Through her position as Event Coordinator with TXTCA Guppy conducts the successful Kids Fish Fest on Free Fishing Day in Texas each year.
Rachelle “Guppy” Slaughter, Texas Trophy Catfish Association
Sharing lessons of patience, hard work, persistence, and respect through catfishing.
by Ron Presley
Thirty-three-year-old Rachelle Slaughter has a passion for fishing and teaching kids how to fish. She lives in Montgomery, Texas, approximately 45 minutes north of Houston. She does a little fishing on her home waters of Lake Conroe and keeps busy with the Texas Trophy Catfish Association (TXTCA). Most people call her Guppy.
“I started fishing with my grandfather,” recalled Guppy. “We would go fishing at this tiny crystal-clear creek called the Rio Ruidoso in Ruidoso, New Mexico. Pop, as I call my grandfather, taught me to love and respect nature in all its beauty and everything it provides for us.”
“I readily admit that throughout my childhood I never caught a single fish,” continued Guppy. “But I could sit for hours organizing Pop’s tackle box, endlessly inspecting every lure and jig. Pop has been one of the great influences in my life and has made me into the person I am today. Fishing with him is something I’ll always treasure. The memories are embedded in my heart and are the foundation of my love for fishing.”
Some of Pop’s life lessons were old school and effective. He had a deep respect for nature and expected Guppy to have that same respect. He believed in the age-old axiom, that if you shoot it or catch it, you have to eat it.
“I once shot a Blue Jay with a pellet gun when I was younger,” recalled Guppy. “Pop made me a Blue Jay quesadilla for lunch that day. I can tell you there was definitely a lesson learned and I haven’t shot another bird since. Blue Jay quesadillas are about as unappetizing as they sound.”
Guppy gave up bird hunting but continued to fish into adulthood. She mainly caught sunfish and bass. Then, when she met her husband, Brad Doyle, she really got a taste for what fishing was all about.
“On our first date Brad took me fishing on Lake Conroe,” Guppy said. “Not only did I catch my first catfish on that trip, we both caught a limit. It was the beginning of my journey in the catfishing world and I haven’t looked back!”
Guppy participated in some fishing tournaments, but indicated that her health does not allow her to spend consecutive days on the boat preparing to fish them. Therefore, she submerged herself in the planning, organization, and success of the TXTCA tournaments.
“I spend my time fundraising, manning booths, marketing, advertising, and ensuring an enjoyable event for all of our anglers, donors, vendors, and attendees,” Guppy said. “My favorite part of the tournaments is making sure the trophy catfish not only live but remain active in our oxygenated rejuvenation tanks. I enjoy seeing the spark in a child’s eyes as they approach the tank and learn the anatomy of these magnificent fish and the importance of conservation.”
Guppy’s dedication and effort in support of TXTCA are recognized and appreciated by many. She and Brad also operate Bradley’s Guide Service on Lake Conroe. They own Catfish Bubblegum and Bradley’s Bite Enhancer, and Guppy runs another small business called Gator Bait Gear. To say she is a busy person is an understatement, but as we often hear, if you want a job done right, give it to a busy person.
“My husband, Brad, is the Vice President of TXTCA,” explained Guppy. “So, I’ve always been along for the ride. One day Kevin, the TXTCA President, texted me asking if I’d like to put together a kids fishing event for World Fishing Day. I agreed, hesitantly, because at that time the scheduled date was only 12 days away!”
The idea for the kids event came up just days after the Santa Fe High School shooting in May of 2018. This tragedy made the event much more than just about fishing to Guppy.
“I truly feel that we need to get more kids outside,” explained Guppy. “If we can get them off their electronics, back in touch with nature, teach them patience, respect, and hard work, maybe we can prevent further acts of violence.”
She started organizing by creating an event page and trying to find donors. Two days prior to the event she was excited about having had 7 rod and reel combos donated. She was thinking there might be 20 to 25 kids at most.
“It was rather intimidating when the online event page indicated more than 800 people were either “interested” or “going,” revealed Guppy. “Then Fox 26 News called and asked us to come do a live broadcast the next day.”
She said she did a lot of pacing as the possibilities began to come clear. She started adding up the numbers. She was looking at 800 people, plus 10 million viewers, minus 7 fishing poles. It all equated to panic.
“I gathered everyone I knew that was willing to volunteer,” said Guppy. “I reached out to all my contacts looking to borrow fishing rods for the day. We ended up with around 75 fishing rods and 150-200 kids were in attendance.”
A highlight of the event was provided by several volunteers who fished overnight to catch trophy catfish that were placed in an oxygenated rejuvenation tank. The children could see them up close and personal.
“We held a tagging demonstration,” offered Guppy. “And we taught the kids the importance of conservation before safely releasing the fish. We also teach angler safety and etiquette, knot tying, fish identification, how to bait a hook, how to hold the fish, and how to safely release them.”
“I had been surrounded by smiling children all day,” recalled Guppy. “Once the very hot, very hectic event was over I knew I had to do it again. And we had to make the next one even better!”
Guppy has become the Event Coordinator for TXTCA where she led them in hosting the first annual “Casting for Casey.” It is a free fishing event for children and families with special needs and named in memory of Guppy’s son, Casey. They were able to obtain a waiver from Texas Parks & Wildlife to eliminate the need for a fishing license at the event, so no parent would have to acquire a license to fish alongside their child. These events will be held annually on Casey’s birthday weekend in September.
“After putting a fishing rod in more than 4,000 children’s hands and teaching them how to safely use these tools, I still find the same joy as I did at our very first event,” continued Guppy. “Teaching the children is my passion, my life, and I couldn’t imagine living in a world where these great joys don’t exist.”
“I’d like my grandchildren to look at nature in awe the same way I do,” Guppy said. “I want to teach them about its honest beauty the same way my Pop taught me. If we continue to destroy our ecosystems, I fear they’ll never be able to see how much nature has to offer, much less catch a true trophy catfish.”
“Fishing is more than just a sport to me,” concluded Guppy. “It is an outlet that can bring people together and teach valuable life lessons. Lessons like patience, hard work, persistence, and respect.”
Editor’s Note: Rachelle, or Guppy as she is known, has used her passion for fishing to reach many kids. She has risen from volunteering to become the Event Coordinator for the Texas Trophy Catfishing Association (TXTCA) where her husband serves as Vice President. With her leadership, something that started out as a small idea with TXTCA has grown into a program that teaches kids about fishing, conservation, and the benefits of being outdoors.