The world’s best bass fisherman showed his Oklahoma roots by getting rid of the rod and reel to go hand fishing.
After Edwin Evers won the 'Super Bowl of Bass Fishing' in March, News On 6 reporter Tess Maune invited Evers and Meteorologist Dick Faurot to go noodling - where you catch catfish with your hand, using it as bait.
It takes a certain kind of grit to go hand fishing; some call it crazy, and maybe they’re right. Noodling is certainly a sport not all Oklahomans have the courage to try.
“I have never been noodling,” said Evers. “It's something I've always kind of thought I wanted to do.”
And now Evers, and his 7-year-old son, Kade, are among the brave. But Evers admitted he had some first-time jitters.
“Well heck yeah I'm nervous. I make my living with my hands. I don't need any beavers down there chomping my fingers off,” he said.
Most know Evers as the world's best bass fisherman, after winning the 2016 Bassmaster Classic Championship. It's been about four months since Edwin earned the title and took home the $300,000 prize.
Since then, he said it’s been a whirlwind - tournaments and big-name endorsements have stacked up, making Evers one of the most recognizable figures in fishing.
“When you win that tournament, everybody across the country recognizes you, you know,” he said. “Before, I was just a guy with a bunch logos on truck driving into a gas station. Now, driving down the highway, you don't go very far without people thumbs up, honking, waving.”
That kind of attention could go to a guy's head, but not Evers. He's still the same down-to-earth guy he's always been, who values his family and faith above all else.
“We have a lot of fun at the house, we rode bikes last night for an hour then swam for an hour,” the champion said. “It's a balancing act, a juggling act, but we're gonna make the most of it when I'm home.”
On a hot summer day in June, Evers and his son made the most of their time together, making memories the way only two Okies could, by noodling for the first time.
“You put two hands on it. If you pull it out with one, you'll lose that fish,” wildlife biologist and noodling guide Matt Mattioda warned.
Evers dove under water and slid his hand into the rock catfish holes without fear. Not long after, a fish clamped down. Evers grabbed it, then came up and said he couldn’t get it out.
He tried a few more times before he proudly pulled a flathead catfish out for the world to see.
“My first catfish, noodling, right there boys! Look at that” Evers proclaimed.
Turns out, Evers is a natural. He caught every flathead catfish he got his hands on; his biggest weighed in at 22 pounds.
“You get the thrill in bass fishing, seeing that strike on a lure. Today, I got to feel of the strike on my hand, ya know, there's a big difference right there,” Evers said. “They chomp on your hands; I got proof. Look at that. I'm reaching in there and that fish is like biting me on both sides of my arms, you can see the perfect circle.”
Evers' son is just as brave as his dad. With a little help and close supervision, Kade noodled several holes and pulled out a few catfish to show the camera.
“It bit and it got my whole hand in its mouth. It got to, about right here, and it bit down and it came back up,” Kade said.
It's a fish tale Evers and his son will tell for decades to come.
“I was excited to come, but I had no idea it was gonna be that much fun. I think it's gonna be something my son's gonna remember all his life. I'm gonna remember it,” Evers said.
Evers said he liked noodling so much he's going to try it some on his own.
“It's not the whole preconceived thing - sticking your hand back up in a beaver hole - ya know, it's really, really cool,” he said. “Just a little bit of caution, ya know, don't be sticking your hand up in an air pocket, or something like that, and you're gonna be golden.”
And not to worry bass fishing fans, the 2016 Classic champion is not going to be giving up his day job.
“Oh no, no, no. I don't think they're paying people and endorsing people to become professional noodlers, that I know of,” he said. “I don't know that they're filming that and putting that on ESPN on Sunday or Saturday mornings.”
Special thanks to Matt Mattioda, "the noodling guide" and to CrossTimbers Marina for loaning one of their pontoon rental boats to the News On 6 team.