Texas Tech commit Ivan Thomas does just about everything for Lawton High School’s football team. When he’s not sacking the quarterback or stopping the run from the nose guard position, he can be seen steamrolling defensive backs and dragging linebackers into the end zone as a 6-foot-1, 293-pound running back.
"You have to block the exits then they have no choice but to bite you.”
And when he’s not doing that, there’s a good chance he’s out noodling.
…And what exactly is that?
“Catching catfish with your bare hands,” Thomas said. “You go underwater. Here there are a lot of rocks and they make big holes in between the rocks, and big slabs with spaces underneath them where they go in and lay their eggs.”
Thomas and his thrill-seeking friends make the short drive north from Lawton, Okla., sometimes multiple times per week, to check their hot spots at Lake Ellsworth.
“We have several spots and we go around the lake and look for them,” Thomas said. “We have our own holes we know there. They’ve been there for awhile, old houses, old foundations, old cellars that are scattered around the lake.”
The future Red Raider typically checks spawning holes in the 1-to-6-foot depth range.
“When you stick your hand in there they get a little angry and they bite your hand then you grab onto their bottom lip and wrestle them out,” Thomas said. “If you don’t have a glove on, it hurts. If you have a glove on, it startles you at first but when you feel the pressure you grab their bottom lip.”
If the noodler isn’t quick to grab the fish, it can get away.
Thomas with a 15-pounder he caught Wednesday evening.
“They go out different exits in the holes so you have to block the exits then they have no choice but to bite you,” Thomas said.
A first-time noodler should wear gloves and go after smaller fish, eventually working his or her way up the ranks to trophy fish, Thomas said.
“I wear like a mechanics glove, some people do it bare handed,” Thomas said. “I wear gloves, swimming trunks and a pair of old shoes and I bring a string to hook them through their mouths after we catch them.
“Sometimes I take my friends who have never been, so I take them to littler fish. When I go with one of my other friends we go to holes that hold 40-or-50-pounders."
With one hand in the fish’s mouth and another carrying the body of the fish, it can sometimes require a team effort to completely secure the prize.
“In the deep holes, it’s going to be a bigger fish most likely,” Thomas said. “You grab it and bring it up and then someone else pulls you to help you bring it ashore.”
Thomas typically cooks his catch for dinner, which on a successful day can sometimes provide enough for several meals.
“The other day I caught like eight within 45 minutes,” Thomas said.