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Justin Taylor of Team Bite Me: ‘It's like wrestling a pit bull on crack.'

By Anthony Slater, Staff Writer, Modified: July 16, 2011 at 4:27 pm •  Published: July 16, 2011

Stretched across the back of Justin Taylor's dark red shirt is the slogan that his noodling team lives by.

There, in white screen-printed letters, is the bold phrase that the five man group has officially adopted: “Team Bite Me.”

It's not a rebellious message to those who may think their up-and-coming sport is silly. And it's not a way to disrespect others they come across around the lake.

No, it's literally what they want to happen. It's the goal of their sport.

Swim along the banks of different lakes and rivers, find the catfish holes and let these 50- to 60-pounders bite your arm in an effort to catch them with your bare hands.

Lake Thunderbird

Taylor hops out of a black pickup truck, jogs past the muddy tires and unhitches his boat into the water.

Chuck Littlejim, Tony Norton, Chris Raper and Patrick Bennett make up the rest of Team Bite Me.

But on this day, only Taylor and Littlejim are out on the water.

For Taylor, it is a special day. The 12th annual Okie Noodling Tournament. An event that the Washington native has been a part of every year.

It's Taylor's version of the World Series. The culmination of another successful noodling season, and a celebration for his sport.

He learned noodling at East Central University, nearly 20 years ago. It's where he was introduced to the sport by friends that he now calls teammates.

It's a little past 10 a.m., but Taylor has already had a full day and night of noodling.

Tournament participants are given a full 24 hours until the weigh-in at Wacker Park, so the most experienced take advantage of every minute.

He is now entering hour 16, showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, he has a little something extra in his step.

He's coming off a successful night, with five catfish already. But, as he chugs the last bit of his Monster energy drink, you can tell he isn't satisfied.

“We need at least one more big one,” Taylor admits.

Out on the water

The two teammates head out onto Lake Thunderbird. It is not their favorite place to noodle, but, like any other one, they have navigated the area and found particular sweet spots.

They head right toward one of them.

Taylor rips off his red Team Bite Me shirt to reveal his noodling uniform. Faded overalls cut off at the thigh. Muddy running shoes with a few holes. And a hat to protect his bald head from the sun.

“You know what's great,” Taylor says. “This is a sport for fat guys with back hair.”


No luck at the first place.

Taylor hops back in the boat and instructs Littlejim to take him to a spot on the opposite side of the lake.

It's one of the hottest days of the year, but the lake breeze makes it bearable.

Taylor cracks open a beer and takes a deep breath. Days like this are why he keeps coming back. It is his sanctuary.

“The outdoors, it is kind of like my church,” Taylor says. “Everyone is different, but out here on this lake, it is the perfect form of meditation for me.”

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