Stars of 'Hillbilly Handfishin'' make appearance at Tulsa Boat, Sport and Travel Show
BY DAVID HARPER World Staff Writer
Saturday, February 02, 2013
Skipper Bivins and Trent Jackson catch fish with their hands. You could also say they caught lightning in a bottle.
The two Oklahoma men have been thrusting their hands into crevices beneath the surface of the state’s lakes since they were children to engage in “noodling.” In recent years, their participation in the sport has thrust them into the national spotlight.
On Saturday, the stars of Animal Planet’s “Hillbilly Handfishin’” were at the Tulsa Boat, Sport & Travel Show at Expo Square to meet their fans and reflect on their unlikely ascent to stardom.
“We’re just country folks who know how to have fun,” said Bivins, who like Jackson, hails from Cotton County in southern Oklahoma.
Jackson said the two became friends about 20 years ago when Bivins pitched in to help Jackson avoid losing hay to approaching floodwaters. They soon discovered their shared interest in noodling, a sport in which large catfish are wrestled out of the water by individuals brave enough to stick their hands into the creatures’ mouths while hoping not to draw the ire of water moccasins and snapping turtles or become entangled in whatever else is lurking underwater.
Both men said noodling can be extremely dangerous and stressed that a person should always bring an experienced companion with them on noodling expeditions.
In fact, that’s the premise of their Animal Planet show. They typically take non-outdoorsy people who Bivins said “have never had mud between their toes” and, through learning to noodle, have them overcome the elements and their own fears.
These fish out of water have their lives transformed by pulling fish out of the water.
“It changes their lives,” Jackson said. “Everybody that goes feels like they can conquer the world after they’re done.”
Read more of this story in Sunday's Tulsa World
Trent Jackson (left) and Skipper Bivins, hosts of Animal Planet's "Hillbilly Handfishin'," pose with Tracy Robison of Claremore as her husband, Tony, shoots a photograph at the Tulsa Boat, Sport and Travel Show at the Expo Center at the Tulsa Fairgrounds on Saturday. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World