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Hook & Barrel
A Lifestyle Magazine for Modern Outdoorsmen

hannah baron and dale brisby

For Arena-Like Thrills, the “World’s Greatest Bull Rider” Goes Catfish Noodling & Elk Hunting 

While there are no official statistics to determine “The World’s Greatest Bull Rider,” Dale Brisby is pretty confident he has the title locked up.  

It’s obvious as soon as he introduces himself. 

dale brisby on a horse

“People just can’t wake up and be the best, but Dale Brisby did,” he says from his Radiator Ranch outside Ft. Worth, Texas. “I got on my first bull when I was nine, got 90 of course, then never looked back.”  

Whether even a glimmer of that is true doesn’t matter, because like any great storyteller, Brisby is all about charisma and delivery—though he rides a pretty mean bull, too. And while nobody would question his rodeo skills, what has set him apart is the persona he’s created as the world’s greatest bull rider, a catchphrase he repeats so much it becomes impossible to argue. 

“For the three people who don’t know, I’m Dale Brisby and I’m the world’s greatest bull rider,” he reiterates. “And 10 years ago, I decided to give the world an inside look at what it’s like to be the world’s greatest bull rider.”   

Brisby is, in fact, a Will Rogers for the YouTube generation, a gregarious, charismatic cowboy who brings the world of the West to the masses with humor in short, digestible doses. Where Rogers had musical numbers and follies-style sketches, Brisby instead has short-form videos of life on his ranch with him and his interns. And by leveraging technology and social media better than anyone else in the rodeo world, he’s become the closest thing to a household name the sport has—even if finding his competition results on the internet is almost impossible. 

The Wild World of Catfish Noodling 

dale brisby catfish noodling with hannah baron

Dale Brisby is a world-class bronc and bull rider, that much is certain. You’ll learn as much with a quick perusal of his YouTube channel, where he performs feats of rodeo with a sly smile and quick wit. He makes it all look effortless and easy, which is why you can take him seriously despite every video’s hearty dose of self-parodying humor.  

It’s also why he’s become a sensation on social media, with half a million subscribers on YouTube and over a million followers on Instagram and TikTok. His videos regularly receive tens of thousands of views, and he even starred in his own reality series on Netflix called “How to be a Cowboy.”  

“Ten years ago, the Internet was really full steam ahead with content creation, so that was the only option for me,” he says. “If I was going to be on the Internet, it was going to be doing things in the rodeo arena, on a horse, so that was the natural progression for me.”  

Now, he’s cashing in on his popularity, promoting himself through his Rodeo Time apparel brand. The brand and the ranch are staffed by a team of interns from across the country, a couple of whom were profiled on the Netflix series. The booming Rodeo Time label has led him to appearances on numerous podcasts, including Joe Rogan’s, and created friendships with other outdoors celebrities like Cam Hanes and Hannah Barron. Through these friendships he’s discovered an outdoor world beyond the ranch, delving deep into noodling and elk hunting.  

“I like things where you’ve got to mentally overcome something to accomplish a task,” he says. “And to be honest, the only way I want to fish anymore is with my hands, and the only way I want to hunt is with a bow.”  

Have No Fear 

Dale Brisby says his fascination with noodling runs further back than his friendship with Barron, to when he was a child. 

“It was always something I’d wanted to do,” he says, “You’re underwater, you can’t see, there’s a fear factor there you have to overcome.”  

If you haven’t gone noodling before, Brisby explains the sport is far more complex than simply sticking your arm in a river and hoping a catfish swallows your wrist. Typically, a box is placed over a catfish hole, and the noodler reaches in a hole in the box to try and lure a river monster out. 

“The females lay eggs, and the males come and protect them,” Brisby explains. “When your arm goes in, the male catfish can sense you’re in there…they’ll grab onto your fist, and they can bite you up to your elbow.  

