As “Swamp Pawn” begins its third season, Rick Phillips is still just doing his thing.
Phillips stars in the CMT reality series centered on his Bayou Pigeon seafood distribution business, Phillips Seafood.
“I like doing it because I really don’t have to do anything else, just be myself,” Phillips said at the end of a day’s shoot last week. “It’s very real what we do, you know. Me and my wife Patty, my employees and some of my fishermen, we just do our thing and they film us.”
A typical episode could have Phillips buying a truck full of crawfish or a trailer full of alligators. In between, the business tends to be a revolving door for the fishermen he buys from, and his friends, some of the community’s colorful characters.
“I think we’re blessed down here. I think we have some of the greatest people in the country and I think they’re (TV production companies) finding out that and everybody down here is so flamboyant, they just make good TV, I guess,” Phillips said. “You know, we’re not the shy type. It’s so different, our lifestyles down here, than the rest of the country, and the world for that matter. We live life to the fullest, we party, we eat good, we get along with our friends, we help each other out, and that seems to be the attraction. There seems to be a demand, people want to see that. They like seeing that.”
Among those viewers saw Phillips lending a hand to during the first two seasons were fishermen Coy Gomez and his son, Brian “Shorty” Gomez. When Coy Gomez was diagnosed with cancer, the community rallied around him. Gomez’s death on Aug. 18 at the age of 68 will be addressed this season on the show, Phillips said.
“Coy was a tough person, though. I’ve seen other people go with this disease, and he’s the toughest I’ve seen yet,” Phillips said. “His attitude and stuff, I guess the best way to put it, the time he had left, he made the most out of it. He didn’t waste it going in a corner and being depressed. He really was a trouper, and we’re going to all miss him.”
Also featured in season three, which started filming in May, will be Phillips picking up some new customers as a friend retires, the family visiting Phillips’ dad’s grave on Father’s Day, a deep-sea fishing trip with White Castle lawyer Arthur Bagwell, and Rick and Patty Phillips’ 30th wedding anniversary trip to New York.
“Basically the show just follows what we do. They don’t need to create anything because what’s happening is interesting,” Phillips said.
Phillips has been around TV cameras since 2005, when he was featured on Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs.”
“I was on (History’s) ‘Swamp People’ a little bit when it first started, and got to know people. I started sending homemade footage to this production company, and they said they thought I had a show. They came down and did some shots and stuff, and put it out there, and CMT picked us up,” he said.
Although the biggest wave in his business is during crawfish season, there’s always some kind of seafood going in and out.
“I try to buy everything I can from these guys that are still fishing and sell it wherever I can. After the crawfish die down (early summer), then there’s catfish and frogs into July and August; then alligators start the last week in August — that lasts about a month. Then we’re licking our wounds, fixing trucks and stuff, and everybody’s getting ready for hunting season,” he said. “We’re still buying catfish, and then we’ll start buffalo bait fish in the middle of October. Crawfish start slowly around Thanksgiving, with the real season around the first of February to mid-May.”
“You gotta move them quick,” Phillips said of the perishable crustaceans. “It’s a fingernail-biting business. You have no control what you buy. When you commit to a fisherman, you have to buy all his crawfish — 10 sacks or 100 sacks.
“I almost worry about people not believing the crawfish part (of the show), because I know most people don’t realize how hard it is, but we shoot it like it happens,” he said, of the balancing act that is supply and demand during the season’s peak.
“I had 100 fishermen at one time in the ’80s and ’90s. We shipped to Sweden. Now I’m downsizing. I want to do some fishing.”