Local couple fishing for national exposure on Hillbilly Handfishin’

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Bullitt County meets Reality World

 HILLVIEW - What would you do to appear on national television?

How about wading in a muddy creek and sticking your bare hand or foot into a hole under a rock that could be filled with snakes, just to catch a catfish?

Believe it or not, that will get you on national television these days, and two Bullitt County residents proved it.

Kenny and “Tattoo” Tracy Dawes, co-owners of TNT Tattoos in Shepherdsville, will be featured on an upcoming episode of the new show, “Hillbilly Handfishin’.”

The show takes place in Oklahoma, where its two stars, Skipper Bivins and Trent Jackson, take guests from around the country to their favorite fishin’ holes along area creeks and streams.

The catch here (no pun intended) is that the hosts and their guests catch catfish, but not in the traditional sense. Fish are caught by noodling, a process where human fingers and toes are used as the bait.

Show guests wade in muddy waters, trusting the hosts and participating by sticking fingers and toes into mud holes where (hopefully) catfish await.

Tracy was intrigued by the process when the couple first saw the show. Kenny, a traditional fisherman, was a little skeptical. The Hillview residents decided to sign up as participants following the show.

“At the very end (of the episode) they said to send an email and we did,” said Tracy. “They called a month later and said to send photos.”

The couple was selected and asked to travel to Oklahoma in late July. Because Kenny preferred not to fly, they rode down on motorcycles, earning the nickname “Kentucky Bikers.”

“I even did a catfish tattoo on Kenny’s arm before the trip,” Tracy said.

The couple spent a total of five days on location, getting to hang out with the hosts a little more than other participants because they weren’t pressed to make plane flights.

“The guys were a million times better in person,” Tracy said. “I was totally in awe of them. The people at the show were really something. I bonded more with Trent, he was the more crazy one, but Skipper’s all about the fish.”

When it was time to hit the water, Tracy said Kenny didn’t want to do it right away, preferring to hold Tracy’s legs and use her as bait while she reached for the fish.

Tracy referred to what is called “the thunder” on the show. That’s the point where you can feel the fish coming toward you.

“It’s like a torpedo coming out,” Tracy said. “I just thought it was crazy. You’ve never experienced anything in life as great as noodling. It’s amazing how hard they bite.”

That was Tracy’s feelings, even though the group did spot a cottonmouth snake on location while filming.

Once Tracy gave it a try, Kenny persuaded himself to also take a chance. To prove it, Tracy said they still had bites a couple of scars on their arms.

“These guys are 100 percent the real deal,” Tracy added.

As far as the couples’ success, you’ll have to watch the show. But Tracy did share an unusual story.

According to Tracy, Kenny caught a fish and soon noticed his Masonic ring was missing. Assuming the fish swallowed it, Kenny pried its mouth open while Tracy glanced inside, located the ring at the back of the fish’s throat and retrieved it.

Tracy added that the event was captured on video and would possibly be included in the episode.

The experience made an impression on the couple, with Kenny changing his stance and offering respect to the unique process. They hope to discover locations along the Salt River or elsewhere in Bullitt County to try it again.

“They called it ‘cooning’ in Kentucky in the old days,” said Tracy. “We have friends that did it at Nolin Lake. You really wouldn’t believe how many of our friends have gotten into this.”

So many friends, in fact, that the couple will host a special viewing party of their episode at the Corner Tavern at Preston Highway and Mt. Washington Road in the Hillview area.

Kenny and Tracy will display photos and a few videos from their experience, along with highlights from other “Hillbilly Handfishin’” episodes, leading up to the 10 p.m. airing.

“Everybody has to be quiet except during the commercials,” Tracy reminded.

The party will be complete, appropriately enough, with fried catfish dinners for everyone.

“I’ll be cooking the fish,” Tracy exclaimed.

The “Hillbilly Handfishin’” episode featuring the “Kentucky Bikers” airs Sunday, Oct. 2, 10 p.m. on Animal Planet.

The “Hillbilly Handfishin’” hosts will appear as guests on “The Late Show with David Letterman Thursday, Sep. 29, 11:35 p.m., on CBS.

For more information on “Hillbilly Handfishin’” visit animal.discovery.com/tv/hillbilly-handfishin.