River Rumors: All in the catfish family

The life of a cat man’s wife


Good fresh bait, good hooks, the right poles and a little luck can advance your catfish career. But, not as much as a good wife. Take the cases of Paul Blackwell and Chris Souders. These two young catfish anglers have progressed steadily in the ranks of the catfishing community. Rising in the ranks and getting attention is important to tournament anglers that want to attract sponsors. Standing close behind and supporting Blackwell and Souders are two ladies of exceptional character, both expressing great love and support for their catfishing men.

Jennifer enjoys travelling to tournaments with Madison and Paul.

Jennifer enjoys travelling to tournaments with Madison and Paul.

Jennifer Blackwell is a working mother of 2, Madison Atkins, her 11-year-old daughter and Trinity Eller, her 16-year-old-step daughter. The Anderson, SC native tends a household that includes 4 dogs. There are 2 Dobermans (Armani and Allie), 1 American Pit (Cowboy) and I Chihuahua (Kirby). Kirby, a long-haired Chihuahua is the oldest pet, having been around since December, 1999.

Add in one cat, Mr. Squeaks, and that pretty much does it, except for the girl’s two pet mice. “As you can tell, we must really love animals,” offered Jennifer. “We’d have more If I could, but where we live now, I think we’ve reached our limit.”

“Jenny agrees strongly with Jennifer on the one thing they wish was different.”


Sixth grade math teacher, Jenny Souders, lives with her catfishing husband, Chris, in Oak Hill, OH. Chris won the Cabela’s King Kat Tournament Trail Angler of the Year last year. The Souders’ household includes daughter Kori and a 7 ½ year old dog named Brownie, a mixed breed lab. Most days with the Souders includes something related to catfishing, except for Sunday, which is mostly a family day.

A typical Sunday at the Souders’s place starts off with morning church. On returning home it’s a day of living in pajamas, eating all kinds of junk food, watching TV and playing. It is the one day that the whole family is together all day, and one of their favorite days of the week.

The Blackwell family are shown here at the 2017 Santee Cooper Monster Cat Quest.

The Blackwell family are shown here at the 2017 Santee Cooper Monster Cat Quest.

Let’s face it, those wives back home are an important part of the success that Blackwell and Souders have enjoyed as they seek their place in the catfish world. Their catfish wives responded to some questions from CatfishNow. Their answers create a narrative that demonstrates their support for their catfishing husbands.


Jennifer Blackwell


Where does fishing rank in priorities around your house?

“Fishing ranks number two in priority around our house,” revealed Jennifer Blackwell. “Fishing is a very strong second. Paul absolutely loves fishing, it’s his passion, his happy place and his stress relief. Our whole family supports him 100 percent, and we enjoy seeing him progress in the sport he loves so much.”

When it comes to the number one priority, it’s family first. “No matter what tournament is being held, or fishing trip is being conducted, he makes sure we are all taken care of first,” said Jennifer. “On the other hand, we make sure he has all the love and support he needs. We’re all in this together, as a family.”


What is the favorite thing about your role as a fisherman’s wife?

“My favorite thing about being a fisherman’s wife is seeing how happy my husband is and watching him grow and succeed in his fishing goals,” answered Jennifer. “I also love how he includes our children. Seeing him happy makes me happy.”


What is Paul like a week before a tournament?

“He’s excited, on edge, always triple checking all his rods, checking all the equipment on his boat and prepping for any possibility. Above all else, practicing is important to him. Whether it’s on the lake where the tournament is, or on another lake, he will go fishing to practice his techniques. It’s also pretty much the topic of conversations around our household that week before. He gets so excited he is like a kid in a candy store.”


What is the one thing you wish was different?

“The only thing I wish was different would be the time I miss with him while he is away fishing. With my work schedule and the kid’s school schedules, I can’t always go with him. Fishing trips with my husband are fun, yet very intense.”

“Whether it’s for practice, fun or fishing a tournament he’s all in. It’s all about being precise, on the right spot, finding the next spot, making sure he has enough rods to increase his chances and then there’s the wait. The quiet calm before the storm. Once a fish takes a bite and grabs hold, it’s wide open, intense excitement and eagerness to keep hold, and praying it doesn’t get away.  It’s all about being on the fish.”


