First Ever Woman Wins Okie Noodling Festival

Caught 72-pound catfish barehanded

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A 19-year-old former cheerleader has become the first woman to win top honors at the Annual Okie Noodling Festival in Oklahoma, an aquatic competition where contestants wrangle catfish with their bare hands. Lucy Millsap fended off 200 other competitors to win first place (and $1,500 to boot) in the “Big Fish” category.

“My dad asked me if I wanted to fish in the women’s division,” said Millsap, who is part of an all-female noodling collective called the Bare Knuckle Babes. “I said, ‘Heck no.’ I don’t want to fish in the women’s division. I want to beat the men.” Millsap caught the prize-winning 72-pound catfish at Lake Texoma at about 3 a.m. the morning of the competition.

Noodling, which is illegal in all but 11 Southern states, involves the fisherman, or noodler, waving their arm around in a catfish hole until it bites. The noodler then reels in the catfish with their bare hands. It is very possible to lose a few fingers or worse. Video of a standard noodling procedure can be seen here:

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