Wade Gladson, Heath Jordan and Erik Almy of Cleveland make up Team Tennessee as they go head-to-head against the best of the best from Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and North Carolina to decide who will be crowned Catfishin’ Kings! The winning team will be determined by whoever brings in the biggest monster catfish.
The real catch to this reality show airing Mondays at 10 p.m. is that this form of catfishing is done by using your bare hands only. The sport is often called “noodling,” which can be as exciting as rodeo riding and as unpredictable as bullfighting. It is the ultimate hand-to-hand combat with a creature at its most dangerous — protecting its lair and eggs.
The shows host describes the fishing area as “A top secret 37,000 arena filled with big fish and some of the toughest fishing conditions in the entire nation with more than 70 miles of shore line.” Not only that, but there are lots of broken glass, old road concrete, sharp jagged edges and deep water drop offs to keep viewers on the edge of their seats as each team try to catch a fish within three hours and meet back at the weigh-in to determine who won the first, second and third heap.
Gladson, 42, admits he was a bit apprehensive about hand fishing at first but once he was bitten the first time he was instantly hooked.
“I have been catfishing since I was old enough to crawl,” Gladson said. “My dad introduced me to catfishing and it’s those fond memories of me and him that keep me doing it. I really enjoy the outdoors. I always have. I would say the Tennessee River is my home. I have always enjoyed the traditional means of fishing — rod and reel and some sort of ‘normal’ bait on a hook — until about four years ago. Some friends of mine talked me into trying hand fishing for catfish, also called noodling, grabbing, hogging — among other names.
“It’s basically going out in the water during the time of year when the big catfish spawn. They will make a nest or bed out of almost anything they can get their nose under and dig out a hole to lay their eggs in. During that time you can locate a hole and if you’re crazy enough to do so, put your bare hand, arms, legs or whatever body part you would like to get bit — and wait for the monster catfish to bite you. I promise you, you won’t wait long. The fish are very aggressive during the spawn and will almost immediately let you know that your hand is somewhere it does not belong.”
Gladson said everyone reacts differently to that first attack bite, adding, “Some run away, some laugh, some cry. For me it was excitement. I wanted to pull whatever had just bit my hand out and get a look at it. From that point on I have — along with my friends — spent countless hours trying to find the biggest, baddest fish in the water.”
While other fishing shows have found a fan base, Gladson said he believe “Catfishin’ Kings” will feature the most exciting version ever put on a reality show, explaining, “Our show will be different from some of the other shows about noodling. There are different ways to noodle for catfish, but we opted to do it without the use of a rope tied through the fish’s gills. We feel this not only is unsporting but also can harm the fish, so we just do it with our bare hands. It’s a very fun and exciting sport.”
The ultimate noodling competition was held on a lake in Texas where none of the teams had ever fished before, so it presented an even playing field for everyone to discover new holes and bring a monster catfish back alive. Gladson said it was his fishing buddies Erik and Jordon who introduced him to the sport of catfishing by hand, or noodling.
“Heath has been noodling for over 10 years and introduced Erik into it,” he said. “Heath has a YouTube page where he posts videos of noodling and other types of fishing. Erik has a fishing guide service call Dixie Fishing Tours & Dixie Noodling. He also has a website where he posts photos and videos of us catching some monster catfish.”
When animal planet started their search for the best talent to put on their show they discovered Cleveland’s rugged catfishing trio on the Internet, according to Gladson.
“Animal Planet contacted us, wanted to come fishing with us and did some filming to decide whether we were what they were looking for,” Gladson explained. “One thing about our team, although we are fierce competitors, we love to go out and just have fun. That’s really what it’s all about is the fun. When you haul a mad 40-pound catfish out of its hole with your bare hands, things can get very dicey — and sometimes the fish wins.”
Expect the monster catfish to lose and viewers who love reality competition to be the real winners by watching “Catfishin’ Kings” on Animal Planet. The first episode pitting Tennessee against Kentucky and Louisiana vs North Carolina will air again from 9-10 p.m. Monday, followed by a new episode at 10 p.m. on cable channel 52 in Cleveland. It is safe to say that Tennessee fans will be pleased with their hometown team’s quarterfinal results.
Gladson, Jordon and Almy are asking the community to tune in each week, set their DVRs and ask their friends and neighbors to do the same as eight teams representing eight different Southern states compete to see who can catch the biggest catfish with nothing but their bare hands.
“At stake is a trophy and bragging rights, which was more than enough to talk us into going for it,” Gadson said.
Regarding the team from Cleveland, Animal Planet’s press release stated, “This three-man team has been noodling some of the most vicious waters and successfully has developed a strategy of fishing concrete structures for big cats. But do home-state tactics work across state lines?”
Tune in and see who takes home the trophy.