Pro angler Blake Smith wears Mission Culture Inc. on his sleeve

Faith With Fishing


Flashlights, GPS, service crews, warranties. All common terms among anglers needing illumination, guidance, repair, and long-term security. 

Interesting how they also describe man’s spiritual needs.

Recognizing this truth, Bassmaster Opens Elite Qualifier pro Blake Smith founded Mission Culture Inc. for the purpose of filling the voids fellow competitive fishermen often face. With tournament schedules tying up several Sundays a year, Smith’s committed to providing meaningful options for what’s missing—and for what’s yet to be found.

The 10th year pro anchors his perspective in biblical beliefs, but there’s no denying the motivation stemming from the stark reality of his daily burden: hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Often called sudden cardiac death, this condition impedes the heart’s ability to pump blood.

Smith’s cardiologist implanted a battery-powered cardioverter-defibrillator in his chest to detect and stop irregular heartbeats. While he appreciates this medical technology, Smith wants his fellow anglers to know he trusts his life to his sovereign creator and the salvation he’s found through Jesus Christ.

“It definitely gave me a lot more purpose,” Smith said of his diagnosis. “You never know how many days your have left and to help as many people as I can to see the light—that’s the game plan.”

A devout Christian, Smith’s committed to sharing the gospel truth; but not by his own merit. Rather, he works through the one who changed his life.

Reference: Matthew 5:16

CONNECTION POINTS

Pro angler Blake Smith wears Mission Culture Inc. on his sleeve

Harnessing the Opens’ congregating influence, Smith integrates multiple Tour Ministry elements into the event’s schedule. 

Legacy Night: Hosted by a local church, Smith assembles a group of professional anglers for a hybrid evening of fishing talk with personal testimonies and faith-based stories.

FOCAS: Following the Wednesday evening tournament registration preceding each Open event, Smith leads a Fellowship of Christian Anglers Society meeting that includes personal testimonies, a Bible study, and prayer time. These nondenominational events are open to anglers, their spouse or significant other, and tournament staff.

Sunday Morning Fishing Church: Meeting 45 minutes before safe light on the weekend prior to an Open event, Smith or a guest speaker will deliver a traditional sermon before anglers begin their practice.

Bible Study: Hour-long breakfast or lunch meetings on the last day of practice help anglers grow their biblical knowledge. Smith keeps this one flexible to best accommodate anglers during tournament week’s demanding schedule.

“We’re trying to stay helpful to the fishermen in accomplishing their task of fishing, but for those that really want to deepen their (spiritual) walk, we’re trying to offer as many opportunities as possible,” Smith said. “Last year, I had multiple fishermen reach out to me and say, ‘I really want to know more about the Bible.’ ‘I really want to walk closer in the sanctification and communion with God.’ That’s where this has progressed.”

STARTING POINT, SUSTAINING STRENGTH

Pro angler Blake Smith wears Mission Culture Inc. on his sleeve

Smith, who co-teaches a discipleship class at his home church in Lakeland, Florida, said Tour Ministry does not replace a local connection. Ardently supporting the home church model with traditional pastoral leadership, he intends Tour Ministry solely as a complementary component to help anglers at all stages of their faith cope with life on the road.

“I’m trying to connect some of those same ideas into our fishermen to, not only give them a place to land when they’re looking for a church on Sunday morning or a fellowship group on Wednesday afternoons, but also to help those who are looking to deepen their own personal walk through a relationship with Christ,” Smith said. 

“This year has been more about discipleship than just outreach. It’s more about building people as individuals than just trying to reach new people.”

Complementing the group activities with personal study and worship direction, Smith co-wrote a devotional book, The Morning Bite, along with fellow Opens EQ competitor James Niggemeyer and Bassmaster Elite chaplain Chis Wells. Smith recently gifted copies to FOCAS meeting attendees, but others can find the devotional on Amazon.

“The devotional offers a look inside our heads,” he said. “It provides deep insight into things that we’ve gone through that we can share with others.”

BRIDGING GAPS

While team circuits often foster lasting relationships, professional fishing largely embodies singular effort. Long days of the water, longer drives to and from tournament sites—the lifestyle leaves lots of time for mental meanderings. 

Self doubt, financial challenges, loneliness, inevitable equipment issues—it’s all part of competitive fishing’s emotional rollercoaster. Add in the responsibilities of family life and fishing travel can levy a large toll. Some say absence makes the heart grown fonder, but too much away time often yields the opposite effect.

