North Charleston fisherman Patrick Crawford wins Animal Planet’s Top Hooker competition

North Charleston fishing guide Patrick Crawford, with daughter Medda, 2, won the Animal Planet reality show Top Hooker. The prizes included a trophy, a truck and cash. Wade Spees/Staff July 22, 2013 Buy this photo

When the Animal Planet reality fishing show Top Hooker ended late Sunday night, North Charleston fishing guide Patrick Crawford walked out of a viewing party at Finz Bar & Grill in Mount Pleasant and returned with a giant trophy.

America’s Top Hooker

What: Reality fishing show on Animal Planet that featured 10 contestants, all with fishing backgrounds, in elimination challenges that spanned eight episodes (animal.discovery.com/tv-shows/top-hooker.)

Winner: Patrick Crawford of North Charleston

Then “Captain Cocky,” as he is sometimes known, spent the next 30 minutes posing for photos with friends and well-wishers, finally able to acknowledge he had emerged as America’s Top Hooker. In addition to the trophy, he also won $30,000 cash and a new Chevrolet Silverado pickup.

Crawford, who runs Allure Fishing Charters (allurefishingcharters.com), said during that 30-minute period he received 90 Twitter notices, more than 100 Facebook messages and 76 text messages offering congratulations.

“I love it. If they’d let me do Season 2, I’d go tomorrow,” Crawford said.

Crawford saw a Facebook posting about the show last summer and, along with fishing partner Derek McCardle, submitted a brief bio with photos. He then was asked to submit a video and was one of 40 who was asked to come to Los Angeles last August where they “did some skills tests, energy stuff.”

Five days before filming began in mid-October, he received a call telling him to catch a plane and head to California. He would be unable to talk with anyone outside of the show, including his wife Breanne or their now 2½-year-old daughter Medda. All contestants and their families had to sign a $1 million confidentiality contract that they would not reveal what had transpired until the show, which aired Sundays at 10 p.m., ended.

“It’s been amazing. I’m really happy he was chosen. We knew when it came about it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. Having him gone and not bringing in any income, that was hard. But it was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Breanne Crawford.

She said friends and family were continually pushing her, asking every trick question in the book in an effort to find out. And Crawford told friends “Do you think if I had won $30,000 I’d be running four charters a day?”

“We started (filming) a week and a half before Halloween and I got home at 9 o’clock at night the day before Thanksgiving,” Crawford said. “When we got there, they took our cell phones, iPods, laptops, even books. They literally went through your bags. You get nothing.”

For the most part, the anglers’ fishing prowess wasn’t showcased. The first challenge was diving into a tank filled with 15,000 goldfish and being asked to catch as many goldfish as you could using only your mouth. Another challenge was riding a zip line across the water and using a net to land tilapia. The challenge Crawford hated the most was rigging a remote control boat to catch a fish, an event in which he barely managed to avoid elimination.

Three contestants made it to Sunday’s final episode, with the first challenge being to catch and land a fish and get it into a net while fishing atop a deer stand 10 feet above the water. Crawford caught a rainbow trout to become one of the two finalists. The event that made him champion was an offshore bottom fishing trip where, with help from a pair of teammates, he spent two days trying for the most weight. Thanks to an almost 50-pound shark, Crawford won the title.

Crawford said people thought there would be a lot of backstabbing, similar to the show Survivor, but it didn’t turn out that way, and he considers the nine other contestants close friends. He talks to them and texts them regularly and said they are planning a reunion.

Crawford hopes winning this will enable him to live another dream, hosting his own fishing show. He did 13 shows last season, not counting Top Hooker, with other hosts. Crawford said he has purchased equipment and soon will begin filming. He said it’s a goal he has had for years and this will be a stepping stone. And there is the recognition factor, which Crawford said has been humbling.

“It’s not the adults, but all the kids notice me,” Crawford said. “They will come down to the boat and say ‘Dad, I told you so. That’s him.’ That’s what I get a kick out of. I pick up my customers in Shem Creek, and I was coming under the bridge and there was some guy yelling out ‘Top Hooker!’ Wow.”

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