The Bare Knuckle Babes is the name of a group of women who don’t need bait, rod or reel to make the big catch. As the group’s name suggests, these women go fishing — and catch lots of fish – with their bare hands.
The Babes practice the extreme sport known as “noodling.” Participants brave muddy waters and use only their bare hands to catch large catfish.
Until just two years ago, noodling was illegal in Texas, and even though it’s been legalized in that state, it is still illegal in many others where authorities want to control fish populations.
Noodling can also be very dangerous. Earlier this month, three college students who had gone noodling drowned in the strong currents of the Arkansas River.
Despite the dangers, noodling remains popular. Many YouTube videos show noodlers’ daring, including one in which a man hooked his entire hand through the gills of a fish. That video was watched millions of times.
Another show, “Hillbilly Handfishin’” on Animal Planet, follows two noodling veterans as they take sometimes unsuspecting people into the water to catch fish via this unusual method.
The Bare Knuckle Babes, who hail from Texas, launched a pinup calendar dedicated to the sport.
Lucy Millsap showed “Good Morning America” how noodling is done. She dove under the water and, using her own flesh as bait, waited for a fish to bite before she resurfaced carrying her 40-pound catch.
“You’ve just got to let him fight it out and you’ve got to let him tear you up and rip your hands and rip your arms and whatever you can to get him out of the hole,” she said.
Millsap recently won a $1,500 cash prize at the annual Okie Noodling Tournament. For that honor, she hauled up a record 72-pound flathead catfish.
“Men say, ‘That’s impossible. That fish is half your size,’” she said. “The force of the fish itself was mighty.”
Millsap’s fellow team member Crystal Staggs added with a laugh: “People think we’re crazy … and maybe we are.”