Fishing in God’s creation
Everyone has that special place to draw near to God. For Major Rob Kramer, it’s when he’s out fishing in his kayak on one of the rivers, lakes or streams near his home in Piqua, Ohio.
“For me, it’s where I find my connection to God,” Rob says. “I’m connected most to the center of my world when I’m out fishing and just enjoying the creation of God. He gives it to us as a blessing, to replenish us, and to show us His love. I’m one of those people who say, it’s in nature that I feel closest to God.”
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”—Mark 1:17.
Rob, who posts fishing videos and shares his faith on YouTube under the handle RobBassMaster, said fishing is also where he finds quietude for prayer.
“I can’t tell you how many things I’ve prayed through while I was fishing,” he said. “That includes struggles and times in my ministry when I was going through something or decisions that had to be made. It was in those moments when I shed many tears before God.
“I was able to pray in freedom because there was no one else around who could recognize what was going on. I could just work through things. I couldn’t do that in my office or at church. In those moments, I escape my daily routine. I have a break that just feels like God intervenes in the process and fills me and gives me such joy and contentment.”
While growing up in Niles, Ohio, Rob learned to fish at the knee of his stepfather Michael Kramer and later with his biological father, Thomas Flynn. Rob remembers using an old wooden cane pole to catch bluegill and catfish. One day when Rob landed a fish that was about 15 inches long and weighed around 3 pounds—much larger than anything he had caught before—he was hooked.
Early in Rob’s officership when he was stationed in Connecticut, he discovered the lake at Camp Connri “loaded with bass.”
“You can almost throw a bare hook in there and catch fish,” Rob said. “That kind of made me feel like I was an elite fisherman.”
When The Salvation Army sent Rob to Warren, Ohio, in 2002, he reunited with his biological father, who was also a passionate fisherman. God used their mutual love for fishing to reconcile their broken relationship.
“Warren, Ohio was a great place for me to fish on the Mahoning River,” he said. “However, once there, I soon discovered that I wasn’t as elite as I thought I was. I had to learn how to fish in other places and discover and build the skills and techniques in order to be a better fisherman.
“There were also a lot of local ponds and lakes around there where I could fish,” he added. “That’s probably where I got involved quite a bit with fishing.”
A record year
Rob has been a Salvation Army officer for 29 years. He now tries to get out once a week, despite his busy schedule. He finds the Piqua area a prime one for fishing.
“Piqua is a beautiful community that has the Great Miami River, as well as some nice lakes where I’m able to fish,” he said.
Rob also travels to the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania, where his family owns a cabin, to fish in the Allegheny River. He also enjoys traveling to Florida to fish.
He and his wife, Jody, both own kayaks and Rob sometimes wears waders and stands in the water to fish. He owns about 10 fishing poles, including one that helped him catch a 46-inch muskie, the largest fish he has ever captured.
Rob said when it comes to fishing, he goes for quantity, not necessarily size. Due to COVID–19, he was out on the pond more in 2020 and caught 314 fish. He normally is happy with catching 100-150 a year.
“I don’t go for the biggest fish,” he says. “I’m looking for largemouth or smallmouth bass and I’m not too concerned with how big they are. I just enjoy the catch. In fact, if anyone watches my videos, they will see that. Most of the fish I catch are maybe 12 inches, maybe a little bit bigger. I do catch big ones, but most of them are just your regular fish between 10 to 15 inches and they’re just a blast to catch.”
While Rob thanks Jesus aloud for each catch, he doesn’t eat the fish. You may be surprised to learn that he releases them.
“The only reason I would keep something would be if I accidentally killed it and that wouldn’t be intentional,” he said. “I feel like it’s a creation that God has blessed me to catch, and I like to be able to pass it on to someone else to catch it, or maybe even I’ll catch it again next time I’m out.
“I like to give them back and let them have babies and let them keep going so that someone else can come behind me and enjoy the fishing as well.”
Casting a wide net
Rob, an avid outdoorsman, kisses each fish before throwing it back, a trick he learned from professional fisherman Jimmy Houston.
“He says if you give them a little sugar, they’ll come back to you,” Rob said. “I give them a little kiss and just trust that they’ll come back. Of course, when I come home, my wife won’t kiss me until I brush my teeth and wash my face.”
Rob used to just post photos of his fishing conquests on social media. But in 2019, he started his own fishing channel on YouTube. At first, Rob says he put the videos up on a whim simply to reminisce about his fishing experiences, but God was calling him to something much bigger.
“It’s amazing how many YouTubers from all over the country and the world will watch one of the videos and make a comment and share something with me regarding their faith,” he said. “I have fellow believers on there and we support each other when we’re releasing our latest fishing video. It’s given us avenues to express and share our faith. Those who are not following God get curious and start asking questions. It gives you an opportunity to share your faith.”
An avid viewer from Piqua watched one of Rob’s videos and the two ended up fishing together and filming a video. Rob was also able to talk about God and how many of the Bible’s miracles and stories involve fish.
“I found it is a way to evangelize and to share my faith and to let people know about Jesus,” he said. “I try to make sure that in every one of my videos, I’m posting scripture or something like that, and occasionally I’ll talk about who I am and why I do what I do.”
In one video, which was a tribute to his late father, Rob shared about the resurrection of Christ and how Rob will one day see his father again in heaven.
“That’s one where I share quite a bit about my faith and how I got started in fishing,” he said.
Rob’s channel is called “RobBassMaster,” but the humble Salvation Army officer doesn’t consider himself a “master” fisherman. He explained that bass are the special species of fish that he goes after; a master is simply someone in the process of learning a craft.
His YouTube channel’s logo features the ichthus Christian fish you typically see on the bumper of cars, along with a hook and the Bible verse Mark 1:17, where Jesus called His disciples to be fishers of men.
“That is the heart to everything,” Rob says. “It expresses three of my four passions. One is not visible; it’s my family. The other three are: my faith, my ministry, and of course, fishing, which is also a way that I share my faith.
“If you look at the fish, you’ll notice that it has a cross where the eye would be. Then you see a fishhook. The hook stands for fishing, but it also has another message behind it—the Gospel, which sows the Word so that it may be able to catch men and women. It also catches people who are enjoying the fishing sport. They fail to realize that at the same time seeds of the Gospel are planted while they watch a video.”
by Robert Mitchell