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God's Plan: The Perfect Catch

Randy Rudder - 700 Club Producer

“I used to think it was pretty cool all the time that Jesus was always with fishermen--never golfers in the Bible; it was always fishermen. That’s kind of my joke about that. It did draw me to want to read more and learn more, just interested in why Jesus chose fishermen.”  

Randy Howell has always loved fishing. “The fishing lifestyle is a lifestyle of faith cause you're chasing after a little green fish that you don't see, you know, and it's a lot like your journey with Christ,” he says. “It's all faith-based. You can’t see it. So that’s a pretty good parallel.”

Randy came to faith as a young boy while attending vacation bible school. “About 12 years old is when I really felt the Holy Spirit tugging at my heart and that conviction to where I knew, you know, what right and wrong really was and that I wanted to, you know, be saved and have a relationship with Jesus.”

He says that from a young age, he knew he had a call that might involve fishing. “My mom took me to a lot of revivals and a lot of places like that,” Randy adds. “Pastors would call me out in a crowd there and say, ‘God's got you know, a special calling on your life.”

But as a teen, Randy began experiencing health issues that threatened to derail his dreams of a fishing career. “I found out I had ulcerative colitis, but little did I know it was going to turn into something big and major,” he says,” where surgeries were going to be required. And that was the big shocker.”

After high school, Randy married Robin and got his first pro fishing tour card, when his illness struck with a vengeance. “I was on the lake fishing and the first day I was in 10th place and I needed to make the top 10 to advance to the All-American. I started throwing up blood,” Randy recalls. “I came in from fishing. I was by myself, I lived eight hours from where I was at the tournament, so I worked my way back, stopping at gas stations, throwing up blood.”

Randy got to a hospital in Rocky Mount, North Carolina just in time. “The doctors said, you know, ‘You were within a couple hours of having peritonitis. I could have died within hours if I hadn't got there. That’s what made it really real when they told me that. I had a lot of infections and they only took two-thirds of my colon out my first surgery."

Because of his health problems, Randy began to wonder if he would ever fish professionally.

“At Duke, the doctors said, ‘This is going to be a very difficult thing to chase for you because you're going to end up having a lot of issues, possibly more surgeries in the future.’ And it was a very – it was kind of a discouraging report.”

The illness caused Tandy to pursue the Lord deeper. “When adversity hits you for the first time, that’s when you truly go from religion to relationship,” he says. “I totally submitted my life to him at the time and I said, ‘Lord, whatever you want me to do with my life, whether it's fishing or something else, here I am. I'm ready to do it. I'm just thankful to be alive.’ That’s where God’s miracle working power really came in and healed me quickly because those surgeries should have taken six to nine months between each one, but instead, I had all three surgeries within four months and that was the part that was miraculous.”

Now that he was healed, Randy went back to fishing. Not only was he winning tournaments and getting endorsements, he also had a platform to share his faith. “That’s when God said, you know, ‘I didn't call you to be a missionary in China, I called you to be a fisherman and this is what I want you to go do.’ So that’s where my speaking kind of started,” he says. “Jesus told stories and that's what the parables were in the Bible, and that's all I had to do was tell my story, and that's all anybody has to do is tell their story to bring people to know Jesus. That's what fired me up and got me excited.”

God was preparing him for the biggest moment in his professional life. In 2014, he was fishing in the Bass Master Classic at Guntersville Lake, Alabama. Randy remembers, “I was in 11th place after two days, and all the media had pretty much, you know, written it off that I could, or anybody outside the top 10, could have a chance at winning. And that's the day that I went out the next morning, I'm running up the lake and had a clear, just the clearest ever, of just a Holy Spirit visitation in my boat. I saw a vision in my mind that said ‘Turn the boat around now, and go to this bridge.’  I saw a quick glimpse, like a video, of me under this bridge, casting and catching fish.”
Randy heeded the voice. “I turned the boat around and ran back to this bridge, and as soon as I pulled up, I started catching fish on every cast and made, at the time, the greatest comeback in Bass Master Classic history,” he says. “I was almost 10 pounds behind and I came back with the largest catch of the day: 29 pounds 2 ounces, and ended up winning by one pound, winning $300,000 the World Championship. I didn't do it; it was God that did it that day.”

Randy is now one of the top-rated bass fisherman in the world. He has had no health issues and continues to win major tournaments. And he continues to tell his story. “You got to fall in love with Jesus,” Randy says. “You can’t just get a Bible and just go to church and say, ‘I’m a Christian.’  When you do that, and you go all in, and see it happen, then you know it’s real. Adversity is just going to make you stronger, and it’s going to make you persevere. When you know who is in control and you discover your purpose, then you can make a difference. You just have to go all in, and God will open doors and take care of you.”

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