Famed-angler Jimmy Houston coming to Cleveland

When Jimmy Houston answered the phone for an interview for this story, he was fishing an Oklahoma lake with Jeff Shaw, the President of O'Reilly Auto Parts (pictured left). But that didn't stop Houston from talking about fishing, and about sharing the gospel at Cleveland (Tenn.) First Baptist Church on April 6. (Photo: Contributed)

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – During my 30+ years as an outdoor writer I’ve had the occasion to interview famous professional angler/TV host Jimmy Houston several times. EVERY time, without question, I leave as a happy man with a smile on my face. Not just because he is a great interview, but he is a great person that knows how to entertain and make others feel good.

Jimmy is hoping to do exactly that – entertain, tell a few tales and maybe save a few souls at the First Baptist Church in Cleveland Friday night, April 6. It is the church’s “Field, Woods, Water” event to “combine faith and a love of the great outdoors during a night of food, encouragement, and Talk & Teach demonstration exhibits.”

Fishing and entertaining just comes natural for the 73-old gentleman with the bright blonde hair – one of the most well-known and colorful personalities in the world of fishing. But he says about 20 times a year he takes his message to church.

“We go tell the gospel,” said Jimmy. “That’s what I do. When you’re a Christian that’s what you should do is spread the gospel. It’s important because there’s a lot of lost people out there. Of course we have a lot of people show up that might not attend a regular church event and that’s important.”

Whether your soul needs saving or not, Jimmy Houston will provide plenty of smiles and a few belly laughs. When I called him up and he answered the cell phone, I could clearly hear water lapping in the background. I asked if he was fishing and he answered, “Of course, that’s what I do.”

He was on a lake in South Oklahoma, his home state, fishing with Jeff Shaw, the President of O’Reilly Auto Parts. But Jimmy had no problem taking a 15-minute break from fishing to talk. He did say, “If Jeff gets a big one on I might have to hang up on you. But knowing how he fishes, that probably won’t happen,” followed by that famous Jimmy Houston laugh.

The famous angler and TV host is inundated with requests for speaking engagements every year. He has to pick and choose which ones he can attend.

He admits that a lot has to do with scheduling but says, “We try to do as many church events as we can and we lean toward the larger churches. We want to touch as many people as we can.”

He knows, and hopes, that many people will show up who would rarely, if ever, step inside a church otherwise. He has been on TV for 42 years so the Jimmy Houston fan base is huge, and those who have watched know the man can spin a yarn with the best of them.

Jimmy related a particularly poignant story that for me summed up his purpose.

“A lot of folks just come because they are fans of the show. I remember going to a Jackson, Mississippi church one time and the pastor told me his brother was going to be there. He said, ‘It will be the first time my brother has been inside a church since he was 12 years old.”

Jimmy paused a moment, perhaps to gather himself and said, “That man got saved that night. He was about 50 years old. Then, about a month later I got a letter from the pastor telling me that his brother had passed away. That man’s in heaven right now because he came to that event that night. That’s just how God works.”

Whether it’s for the food, fun or salvation Friday night at Cleveland First Baptist should be a good time. Read all about it here.

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Richard Simms is a professional journalist and fishing guide in Chattanooga. (See www.ScenicCityFishing.com) He is also a former wildlife officer for TWRA, a book author and a self-proclaimed "River Rat" with a sincere desire for spreading the message about our bountiful natural resources and the people charged with using, or protecting them.


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