This brief aside about a video in our May 10 feature story "Using Their Noodle" opened a Mississippi River-size can of worms:
"Forced to watch a clip from Girls Gone Grabblin' in which a girl in protective gloves effortlessly pulls a limp catfish from the water, a disgusted Gary Webb scoffs, 'Them girls ain't noodling. That fish was already dead!'"
After seeing the story in print, Webb reflected on the assessment and concluded it had been a little hasty, so he contacted Girls Gone Grabblin' creator Marty Jenkins to apologize.
"That fish wasn't dead. The mean had just gone out of him," says Webb, who adds that he has seen other clips from Girls Gone Grabblin' involving catfish that are plenty feisty.
Jenkins, a grabbler who produces his videos with his wife, Fostana, from their home in Etowah, Tennessee, was riled, though, and called Riverfront Times to clarify.
"Not one of them [catches] is staged," says Jenkins, adding that he plans to release a second Girls Gone Grabblin' video in December. "[The video's] just blown everybody's mind. A lot of people said, 'Man, I thought was going to see a bunch of girls in there with no teeth and spitting tobacco,' and they say, 'My gosh, those are some good-looking women.'"
Jenkins also defends the use of gloves while grabbling.
"Some of the controversy we deal with, of course, is the gloves. Well, I used to do it with no gloves, and like I told Howard [Ramsey] and Gary [Webb]: That might be their big thing, but it ain't a big deal to me," says Jenkins. "We go 60 or 70 days in the summer. We catch between 300 and 600 fish. The majority we turn loose, but at the same time I don't want my hands tore up every day in that murky water."
Webb says he doesn't fault Jenkins for using gloves, it's just not the way he has taught his own clan. "Here's my analogy: My bunch, I want them to taste every little morsel of that catch," says Webb. "Noodling with gloves is sort of like going deer hunting with a gun versus bow-hunting: You just connect with it more."
Noodler Howard Ramsey, meanwhile, notes that Jenkins has always backed the Noodlers Anonymous cause, and he applauds Jenkins for getting girls to go grabbling, period.
"He's been real supportive of us through this whole thing, we sure don't want to get him upset," says Ramsey. "If a girl's got guts enough to get in the water, she can wear gloves. That's fine with me. We just don't do it that way up here."