Mentoring new hand-grabbers

Jeannie Leach (center) introduced daughter Morgan (left), 14, and friend Abby Winstead, 14, to hand-grabbing through Greg Parker.

Over the years, Parker has been a teacher and guide for others wanting to feel the rush of pulling a big catfish from below the surface with nothing more than natural strength.

The list of his students includes both men and women, with a few taking up the sport as a regular activity. These students then became teachers, introducing others to the excitement.

“I suppose I’ve introduced 65 to 75 people from seven states to the sport,” said Parker, sitting in his boat while taking a breather. “Strangely, or maybe not, is the fact that many have been women who wanted to face a big fish one-on-one.

“Many are shy at first, but they are determined and I’ve never had one to just quit trying.”

In 2011, Becky Windham had heard all she could stand about hand-grabbing and just had to give it a try.

So Jeannie Leach of Scott County, who had done her first grab the season prior with Parker, and Brandon’s Lindsey Scott — another novice now committed hand-grabber — put together an outing with Parker and the other members of Team Parker. Rounding out the novices were Jeannie’s daughter Morgan and her friend Abby Winstead.

The late-spring sun was warm when the team, divided between three boats, made their away around the boxes in Ross Barnett Reservoir. Everyone got to feel a fish and, before the last box was checked, the ice chest was loaded to the brim and the whole team had an opportunity to get bitten and pull a fish from a box. The younger girls were cautious at first, but soon were in the water, eager to put their arms into the box hole.

For Becky Windham, it was somewhat of a rite of passage — a chance to verify independence and self-confidence.

“It was such a rush to be under the water and have the fish grab your hand in the murky darkness,” Windham said. “I was apprehensive at first, but Greg assured me nothing bad would happen, that he would be right there the whole time.

“It’s a feeling that is hard to describe in a word, but exhilaration comes pretty close.”

She said the experience brought her family full circle.

“My dad hand grabbed in a creek down from his home in Union County when he was a young man,” Whndham said. “He didn’t have man-made boxes to fish out of. He would just stick his hand in the bank of the creek and pull the fish out.

“I always wanted to do it because he did. After you have gone hand grabbing and caught a 27-pound fish, it is hard to go back using a pole.”

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David Hawkins
About David Hawkins 189 Articles
David Hawkins is a freelance writer living in Forest. He can be reached at

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