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Hand-Grabbing or Noodling for Catfish in Mississippi

Catfish-Grabbing with Two Hands

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: When you’re hand-grabbing catfish (noodling), most of the action takes place underwater, but when the catfish and the fishermen come up, the action’s almost like grabbing a tiger by the tail. When you’re underwater, and you grab a big flathead catfish weighing 20 pounds or more in the mouth and pull it out of the box you’ve sunk to create a hole where it can spawn, you’re in for a dramatic catfish fight. I learned about hand-grabbing for cats from five-time world-champion turkey caller and founder of Preston Pittman Game Calls Preston Pittman of PickensClick to enlarge, Mississippi. “My friends Michael Willoughby and Steve Bowden are the real hand-grabbers,” Pittman says. “They’ve been doing it for years, and they’re the best I’ve ever met.” Willoughby and Bowden build boxes and sink them on Ross Barnett Reservoir, near Jackson, Mississippi, before hand-grabbing season arrives, which generally runs from May until about mid-July in Mississippi. Then, when hand-grabbing season starts, they check their boxes to see if the boxes have any catfish in them. Willoughby and Bowden always leave some boxes undisturbed to give the catfish a spawning place to reproduce more catfish. “A hand-grabbing trip is fun for the entire family,” Pittman explains.Click to enlarge

The catfish boxes built and sunk by Steve Bowden and Michael Willoughby in Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson, Mississippi, resemble Chihuahua doghouses, since they’re short and flat with 10-inch-square holes in their fronts. They build these heavy boxes with rough lumber, load them onto their boats, take them out to Ross Barnett Reservoir and sink them. Although Click to enlargeflathead catfish will spawn in any type of cave, hole, box or tube, these men prefer to use these boxes, because they’ve developed a technique incorporating the boxes that puts more flathead cats in their boats than any other strategy. “I go underwater with a stick and ease it into the box to see if catfish are there,” Michael Willoughby says. “If a catfish is in the box, I put both my feet at the mouth of the box and stand-up. This way, the catfish can’t come out of the box. The grabber comes up next to me, dives down underwater, reaches his or her hand into the box and lets the catfish bite his gloved hand. Then, he grabs hold of the catfish’s bottom jaw and pulls it out of the box. A right-handed catcher will grab the catfish with his right hand, and as he pulls the catfish out of the box, he’ll wrap his left hand around the cat, so it can’t roll. Then he’ll bring the cat to the surface. Once we get a catfish on top of the water, we put it on a stringer, pull it into the boat and place it on ice. Many times the people with us will stand on top of the box until the catcher gets the cat and brings it to the surface. This is a fun way to go cat-catching.”

Be sure to visit our YouTube Channel at to learn more about hand-grabbing for cats and to see more hand-grabbers catching cats. Maybe next year, you can go hand-grabbing, too.

Today's Video Clip
Catfish Grabbing with Two Hands

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Tomorrow: A First-Time Hand-Grabber Better Wear a Glove

Check back each day this week for more about "Hand-Grabbing or Noodling for Catfish in Mississippi"

Day 1: Hand-Grabbing for Catfish – Fun for the Entire Family
Day 2: Catfish-Grabbing with Two Hands
Day 3: A First-Time Hand-Grabber Better Wear a Glove
Day 4: One Big Party
Day 5: Why Use a Box for Hand-Grabbing Catfish


Entry 568, Day 2