HIRAM — Bowfishing is an art form to Tommy Woods. Due to his expertise at the sport and relationships he has developed with others who enjoy bowfishing, some remarkably good deeds came about in the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction in Texas.
A native of Paulding County, Woods currently resides in Hiram. He is a member of Sweetwater Baptist Church in Douglasville and a Christian who believes in putting his faith into action.
In a recent interview he stated, “As a Christian, my personal relationship with Christ means everything to me. He is my Savior, but He is also my guide. If I will be still and listen to the Holy Spirit, He will lead me to wherever He wants me to go. God has been so good to me. I am blessed above measure.”
Hopefully, you will find the following interview with Tommy both interesting and inspiring.
Hunting and finding
The Christian Index: Tommy, I know you are a man of faith and have trusted Christ as your Savior. When did you become a Christian?
Tommy Woods: Even though I grew up in a Christian home and went to church every time the doors were open, it was not until I attended a youth tent revival at age 17 that I accepted Christ as my person Savior.
The Christian Index: I also know that you love the outdoors. Your former pastor, Bryan Alexander, told me that you are a champion at bowfishing. Some of our readers may not be familiar with bowfishing, so tell us what it is.
Tommy Woods: Bowfishing combines the thrill of hunting with the skill of archery and the sport of fishing. Fish are shot with a barbed arrow that is attached with a special line to a reel mounted on the bow. In freshwater those who bowfish hunt various kinds of carp, alligator gar, and paddlefish. In saltwater rays and sharks are common targets for bowfishing.
The Christian Index: When did you begin bowfishing?
Tommy Woods: I began bowfishing as a young adult. While turkey hunting near Lake Allatoona, I could hear the fish spawning (splashing) in the shallows of the banks. A hunting buddy of mine introduced me to the sport.
We started out by using traditional recurves to shoot the fish during the daytime. The more I fished the more I wanted to learn about the sport and discover the tournament side of it.
The Christian Index: I know you have had considerable success in the tournaments. How did you become a tournament champion?
Tommy Woods: Little did I know that I would be participating in tournaments all across the United States and holding championship titles. I went from wading in the riverbanks and water edges to being captain to an awesome American Airboats Air Ranger to reach areas of waters that most other boats cannot get to with an outboard motor.
Most tournaments and shoots are done at night. I use metal halides lights on my boat to light up the waters. I am very fortunate to be sponsored by Oneida Bow Company and shoot an Osprey (a lever limb bow that has the punch of a compound and the quick snap shooting of a recurve and is rigged with a Muzzy spinner reel).
Eliminating invasive species
The Christian Index: I understand your sport is not only lots of fun, but assists the ecosystem. Explain how the ecosystem is helped by bowfishing.
Tommy Woods: The goal of bowfishing is to take out invasive species of fish such as the Asian, common, and grass carp, bigheads, etc. that mess up the ecosystem of lakes and water ways.
The Christian Index: What kind of success have you had with your bowfishing ventures?
Tommy Woods: Over the past 25 years, I have been fortunate enough to win numerous tournaments. I am a three-time World Champion and also (along with my teammates) hold the BAA (Bowfishing Association of America) world record (Bass Pro US Open – 2016) with 1001.4 pounds in20 fish!
Helping after Harvey
The Christian Index: I understand that you and some of your bowfishing buddies decided to put your boating skills to work in helping the flood victims in Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. How did that become a reality?
Tommy Woods: After seeing the devastation in Texas after Harvey hit, I went to work that Monday morning with a much burdened heart. I could not get out of my mind that there were so many people in Texas that were trapped and in need of a way out. I also knew I had the means to get to them. On my way home, I was talking with my best friend, Scott Baxter about it and he said he felt the same way and was ready to go if I was.
I came home and told my wife how burdened I was to go but torn because I know I financially did not have the funds to take off work. She said that I need to do what my heart was telling me to do and that we will rely on God to provide. Many of my bowfishing friends had the same burden and before it was over, there were more than 80 boats associated with BAA in Texas helping.
The Christian Index: How many people were you able to rescue from the rising floodwaters?
Tommy Woods: I am not certain of an exact number of people I rescued. I mainly became the transporter of those rescued by the Coast Guard and transported them to where the National Guard was waiting to take evacuees to a warm, dry refuge.
The Christian Index: Was there one rescue that seemed to stand out as particularly significant?
Tommy Woods: One rescue that set all others apart was one of my last transports that almost resulted in my boat sinking. We had two young children, their mother, and grandmother onboard. While going across the flooded roads heading to dry ground, many other boats were going back and forth helping as well. One boat in particular was barreling towards us at a 45-degree angle. The waves his boat caused rolled over the nose of my airboat and the hull took on a large amount of water.
At that moment I knew I had to think quickly. Only by God’s grace I did a few maneuvers with the throttle, turned my rudders, pulled the front of the Air Ranger up (and bilge pumps turned on) and prevented it from turning over and sinking. There is no explanation as to why it did not go down other than God was with us and protected us from a bad outcome. For that I am grateful.
Sensing God’s leadership
The Christian Index: God seemed to give you a distinct impression to go to help the folks in Texas. What specific indications of God’s leadership did you sense?
Tommy Woods: I am convinced that my Texas trip was a direct result of God’s leadership. God tells us in Galatians 6:2a that we are to “bear one another’s burdens.” God also tells us in John 5:12-13: “This is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” And in Hebrews 4:16 God tells us to come boldly to the throne of grace, to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
There are many more ways God’s leadership directed me to help in Texas. His Word is full of instructions. Time and time again, the Lord tells us to love one another, to help those in need, to love our neighbors (fellow man), and do as He did on earth by ministering.
It was because of my faith that I drove over 14 hours to do a small part to help victims of Hurricane Harvey. I fully put my faith in God to provide a way (financially) for me to leave work for a week and go, to protect me while I was there, and to help me show His love to others.