The first time Bradley Beesley went noodling was during the filming of his first “Okie Noodling” documentary.
Two of the noodlers featured in the film, Dave and Red Baggett of Lawton, suggested that Beesley get in the water with them and try it for himself while they were filming at Lake Lawtonka.
Beesley didn't want any part of it, but the noodlers insisted.
“They were the first guys who got me bit,” Beesley said. “It sounds really cliché, but that first day I got bit, I knew it was going to be a lifelong passion. I used to love to go rod and reel fishing. Now I am completely bored by it.
“I have literally gone out fishing with a rod and reel and within 15 minutes I have forgotten about the rod and reel and I am in there with my hands.”
Beesley, a graduate of Moore High School who now lives in Austin, Texas, is back in Oklahoma this month to film the second season of his reality cable television series, “Mudcats.”
Many of the cast members of “Mudcats” are Oklahoma hand fishermen that he featured in his two “Okie Noodling” documentaries.
“Mudcats,” which in its first season had 3.2 million viewers, was the idea of the noodlers, said Beesley, who was hesitant at first to create the show.
“They approached me and said, ‘Man, we want to make a TV show about this. We see people on TV hog hunting and we want to do that with noodling.'
“I was telling them some of the pitfalls of being on a reality show. I told them, ‘I don't know if you really want to do that. This is a full-time job.' I told them they are going to be working 14 hours a day and their job is to catch fish. ‘Is this going to take the fun out of it for you?' ”
In the second season of “Mudcats,” the cast members are competing for a grand prize of $10,000 in the Okie Noodling Invitational.
Each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through July 31, “Mudcats” is being filmed at the Rock-A-Way Tavern in Guthrie, where weigh-ins are being held each tournament day after 4 p.m. The biggest flathead each day earns the winning noodler $2,000.
The tournament itself is a closed set. Only the cast members are allowed to compete, but the weigh-ins are open to the public. Filmmakers are hoping for big crowds.
“Mudcats” debuted on the History Channel last season, but will be on a different cable network for season two, Beesley said.
More than a decade after “Okie Noodling” first aired on public television, Beesley is finally seeing some commercial success with Mudcats.
“After 13 years of building up the intellectual property that is Okie Noodling and that brand, I have finally been able to see a little more financial success, but that financial success still leaves me without health insurance and living in a house in Austin with 800 square feet.
“I'm comfortable and I don't have any worries, but it's not anything anybody is getting rich on, cast members included.”