Jennifer’s Conclusions

“I never realized how competitive catfishing was until Paul really got into it,” concluded Jennifer. “It’s a harder sport than people realize. After a fishing trip or tournament, he’ll come home sore and exhausted as if he just left the gym.”

“I enjoy the fact that I’ve had the chance to watch his progress and to be able to continue watching him strive to do better than he did the time before. Being a fisherman’s wife is all about the love, encouragement and support. Our husbands need that. It takes a lot of time and practice with successful and unsuccessful trips. So, they need the support system at home. I love my fisherman!”


Jenny Souders


Where does fishing rank in priorities around your house?

Top priorities around the Souders’ place is split by months of the year. “Fishing is a top priority around the Souders household, at least part of the year,” responded Jenny Souders. “It is always juggled carefully with family life. Three-fourths of the year fishing is definitely the #1 priority around here. Chris does his best to balance family time and fishing. He sacrifices a lot of sleep to spend time with us when he’s home. He does much of his prep work and video editing after we go to bed.”

Kori welcomed her AOY dad home from the tournament with this sidewalk message.

Kori welcomed her AOY dad home from the tournament with this sidewalk message.

What is the favorite thing about your role as a fisherman’s wife?

My favorite thing about being a fisherman’s wife is being able to see all the great things my husband has accomplished in his career. I enjoy traveling to watch and support him in what he loves. I also enjoy meeting new people at the different fishing locations.

“It’s absolutely great to have him back home after a long trip. Kori and I try to welcome him back. I know he’ll be on the phone quite a bit when he first gets home, but once all the excitement of the tournament settles down, we get back to normal for a few days before the next one.”


What is Chris like a week before a tournament?

Chris turns into a meteorologist the week before a tournament,” reported Jenny. “Every time I open the computer I see the river maps and water level predictions. He constantly checks the weather to see if there is a drastic change on the way. The phone doesn’t stop either. He is very busy with calls and messages to discuss all the aforementioned conditions with everyone. Catching bait has to happen in there as well. That’s not as big of an issue, however, now that he has an X-treme Bait System.”

It requires more personal time to take catfishing seriously. “His stress level increases, because he puts a lot of pressure on himself to do well. He loves to fish, so he is happy.”


What is the one thing you wish was different?

Jenny agrees strongly with Jennifer on the one thing they wish was different.  “I wish tournaments were closer to home,” said Jenny. “It’s difficult to travel as much with him as I’d like with a toddler. Kori misses her daddy a lot when he’s gone on trips.”

“Chaotic would be the best word to describe a fishing trip with Chris. It’ll be much easier as Kori gets older, but right now it’s tough. Trying to balance seeing us and focusing on the tournament is tricky for Chris. I think he feels like he needs to make time to spend with us when we go to a tournament, especially if we stay overnight. That is really difficult since so much time goes into making sure he is prepared.”

Often when the Souders’ family gathers there is a boat involved.

Often when the Souders’ family gathers there is a boat involved.

“Things are different if we go just for weigh in. Kori likes to ride along with him and be right by his side when he weighs in. Then she usually follows him around while he talks to everyone. It’s such a fun atmosphere. Seeing her grow up around all this is really neat.”


Jenny’s Conclusions

“I don’t think people realize the amount of time and effort put into this sport,” concluded Jenny.  “I know, I didn’t realize what all is involved in tournament catfishing until Chris got involved. I’m amazed at how much and how quickly the sport of catfishing has grown. It’s fun to see the expansion.”

“Chris has always enjoyed fishing,” continued Jenny. “It’s something that he really enjoys, and that’s why It’s important for me to support him. He spends a great deal of time fishing, so I need to be supportive of him and the time and effort he puts in to catfishing.

He’s taking it very seriously these days and is doing such great things for the sport of catfishing. It’s not just a hobby for my husband, it’s a passion. When your spouse is passionate about something, you need to take an interest in it too. I don’t have to be on the water with him to be supportive.”


The Bottom Line

Many catfish wives have a lot in common. Their laundry often smells fishy; their husband often smells fishy; they help clean the boat and they might have bait in the fridge. Their home is full of fishing hats and shirts, and they hang fish pictures on the wall. And, in the case of these two catfish wives, they support their husbands, in the thing they like to do, with their love. That’s the bottom line.

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