Mark Rose is a man on a mission. The Walmart FLW Tour pro from Marion, Ark., maintains his focus with a clear sense of priorities. For him, it’s all about his Christian faith, family and fishing – in that order.
Basing his plans on the biblical passage of Matthew 28:16-20 (The Great Commission), Rose says: “When I put my faith and trust in Jesus, I decided I wanted to tell anyone who would listen about it. Those are the last marching orders of Jesus – to go teach others, share the good news and make disciples. I’m a Christian before I’m a fisherman, a husband or a father – before anything. My family is right behind that, but right in line is my passion for the outdoors.”
Competition has been part of Rose’s life for many years. He played baseball in college, but it was cut short by injury, which motivated Rose to segue his lifelong fishing interests into a sustainable career path with the visibility to enable evangelism. That, in a nutshell, is how Rose leverages the platform afforded him by his status as a professional angler: to exemplify a life based on spiritual faith and focused on family involvement.
Much of his motivation comes from his appreciation for the connection he has to his home church – Rose is a deacon at Angel’s Way Baptist Church in Marion, Ark. – and the realization that not everyone has such a spiritual base. Even for regular church attendees, the typical bass tournament schedule always requires committing several Sundays to competition.
“My mission is to share and promote the love of Christ with sportsmen,” Rose notes. “Sportsmen have been the focus for me because they work hard and they play hard, and a lot of that play time is done on the weekend. A normal church setting is difficult for them, so outdoors-based ministry is something that’s important to me.”
Rose strives to fill the void with a couple of options, complemented by one-on-one discussions. First is Fishing Church – a nondenominational meeting held 30 minutes before daylight on the Sunday practice day prior to each Walmart FLW Tour event. It includes a 15-minute message and prayer time and provides a spiritual option without taking anglers out of their competitive schedule.
“It’s reaching them where they are,” Rose says of this casual event with its serious focus. “It’s a more a comfortable setting for guys who may not regularly attend church.”
During tournament weeks, Rose joins fellow Tour pro Glenn Chappalear who coordinates with local churches to host an event called Meet the Pros, in which he and other pros such as Greg Bohannan, Jay Yelas and Scott Martin visit with fans during a fish fry.
And then there’s the day-to-day person who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. Consistent from big-fish moments on the water, to each of his six FLW tournament victories, is the testimonial image of Mark Rose smiling and pointing skyward – a gesture of appreciation for the source of his strength.
“The main thing for me is that I want to win so I can stand up and tell people that Jesus loves them and he always will,” Rose says. “I’m not concerned with riches and notoriety. Winnings are just a means to get me to the next event so hopefully I can have the opportunity to share my faith again.”
Rose spends his downtime from outdoor recreation and business with his wife and grade-school sweetheart, Christi, and daughters Natalie and Hannah Grace.
In addition to his tournament-based ministry, Rose speaks at churches and public events about 15 times a year. To this day, he’s humbled by invitations to speak about his faith.
“It kind of blows me away because I don’t really advertise it,” he adds. “I’m just a professional fisherman who loves telling people about Jesus. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m outspoken about my faith, so I guess that’s how people know about it.”
The big bites that had carried Rose throughout the event were nonexistent today – except for a 5 1/2-pounder that he sight-fished late in the day. The other four fish he weighed averaged just a pound and change apiece.
"If you'd told me when I was leaving the house that I'd finish 2nd, I'd have taken it and never went," he said. "However, I'm still a competitor and when I put myself in that position, I want to get it done.
"I tried everything I knew to put together 15 pounds on backup stuff, but I couldn't do it. It was just Bryan's time – he was the most consistent angler all week."
He lost a good fish on his third cast of the day.
"I set the hook and it was solid. It could've been 10 pounds or it could've been 3, I'll never know. I just turned its head for a second before the hook came out. They were biting funny today."