Act Like You Been There
by Tiffany Marie McAnally
Sharing life’s lessons can be addictive.
“Act like you been there!” That was what my husband, Doug, teasingly said when he saw me dancing in my seat and excitedly fidgeting while we awaited our turn for the weigh-in at the Cabela’s King Kat tournament just a few short weeks ago.
“But I’ve never BEEN here!” I teased back with a nervous laugh.
It’s moments like this that make our adventure in competitive catfishing worth it. We stepped onto the deck of one of our favorite catfishing guides boats. He guides the lakes in and around Guntersville. It was back in 2020, I never knew that it would lead to a new passion for fishing and a new pastime with the love of my life.
At the time, it was just a way for us to spend time together that wasn’t holed up at home in quarantine. J. R. Hall and Josh Brown of Backwoods Catfishing Guide Service were both instrumental in building my love for this sport. I might have been content to always be a customer of the sport rather than an avid sportsman, but I saw the way it changed my husband.
Back in 2010, I almost lost Doug to a heart attack. It turns out he was 100% blocked in one of the main coronary arteries, the one they call “The Widowmaker.” After that, I saw him give up so much that he loved, particularly in his diet, to be healthier. He and I both started working out together. We both changed; I went back to school and became a nurse so that I could take better care of him.
In the end, one of the things he couldn’t give up is stress. Doug is a real estate broker in the Birmingham area, and it can be pretty intense at times. I also know that the uncertainty of his health condition worries him, and he’s constantly frustrated at the number of prescriptions he has to take just to continue on.
Catfishing is a way for him to release all of that into the breeze blowing across his Ranger and the ripples across Lake Guntersville. The genuine happiness that flows through him when we are on the water gives me such indescribable joy. I watch his entire frame just relax into the world, and it gives me peace.
Catfishing is his “second wind” from the workweek. In the moments we’re rocking on the waves waiting for the first twitch of our rods, everything just ties together for him. It becomes his purpose. These are the changes I’ve seen in him.
I wish I could say I was being completely selfless in my reasons for becoming a lady angler, but that’s not the case either. I don’t think anyone ever really sits down to think how incredible it is that we get to pull these huge beasts up from the depths of the lakes to lay eyes on them. It is truly amazing and awe-inspiring.
There’s a surge of energy and excitement in having a fully bent rod relax just enough to see the surface break with the head of a huge blue cat. Then, when you have it pulled from the water, to feel its body flex and writhe in your arms, you realize just how big the beast is.
I count my blessings each and every time I’m looking down into the face of a huge catfish. Not many people get the privilege of seeing something as magnificent. I study each one I catch, and I practically memorize the battle scars they bear from other fights with both fish and fishermen. Every catfish tells a different story, but the ending is the same. They survived whatever life threw their way.
THAT is why I love being a lady angler—because of the life lessons I take away from each trip and being able to share these experiences with my husband. Every day I learn more and I should add, that I absolutely am a staunch advocate for conservation and preservation of these natural resources so that others may enjoy the catfish as much as I do.
Doug and I both are proud members of the American Catfishing Association, and I am beyond thrilled with the victory achieved with our unified voices in the catfishing world, squashing the bill in Alabama meant to remove the limits that are in place to preserve our fisheries.
“Act like you been there.” I can’t ever do that. Every experience I share with my husband is priceless, and I live my life as if there is no tomorrow because one day that will be true. So when you see me at a weigh-in, you’ll be able to easily pick me out. I’ll be the one pacing and over-breathing, dancing and clapping for my fellow anglers… and wearing the biggest smile in the world.