Impact on the Bass Angler Professional Circuit

My name is Randy Howell and I’m a professional Bass angler on the ESPN  Bassmaster Elite series. I’ve been blessed to have a career in the fishing industry for over 20 years now. Early in my career I was faced with Ulcerative Colitis, which is an aggressive form of inflammatory bowel disease. This disease caused my colon to burst during tournament competition and I was rushed to a hospital where I had emergency surgery! After 4 months and three surgeries later, I began recovering and adjusting to living without a colon and the challenges that it presented.

Along the way I realized that God had allowed this adversity in my life and as I submitted to His will for my life, I saw that He had created me for more than fishing for Bass. He was molding me to be a fisher of men!

Our tour has a Fellowship of Christian anglers meeting each week on tour and as I got involved with that, I was given the challenge of sharing my faith through my testimony at various churches with the Tour Chaplain. The first time I had to speak in front of a crowd at a church, I was 19 years old. God showed me that night that if I would simply and humbly share my stories with others, that He could use me to reach men that could not be reached in a traditional manner.

I’ve been able to share my personal stories of things God has allowed me to be a part of all over the country with thousands of outdoorsman, and He has always been faithful to save the lost at every event!

After the first 10 years on tour, God allowed me to have one of those special encounters that forever shaped my life. This is an amazing story that I’ll close with.

My wife Robin and I had our first son in 2001. We had been married 9 years prior to having our son Laker. Robin had been traveling with me full time and she’d stayed in some really nasty fisherman motels in those 9 years. We were now headed to our first tournament with our baby on board, so I had promised her that we would stay in a nice hotel for her and the baby’s comfort that week. As we arrived in this town, the Holiday Inn where we had our reservation was overbooked and we found ourselves frustrated and looking for another place in a small town with no more options. I told Robin not to worry, God was going to give us a good place to stay and I was going to help Him make it happen. As we proceeded through this town, I stopped at a local marina and asked the man if there were any houses or cabins to rent on the lake, he said no but he’d call his real estate friend and try to find us something. A few minutes later a lady arrived and told us she had a house that was for sale in downtown and we could rent it since we were in a bind. As we drove to this house, I was bragging to my wife about how God was always taking care of our needs and we were going to be in a great place, then we pulled into the driveway of the house in the “Hood”! At first I said no we can’t stay in this area because it looked a little risky, but then Robin said it would be fine, so we unpacked. As I was outside now working in my boat, I heard a door slam across the street, I immediately made eye contact with a middle-aged man who began to walk my way. I have to admit, I was not in the mood to be chit-chatting, I had lots of work to get done before our competition began the next morning. Now this guy was walking up with nothing to do but waste my time! I was cordial and introduced myself and he asked what my “fancy boat” was all about. I told him I was a professional bass angler, and we had a tournament starting the next day and I had a lot of work to do to get ready for it. He immediately started to tell me how bad his life had become and how alcohol and drugs had robbed his life of everything good! Instantly the Holy Spirit convicted me of my bad internal attitude and I knew that this was a “Divine appointment”. I stopped what I was doing and began to talk with him about life. He told me that he had just been served papers from the sheriff that his two boys would not be seeing him again! As I searched for the right words without preaching to him, I asked had he ever been to church around there? He abruptly answered “All these church people around here are a bunch of hypocrites”!! I tried a few more stories of encouragement before he left.  I told him I’d be around all week if he wanted to talk anymore. I think he was embarrassed that he had said what he did about church, so he said he didn’t want to bother me anymore and he headed home.

I went inside and began to tell Robin about him and she interrupted me and said “go give him this book”. It was the Purpose Driven Life book written by Rick Warren and I hadn’t finished reading it yet. She insisted I go to this strangers door immediately and give him MY book! Well I reluctantly listened, and against my will I walked across the street and knocked on his door. After several knocks he finally came to the door a bit startled and surprised that I was there to GIVE him something. I told him I wanted to give him this book because I think it could answer some of his questions that I couldn’t. He said thank you and I headed back across the street. The rest of the week passed by and I never saw him around again to follow-up. The next weekend as we drove home we wondered if God had set that whole thing up to help this guy, or if it was just to stretch me out of my comfort zone. Well two full years passed by and out of the blue one day, we get this envelope in our mailbox, and it was from this guy! First we were amazed at how he’d found our physical address of a house we had just moved into, then as we read the letter, we realized it was ALL a God thing! This man began the letter by exactly laying out the events that happened that night over two years ago. He first explained how he had been served those papers from the sheriff earlier that day, and he said that he put his pistol in his back pocket and specifically told God that “If you are real God, you better do something now because I’m going to go kill myself.”

He then walked out his door and said he saw my “fancy boat”. He said he hadn’t seen anybody at that house in a year, so he decided to walk over to see what was up. He said for some strange reason he started telling me about how bad his life had become due to his bad choices. He said that because I was so nice to him and genuinely seemed to care about his problems that he continued to talk more. He said after I asked about church, he felt like he had offended me with his harsh answer, so he went back home. He said when he got back into his house, satan was tormenting him with his past failures, and suicide seemed like the only way out! As he held the pistol to his head, he heard me knock on his door. In surprise, he reluctantly went to the door and there I was with this book. He said he had never had anybody give him anything good, so he thought, maybe God IS real.  This is all too weird to be happening if not. He said he sat down and began reading that book all night long, and as he read more, he could feel God’s love begin to comfort him.

The next day he left for work and never got to see me again, but that weekend, he ask God to lead him to a church that would accept him and help him get his life on track. He listened to the pastor’s message and with tears rolling down his face, he walked the aisle for salvation.

He said in 6 months he was totally clean from alcohol and drugs and in a year he had gotten his wife and  kids back! He even started ministry training and had been leading a street ministry targeting the guys that he had gotten high with every day in the past. He said if God could give him another chance that he would serve Him with all he had! He ended the letter with a big “thank you for being obedient and stepping out of your comfort zone to help me find Jesus!!”

I know that this is a long story, but it is such an amazing reminder of God’s grace, mercy and love for the lost! All of those events could have happened and I may have never known about it until one day in heaven, but God knew that I needed to be encouraged and spurred to “Press on” for the cause of Christ!

In closing, I encourage you all to never think that you can’t make an impact in the people around you. Everyone of us has a sphere of influence and The Holy Spirit will make those “Divine appointments” happen when we are walking close to Him, so don’t let yourself get too busy and miss those appointments!

Thanks for your time and God bless!!

Randy Howell