News On 6, News 9 Meet In First Ever Noodling 'Turnpike Tourname - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

News On 6, News 9 Meet In First Ever Noodling 'Turnpike Tournament'

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KWTV's Lacie Lowry and Lacey Swope competed against KOTV's Dick Faurot and Tess Maune. KWTV's Lacie Lowry and Lacey Swope competed against KOTV's Dick Faurot and Tess Maune.
Since Dick and Tess were the home team, the Lacies are put their hands in first. Since Dick and Tess were the home team, the Lacies are put their hands in first.
It just takes one wrong move for the catfish to slip right out of your hands. It just takes one wrong move for the catfish to slip right out of your hands.
It took Faurot just a few tries to hand-catch his first catfish. It weighed in at eight pounds. It took Faurot just a few tries to hand-catch his first catfish. It weighed in at eight pounds.
Maune give the final spot a shot and caught the biggest fish of the day, a 22 pound flathead. Maune give the final spot a shot and caught the biggest fish of the day, a 22 pound flathead.
PAWNEE COUNTY, Oklahoma - Noodling; it's the high-risk sport where you toss out the tackle box and use your hands as bait. It’s outlawed in many states, but not Oklahoma.

You probably remember watching Dick Faurot, Tess Maune and former KOTV anchor Lacie Lowry, give handfishing a try for the first time two years ago. Well, they got together again, only this time Tess and Dick competed against Lacie and her new teammate, meteorologist Lacey Swope.

The Lacies work at our sister station KWTV in Oklahoma City, so we named it the "Turnpike Tournament." Each team tried for the same amount fish and the team that caught the most weight won.

7/12/2012 Related Story: Our Own Dick Faurot Takes Reporters Lacie Lowry And Tess Maune Noodling

Summertime means it's spawning season for catfish. That's when the fish head for warmer, shallow banks looking for a perfect rock hole to lay eggs.

It's the male's job to fertilize and guard the eggs for several days until they hatch. The holes can be in two feet of water of 10 feet of water.

"It's kind of like anything else, there are risks involved,” said noodling guide and biologist Matt Mattioda.

Keystone Lake is where the teams braved the dangers to go for the gold. The gold “I love noodling” trophies, that is.

Since Dick and Tess were the home team, the Lacies are put their hands in first.

“When you get him in your hand and you go to pull him out, just wrap him up like a baby,” said Cody Miller, who is a longtime noodler.

Our guides know the lake and its holes like the back of their hands, and they've been using those hands to noodle for nearly two decades.

Noodlers feel around with their feet and hands to find the holes and the fish don't take too kindly to visitors.

“They're defending that hole, that's why they bite noodlers when they go in there. They're defending the hole from everything, snakes, turtles, beavers, other fish,” Mattioda said.

Fortunately for us, we never crossed paths with any beavers, snakes or snapping turtles. In fact, biologists say it's a bit of a misconception that one of those will clamp down on your hand in catfish hole.

It is possible, but only if there's an air pocket, which is why it's so important to know where you’re reaching beforehand.

“Beaver, snakes and turtles, they all have to breathe air, fish don't. So, as long as you're reaching in a hole that doesn't have air in it, you're not likely to find any of those,” Mattioda said. “I don't stick my hand in holes with air pockets. Use a stick to check first, if you have to, that's what I do.”

Once you’ve confirmed a fish is in the hole and grab it, it just takes one wrong move for the catfish to slip right out of your hands.

The Lacies learned that quick, they both pulled fish out of the water, but they shook loose before they could be weighed.

“I'm proud of you, I'm proud of you,” Lowry said to Swope. “She's never noodled before.”

“All right, they're zero so that doesn't count,” Dick Faurot said with a big smile on his face.

Then it was time for Faurot to put his touch to the test. It took him just a few tries to hand-catch his first catfish. It weighed in at 8 pounds.

“It's a tiny one, but that's good enough,” Lowry hollered to Faurot.

Big or small it was still one on the board.

Swope was up next, and once again, the catfish won.

“I was pulling with all my might, I was like, ‘they're gonna think I'm drowning.’ I had it as tight as I could in both hands, one in the gill,” Swope said.

Next up is Tess Maune. The guides told her it was a big one.

“I’ll show ‘em how it’s done,” Maune said rolling up her sleeves.

But, like the other girls, her fish got away.

“I just lost a 30-pound catfish. I had a hold of him, I had my hand in his gill and I didn't pull him to me close enough or wrap him up before he shook out,” Maune said. “This lake right here, it's filled with my tears.”

There were more big fish to be caught, though, and the OKC team was ready to redeem itself. Lowry was so determined to put a fish on the board, she found herself in a scary situation.

“I'm having to turn him. And I turned him enough that last time, but I ran out of breath and he was clamped. I freaked out there for a second,” Lowry said.

Our guides said the best advice is: Don't panic, and always, always go with someone else who knows what they're doing.

Once Lowry calmed down she gave it another go, but came up short a second time.

“As soon as I started pulling him out of that hole, he was fighting and I never got my hand in the gill,” Lowry said. “I wanted that fish.”

On to the next hole, Faurot let Maune give the final spot a shot.

“She’s got her game face on,” Faurot said.

That focus pulled through, after two tries she came up with the flathead and she wasn’t about to let him go.

“I wrapped my legs around him,” she said.

That fish weighed in as the biggest of the day at 22 pounds. After a few quick pictures, Maune put him right back in the hole where he was found.

“I catch and release almost all of my fish, especially the big ones,” Maune said. “All big fish go back in the lake.”

But there are two fish that will be staying out of water, the two that are on top of the gold trophies Faurot and Maune took back to Tulsa.

“We’ll bring those back to OKC next year,” Swope said, challenging the Tulsa team to another competition.

Both teams would like to thank The Harbors Marina at Crosstimbers on Keystone Lake for donating one of its spacious rental pontoons for the tournament.

And they can’t thank their two wonderful guides enough for setting up the tournament so everyone could at least try for a fish.

If you’re interested in giving noodling a try, here’s a link to a guide the teams have used in the past and trust.

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