REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (June 10, 2013) -- Seven years ago, Allen Neuschwander took the plunge, literally and figuratively, into a new sport. At the time, it was largely an unknown sport. Today, however, thanks to reality television, many have heard about the southern sport of hand fishing.

Some call it noodling. Others call it stumping. Neuschwander and his friends call it grabbling.

It's a method of fishing where adventurous souls insert their bare or gloved hands, and sometimes arms, into holes below the surface of a river or lake in search of catfish.

Fish will typically attempt to exit the hole and bite at the fisherman's hand in defense.

The goal is to grab a biting fish by the mouth or gills, and to pull the fish off the nest and out of the water.

Given the potential size and strength of the fish, as well as water depth and other potential hazards, fisherman often have a spotter to assist in capturing the fish.
It's not for the faint of heart.

When asked if it's scary, Neuschwander replies, "Is it scary? Heck yeah it's scary. There's always the chance there is something in that hole that is not a catfish. My biggest fear isn't the 'critters' that could be in the hole though. Some of the holes we fish have snarls of rebar and other dangers that could entrap you. There is always a chance there could be a hook that could snag an arm or hand and you couldn't make it back up."

Neuschwander admits that it is the adrenaline rush that he enjoys most about the sport, but credits research and preparation for much of his success.

A mechanical engineer, Neuschwander supports reliability, affordability and maintainability projects at the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's aviation and missile center. Several of his fishing buddies are fellow engineers, including Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center's Brandon Price and fellow Auburn University alumnus Cory Borum.

"As an engineer I probably do approach fishing differently than most. I pre-fish an area using tools like Bing and Google Maps trying to locate potential areas to maximize my time in the water," he said.

Last year, Neuschwander and Borum were contacted by Animal Planet about a three-part, competition-based mini-series featuring the sport of noodling.

"The talent scouts were looking for teams from different southern states and it just so happens that I grabble with some of the Tennessee boys. Once they saw some of my YouTube videos they started contacting me. We were up against several other guys from Alabama for the spot on the show, but after lengthy interviews our humor and good looks won them over I guess," joked Neuschwander.

Dubbed the world series of noodling, "Catfishin' Kings" aired in March 2013 and can still be seen on You Tube and other Web sites. The miniseries pitted eight teams from eight states in a bracket-style competition set in Texas. At the end of each round, the team with the biggest fish moved forward. Neuschwander and Borum competed against Team Mississippi in the second episode, entitled "Moby Dick."

Spoiler alert: after winning every heat and appearing the obvious team to move forward, Team Alabama was eliminated when Team Mississippi pulled in a 62.6 lb. monster flathead catfish at the end of the final heat.

"It was a great experience," Neuschwander said of his stint on reality television.

Meanwhile, he is gearing up for another summer on the water. Hand fishing season typically lasts through the summer months, and North Alabama offers many lakes from which to choose, including Chickamauga, Nickajack, Guntersville and Wheeler.

While the television cameras may be gone, Neuschwander and his friends continue to capture memories and post them to You Tube.

"This is just the sport that keeps on giving that rush time after time. I don't keep the fish I catch. All I keep is a picture. I'm in it for the thrill," Neuschwander said.

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Page last updated Mon June 10th, 2013 at 10:10