The Hansen brothers and Ellingson first learned about Okie Noodling from watching television and YouTube videos.
They googled “noodling” and learned about the Okie Noodling Tournament. It took two years of mustering enough courage, but Jesse Hansen finally persuaded his brother and Ellingson last summer to travel to Oklahoma and enter the Okie Noodling Tournament.
“We don't really know what we were doing, but we were going for it,” Jesse Hansen said. “We got maps and we just looked for dirt roads that led to a lake and we jumped in.”
They didn't catch a fish, but they got bit. Hansen, who is in the heating and air conditioning business, compared it to being shocked by a live wire.
“That's what it felt like to me, getting electrocuted,” he said. “I am not kidding. The way they bite, they hit you so fast and shake your hand and spit it out at the same time. You are like, ‘What just happened?' The first time really freaked me out.”
And yet, he wants to do it again. Their friends in Minnesota “think we are absolutely nuts for going down there and trying it,” Hansen said.
“I probably got bit by five or six different catfish last year, but I wasn't able to pull one out of the hole. That's the goal this year, to catch a catfish.”
They are so serious in their quest, they already made a trip to Oklahoma in May to scout a few good noodling areas. They marked those holes with their GPS.
They also learned a few tips last year from some veteran Oklahoma noodlers, such as it's best to reach into the hole with your palm down instead of your palm up. It's easier to grab the catfish's jaw that way.
“This year we plan on getting on stage (at the Okie Noodling Tournament),” said Ellingson, who plans to make a trip to the Okie Noodling Tournament an annual pilgrimage.
“This is pretty much going to be a ritual for the rest of our lives,” he said. “We loved it.”
Last year, Hansen sat in an Oklahoma City bar after noodling, gazed at his battle scars, and wondered how he could have missed all of those fish. He doesn't plan to let that happen again.
“I couldn't figure out why I couldn't hang onto one,” he said. “I want to catch one really bad. I really do.”
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WHAT: 12th annual Okie Noodling Tournament
WHERE: Wacker Park in Pauls Valley, 5 blocks northeast of the original venue, Bob's Pig Shop
WHEN: Saturday, July 9
RULES: Noodlers can begin hand fishing at 7 p.m. Friday. They can catch fish anywhere in Oklahoma but must return to Pauls Valley with live fish by 7 p.m. Saturday to be eligible.
PRIZES: Prizes are awarded in the natural and scuba divisions. The top cash award is $1,000 for the biggest flathead catfish. Cash prizes also for the biggest three-fish stringer, top female noodler and top noodler 18 or younger.
ENTRY FEES: The entry fee is $30 per person but increases to $50 after Wednesday.
CONTACT: For more information, visit www.okienoodling.com or call (405) 238-1669.