laughed.
“The way I look at it, my life was on the line, man,” Tom said, explaining what was going through his head. “I got kids, I got a beautiful wife, I’ve got a church to think of, I love them, it’s not my time yet, it’s not my time yet!”
And, he got his fish: All 21 pounds. It did, however, cost his team a 10-pound penalty, because he took so long—over an hour—messing around with his fish before catching it. And, that made friend Tim’s 2-pounder a 12-pounder in the blink of an eye.
It’s really funny, what noodling can bring out in contestants. People that one might think as they get off the bus could never catch anything—people like Tom, who, along with friend Tim, host Trent Jackson described as “the meaning of city slickers”–really dig deep and make that catch. Win? Well, as Skipper said recently in an exclusive interview with Huliq, the personal journey for some of these noodlers—discovering what they really can do when they set their minds to it—is what is really important.
Congratulations, Tom; you’re not an “outdoorsman” now, by any means, but it was easy to see that you found a courage within yourself that you did not know was there. You didn’t get a trophy, but that’s okay. “What this whole competition has taught me,” Tom concluded, “is to embrace new situations.” Good job.
Hillbilly Handfishin’ airs on Animal Planet on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. E/T.
Image: Animal Planet