For Elizabeth Guisti and Brenda Morgan, employees at John Ascuaga’s Nugget, the “lifetime experience” was filled with mud, spiders, water monsters and many memories.
“It was a good experience,” said Morgan. “You’re never too old to try something new.”
Morgan, 56, a waitress for 5 years and Gusti, a nearly 3-year waitress, were approached by their supervisor to apply for the show. The manager had received an email that asked if any middle-aged cocktail waitresses were “game” to participate in the program, Guisti said.
“It took two months to hear back,” Guisti said. “We were up against two other cocktail waitresses from Las Vegas and they chose us.”
Once on set, it was a lot of “hurry up and wait” the women said.
The show practices a catch-and-release policy, because the year before, thousands of catfish were lost in that part of the country. At one point, show host Skipper Bivins hauled up a handful of eggs and explained to the contestants that it was prime breeding time for the fish.
“This is what we’re protecting,” Bivins told the women.
“It was pretty fun,” Morgan said. “It was terrifying and exciting all at once, because you didn’t know what was in the water.”
Each of them caught one fish, as did the other guests on the show.
At one point, taping had to cease as a weather system moved into the area, bringing with it lightning. Medics standing by advised the group to evacuate the area and stay safely away in their tents.
As if that wasn’t frightening enough, the waitresses had to move barefoot through murky water looking for catfish as water moccasins, snapping turtles, alligators and big spiders lurked about. Catching the fish meant standing in holes up to their necks at some points, they said.
“The holes you were in were clear up to your neck,” Morgan said. “Not knowing the monsters that were going to bite you, that was the scariest part.”
“It’s a once in a life time experience really,” Guisti said. “Even if we were asked to go again, personally they would have to pay me.”
“I would go again, I would just wear a glove,” Morgan said.
Bivins and Trent Jackson gave fresh foot fishermen, like Morgan and Guisti a shot at ‘Hillbilly Handfishin’ in Animal Planet’s new season of the show that began July 29. The participants were taught how to “noodle” a fish by diving into murky waters to dig out monster-sized catfish. This is the second season of the show.
Last season, Hillbilly Handfishin’ was one of the cable network’s biggest hits, according to the show’s press release. The next season will include a seven-episode run with a “crazier cast of city slickers” who are ready to take the plunge.
The southern-style fishing surprises viewers with the concept that puts city folks in a rural Oklahoma setting most known for hillbillies. In each episode, expert hand fishermen Bivins and Jackson choose two team captains among the group of six guests, who haven’t had any experience with the type of fishing involved. The fishermen and women use nothing but their bare hands and feet to dig into deep holes in the murky water, filled with other creatures and mud crawlers.
Teams are rewarded points based on the size of the fish caught.
Other than the Nugget employees, guests will include Chuck, a resident from a rural Iowa town of only 120 people, who brings his mother-in-law with him; Cleveland hunters Dusty and Dena; almighty power guide mega-church pastors Tim and Tom of Morristown, N.J.; ballroom dancers Mike and Alex of Livingston NJ., originally of Russia and Ukraine; Baton Rouge hairstylists Nicole and Corey; and Miami beauty queens Lissette and Michelle.
Hillbilly Handfishin’ is produced by Gallagher and Abby Greensfelder. Keith Hoffman is executive producer for Animal Planet, a multi-media unit of Discovery Communications.