Intrigued by the sport, Brisby began finding videos online of a small-framed female named Hannah Barron ripping 70-pound catfish out of the water with her bare hands. Game recognized game and Brisby did what any self-respecting social media influencer does when he wants to get another influencer’s attention: He sent her some t-shirts. It sparked a conversation, and soon Brisby and his cameraman Danny were on a plane to visit Barron to experience noodling firsthand.  

“Her dad is Jeff Barron, and while they don’t do it professionally, every summer they take two or three friends out,” he says of the experience. “It was a good trip, and we’ve done it every summer since.” 

While the technique of noodling was new to Brisby, he found the mental approach similar to what he knew from rodeo. 

“There are fundamentals to it, and then there’s a fear factor you have to overcome,” he says. “When (the catfish) bites you, you gotta grab a hold, and it’s counterintuitive to what your mind tells you you should be doing.”  

Brisby says the teeth feel like hard sandpaper, but the key to successfully nabbing a big catfish is to keep concentrating on your fundamentals after the fish bites down on you. Intuitively, you’ll want to pull your arm out, but instead, you must remember where to grab the fish, roll with it, and try and get it out of the water. 

“You’re gonna have a scar on your arm for the rest of the year,” he says. “They’re gonna take that top layer of skin off, and somebody from the city who doesn’t see their own blood often, they’re probably gonna be one and done.”  

Brisby was far from one and done because he says noodling is a lot like bronc riding. 

“In buck riding, you have to lift your bronc ring and stay back, and if you let fear run through your body, you’re not going to execute those fundamentals,” he says. “The fundamentals are counterintuitive. Noodling and bronc riding have fear attached to them, where you’ve got to get past your fear and remember to perform fundamentals. Of course, with catfish noodling, you’ve got some delicious catfish to eat, too.” 

An Education In Elk Hunting

His friendships with fellow internet personas also led him to the mountains of Colorado to try out a bow he’d gotten from ultramarathoner Cam Hanes. While Hanes couldn’t accompany Brisby on the hunt, he set him up with Bear Mountain Outfitters and guide Brad Probst, who put him right on plenty of elk during his first hunt.  

“A lot of people threw rocks at me when I went with a guide. But I didn’t know shit about it,” he says in a surprisingly humble turn from his claims of getting 90 as a nine-year-old.  

“What do you want me to do? Go wound an elk because I don’t know what I’m doing? That’s just wasting my time and the elk’s time. I want a guided hunt so I can learn. If you want to get on a bull, you’re not going to enter PBR. You’re gonna find somewhere to learn.”  

And learn he did. Early in the hunt, Brisby said he didn’t quite understand how much more aggressive you could be with elk while bowhunting, as opposed to deer. And it caused him to miss a golden opportunity to get a six-by-six bull. 

dale brisby bull elk

“With those elk being in the rut, I learned you can be a lot more aggressive (with a bow) in terms of getting in position,’ he says. “With whitetail, you’ve gotta be so still. Elk have great eyesight, but they’re so focused on chasing those cows.”  

From that point forward, he was more aggressive and ended the hunt by getting a five-by-five during his last hour. 

“The only way I want to hunt now is with a bow,” he says. “It’s hard to revert back to a rifle once you’ve done that. I’m not saying I wouldn’t pull the trigger on a whitetail, but if I had to pick a way to hunt it would be with a bow.”  

It’s the hands-on excitement of fishing with your bare hands and hunting with a bow that gets Brisby hooked, as the feeling of catching an animal with minimal assistance is a rush akin to what he feels riding a bull. And the challenge of using a bow adds an extra element of incentive. 

“The excitement is there’s always a chance you go home empty-handed,” he says. “The bow adds an extra level of challenge, so if you’re able to harvest an elk with a bow, it’s that much more rewarding because you know how difficult it was.”  

Rising To The Top 

While Dale Brisby speaks with passion about elk hunting and noodling, his trips are limited to about one per year, since running a ranch and being the world’s greatest bull rider take time. Still, his love of the outdoors has been ever-expanded, and it’s likely only a matter of time before he’ll be introducing himself as the world’s greatest noodler as well. 

Hannah Barron Noodles With The Best Of ‘Em

  

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