by Debbie Hanson

Tiffany “Snookie” Risch inspires women to target blue cats on the James River.

Some anglers have a way of describing an experience with such passion and enthusiasm that it makes you want to drop whatever it is you’re doing at that given second and get outdoors to bait a hook or cast out a lure.

Tiffany Risch, known to most as “Snookie” on social media, is one of those anglers. Her down-to-earth nature and words of encouragement for women in the fishing community make it easy to understand why she has a prominent role in the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation’s (RBFF) “Women Making Waves” movement and a following of over 35,000 on Instagram.

She’s certainly not alone when it comes to her love of fishing and the outdoors. According to RBFF’s 2021 Special Report on Fishing, female participation increased to 20 million participants during 2020, which was a whopping 10% gain over the year prior.

As Snookie began talking about her relatively newfound affinity for targeting big blue cats on the James River, the enthusiasm for fishing that she credits to her grandfather bubbled up in her voice.

“Don’t be afraid, just get out there and do it,” she stated. “You don’t know how much you’ll enjoy it until you actually get out and experience it first-hand.”

“I couldn’t wait to earn my first slime bath,” added Risch.

From Lipping Largemouth to Cradling Monster Catfish

While Snookie is most often connected with the bass fishing community since she helps manage the Virginia Elite 70 bass tournament trail, she has been eager to soak up the knowledge that comes with targeting monster catfish.

One of her first experiences fishing the James River came back in July 2018 with Captain John Garland of Screaming Reel Charters. The trip resulted in Risch landing her personal best 72.8-pound blue cat.

Risch caught this fall season blue cat on the James River in September of 2021 with Captain Thomas Mallory.

A couple of years later, she connected with Captain Thomas Mallory to fish for big blues during the month of September on the James River with her friend Samantha Gay and Captain Mallory’s girlfriend, Becca Mick.

Snookie references the feelings of gratitude that come with being able to learn new techniques and share a feeling of community with other anglers.

“When you’re fishing with cut bait on a bottom rig, you have a waiting period in between bites which brings out conversations that you might not normally have,” she suggested.

“That time gives you an opportunity to learn from the captain and build stronger bonds with friends while on the water,” added Risch.

She enjoys switching it up from fishing artificial lures for bass to gaining more experience with rigging cut shad for monster catfish.

“You’re always learning something new out there—learning how to rig with 12- to 16-ounce weights and 8/0 circle hooks, using medium heavy gear with 80-pound shock leader, how to fish the tide on the river, and looking for the deep pools,” Risch explained.

“You don’t know what you don’t know until you open yourself up to new experiences,” she added.

As with most kids, her early fishing experiences were primarily focused on casting a line in a local pond with her family and grandfather.

“Growing up, I occasionally fished for catfish in local ponds with my parents,” recalled the Virginia-based angler. “But these big blue catfish opened my eyes to an entirely different world of catfishing.”

Encouraging and Inspiring Others

Not only do Snookie’s personal experiences and heartfelt advice for fellow female anglers serve as testament to her dedication for supporting others, those who spend time with her are inspired to stick with it.

As a mentor and educator in the fishing community, Snookie, far right in the photo, plays a prominent role in the “Women Making Waves” initiative that was launched by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation in 2018. The initiative was designed to empower women and girls to cast off labels and rock the boat.

“What I admire about Snookie the most is her tenacity and dedication to fishing,” said friend and fellow angler Gabriella Hoffman. “Not only in her angling pursuits, but in making sure others—including newbies—feel welcomed and embraced on the water.”

Risch’s kind-hearted way of rolling out the proverbial “fishing welcome mat” hasn’t just been limited to friends and family either. As a volunteer coordinator for the CAST For Kids Foundation she has hosted fishing events on the James River for disabled children in her community.

She reflects upon her time spent giving back and the importance of being a supportive member of the fishing community.

“The feeling of sharing a technique or fishery with a friend makes it like a whole new experience,” acknowledged Risch. “You experience joy for someone else’s success, develop respect for fellow anglers, build those bonds, and make new memories on the water. I’s all part of it. You have to get out and explore what your dreams are and maybe in the process, you help someone else discover theirs.”

You can follow @snookiefishing on Instagram to see more photos of her catfish adventures and learn more about the “Women Making Waves” social media movement to increase female representation in fishing and boating by following @take_me_fishing. Join in on the online conversation by using the hashtag #WomenMakingWaves or find out how you can become a mentor in the fishing community.