Natural-Born Noodler

If there was ever a natural-born noodler, it has to be 15-year-old River Williams. He is obsessed with noodling. You can say the same thing for the entire Williams family. They run Adrenaline Rush Noodling in Shawnee, Oklahoma. ARN is a catfish noodling guide service that has been on the Today Show, Mudcats TV and the Sportsman Channel. Even Jeremy Wade of the TV show River Monsters has paid them a visit. It seems the Williams family are considered the world over as the catfish noodling experts.

The Art of Noodling

If you are unfamiliar with the art of noodling, it is when an angler reaches under submerged rock or stumps and into the mouth of a giant catfish. When the catfish bites their hand, they wrestle the brute out. As you can imagine, there are dangers to this. Blindly sticking your hand into a hole is risky; you never know whether a catfish, beaver or snapping turtle will be there to greet you. Keep in mind, the angler, too, is underwater.

Noodling Family

The family competes in noodling tournaments like the prestigious Okie Noodling Tournament in Paul’s Valley, Oklahoma. Naturally, they win or place in the money in almost every contest. As good as the Williams family is, River Williams seems to be a natural-born noodler. He is in his element when wrestling a big flathead catfish, at a tournament weigh-in, or helping a beginner learn the sport.

Natural-Born Noodler

Confident River

I first noticed River at the 2023 Okie Noodling Tournament. While sitting on the lawn with other fans, I couldn’t help but notice a lean, bronze and crazy confident young man walk across the stage with a whopping 65.9-pound catfish over his shoulder. To the local fans, River is a rock star, but even those from out of town couldn’t help but notice he commanded the stage. His presence was felt all over the tournament. One minute, he was on stage, and the next, explaining to fans how noodling works. Soon, he was in the holding tank, teaching a fan to handle a large catfish in the water.

Getting Bit

I was impressed by how the polite and confident young man conducted himself around seasoned noodlers, curious fans, and even his family. Of course, I, too, might be a tad bit confident if I was on top of the leaderboard with a 65-pound catfish, but I digress. I asked River how he managed to pull a fish that big out of the water. River explained that he and his 13-year-old brother, Phierce, knew of a boulder on Rock Creek that looked promising. Phierce swam to the bottom of the boulder and wrestled out a 48-pound flathead catfish. River knew there had to be another catfish in that hole. He stuck his hand in the hole, and a 65-pound flathead bit his arm. The fight was on, and River was ready. Soon, the brothers would be on stage with two huge catfish. River was in first place overall until the last hour of the contest when adult Sammy Cooper, Jr. brought in a 68.9-pound catfish. River finished second overall and first in the 17 and under category.

The Greatest Accomplishment

I expected River to be disappointed, and I am sure down deep he was, but he graciously congratulated Cooper. He and his family cheered on all the contestants as they brought fish onto the stage. The Williams family is famous for noodling throughout the south, but River and Phierce may be their biggest accomplishments. The confidence River has in his abilities, combined with his passion for noodling, is something to behold. The fact that he has the opportunity to do something he loves every day is something we all wish for. In the case of River Williams and his family, they are not taking any of it for granted.

Todd Davis is an avid outdoorsman and passionate about sharing the outdoors with others. He has been writing about the outdoors for over ten years. His work includes writing for companies like Drury Outdoors, Mossy Oak, Texas Sportsman Magazine, Life and Land Magazine, Turkey Call Magazine, Whitetales Magazine, and many others. Todd and his wife Debbie live in north Texas and are the creators of Clem Kardashem and own Davis Outdoor Adventures


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