All good reasons to connect with a network of friends equally rooted in spiritual foundation.

“Tour Ministry brings community and family,” Smith said. “It increases your sense of belonging. It’s not just show up and fish. We all have common ground and that’s what doing Tour Ministry together does—it builds camaraderie, it builds unity, it builds fishing family.

“This gives anglers a place where they feel comfortable enough to call upon these people when they’re going through loneliness, family issues, deaths of loved ones, healthy problems, or marriage issues. We’ve had people at every one of those categories that we’ve ministered to and we’re trying to do life with them.”

Smith’s no psychologist, nor is he a licensed counselor. But he knows the master healer, comforter, encourager—and he’s eager to make the introduction.  

Reference: Isaiah 40:28-31

THE RIGHT PRESENTATION

Pro angler Blake Smith wears Mission Culture Inc. on his sleeve

A free meal, access to pro anglers, giveaways from supporting companies such as GSM (Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, Bill Lewis, Buckeye), Amped Outdoors, ConnectEase, and Lucas Oil—what’s not to like? Legacy Night’s definitely a good time, but as Smith explained, it’s much more than a meet and greet.

“I’m a big advocate of traditional church, for my personal walk, I need a pastor to (teach) me,” Smith said. “But for people in our outreach, it’s easier for them to come in and hear somebody that they respect; somebody who’s been in the industry a long time, or who has a line of baits.

“They’re going to listen to (a familiar person) because those people already have rapport with them before they’d even walked into a church. I’m not trying to encourage people not to go to church. However, Legacy Night is an opportunity for them to come in and hear their favorite bass fishermen talk about what it was like when they first got started, or how to manage family life when you’re on the road as much as we are.”

Smith’s not about trickery, but he admits Legacy Night is something of a spiritual bait-and-switch.

“We bring them in for the fun and glam of professional bass fighting and then we drop the gospel in their lap in a non-stressful way,” Smith said. “We’re not shoving it down their throat. We’re doing it through hearing a couple of professional bass fishermen tell their stories.”

Same goes for FOCAS and the Bible studies—Smith said he hopes these activities fill a void, while encouraging anglers to start or continue growing in their faith between tournaments.

BOTTOM LINE MEANING

Johann Sebastian Bach concluded his compositions with the abbreviation “S.D.G.” for Soli Deo gloria. Latin for “Glory to God alone,” this phrase bespoke the German composer’s belief that his works should bring praise and recognition to the one that equipped him.

Guided by a similar theme, Smith’s helping anglers write their own music with tunes of perseverance, victory, confidence, and most importantly, salvation through Jesus Christ. This, he said, defines his purpose.

“My calling is to go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of Jesus,” Smith said. “That’s No. 1—the Great Commission.” 

Reference: Matthew 28:19

Consider this: Lakes have vegetation, but rather than struggle with constant snags, we use weedless baits. When stained water decreases visibility, brighter colors, bigger profiles, and rattles help. Conversely, clear water equals spooky fish, but downsizing baits and line earns the bites.

On a grander scale, the Bible is full of problem fixers—especially the ones we create for ourselves.

Reference: II Timothy 3:16-17

“We live in a very dark world and we’re just trying to give people hope,” Smith said. “The objective is always to bring you closer to Christ, but if it gives you hope in a better marriage, better self esteem, if it helps you have better relationships with others, if it helps you get better at fishing because you are in a better place, that’s awesome.

“One goal is that we reach individuals and through them, that we are able to minister to their families.”

Smith has made many friends through fishing. Goodbyes are part of the journey, but with each tournament’s ending, he looks forward to seeing those friends at the next event.

Here’s the critical part.

Smith knows that fishing tournaments will end for him someday. More importantly, life eventually will end for all of us. Smith wants to do all he can to make sure he sees his fishing buddies—and anyone who will listen—in Heaven.

Reference: John 3:16

Blake Smith will gladly teach someone how to tie a better knot or rig the perfect dropshot, but his passion supersedes earthly pursuits.

His life verse is found in 2 Corinthians 5:20:

Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

It starts will friendship. It advances through discipleship. It culminates with eternal security.

S.D.G.

For information on Mission Culture, Inc. and support opportunities, visit https://www.missionculture.org.

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