Fishing for monsters: Couple spreading enthusiasm for hand-grabbing

Published 12:42 am Sunday, August 14, 2016

NATCHEZ — Brandi Bateman is a RAC/CT Technologist and Merit Health, and also a seasoned hand-grabber.

Bateman has hand-grabbed catfish since 2013. The sports didn’t start out as a passion, rather AS an icebreaker. Bateman and her boyfriend Dwain Brister went out noodling for their first date, and the only thing that’s stuck as long as her relationship with Brister is that she still goes hand-grabbing.

“He asked me on a date, and it was quite an experience,” Bateman said. “I didn’t know what to expect. We went out with about 10 people I had never met until that day. I thought, ‘Lord if you ever let me get back to land,’ and here I am with this crazy man.”

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Hand-grabbing season runs from early May to late July, and Brister said that just so happened to be the time of season.

Brister is the founder and president of the Mississippi Hand-Grabbers Association. He said the MHGA work with non-profit groups — for example, he said MHGA partners with Wounded Warriors of Mississippi for various events — and provide guided tours to people interested trying hand-grabbing.

Brister also said the organization sponsors one of the longest fishing tournaments in the state of Mississippi. Running from May 1 to June 25, hand-grabbers are issued five tags and compete for the single-biggest fish in the tournament.

Brister said MHGA work with guides all over the state for anyone interested in giving it a try.

“These guys we work with are professional. Some have been doing it for 20-25 years,” Brister said. “Anybody who would like to try it … it depends on the area of the state. You don’t need any experience these guys will take care of them.”

Bateman said the sport of hand-grabbing is one of the oldest in the region, and part of her duty is to wear the scars on her arm proudly and spread the enthusiasm for a truly down-and-dirty sport.

“We go to different wildlife shows and festivals, and the main attraction is to set up pools for children where kids can get in and interact with fish,” Bateman said. “We teach them about hand-grabbing, its one of the oldest sports.”