Picking The Right Guide
With the right guide on a good day, you can get what you hired a guide for in the first place
By Jim Ratley
Each year anglers pour over 60 billion dollars into our nation's economy. Avid anglers are on the lakes every day and are tempted by everything from a new fishing line that is guaranteed to catch more fish to lures that are so effective that they have been banned from tournament use.
One of the major areas where anglers spend their money is in the hiring of fishing guides, who will take them on that trip-of-a-lifetime. Although there are an abundance of excellent fishing guides on our lakes, it does not take long to figure that not all guides are created equally. Sometimes an angler may find out that being stuck in a boat with someone for several hours can turn out to be very trying.
Picking the right guide is an art and takes time, research and even a little work. The first rule to take into consideration is that a guide cannot guarantee that you will catch fish. They can take you to places that should hold fish, but sometimes they are defeated by conditions beyond their control. A good fishing guide should be able to put their customers "on the fish" in about 70 percent of the trips they take. But you should never hire a guide on the sole basis of catching fish.
The first thing that you should ask yourself before picking the guide is, what do you want from the guide? Are you looking for someone to teach you fishing techniques, and explain why you are fishing a particular pattern, or are you expecting to catch a lot of bass? With the right guide on a good day, you can do both. But it is important to remember that these are often two different goals and on some days you will only be able to accomplish one of them. The most important aspect being lake education for future trips, so even if you don't "load the boat" you will have accomplished an important goal.
After deciding what you expect from a guide, the problem of finding that perfect guide begins. Initially, you should check with your friends and see if they have had any experience with anyone who guides on the lake you are interested in fishing. If you are not able to find anyone, consider contacting a local bass fishing club and see if one of their members might have a suggestion.
The next logical step would be to check the internet. There are many fishing related bulletin boards where anglers can post questions to other anglers and read the conversations concerning guides. It is a good idea to try to get the names of two to three guides that you can contact and interview about the trip you plan. Any guide that is hesitant to discuss the details of the trip you are interested in, should be immediately marked off of the list as unacceptable.
The next thing to check is to see if the guide you are interested in has a web site. Keep in mind that although the guide is usually the one who decides what information is included on their web pages, a clean, well-designed web site is sometimes a hint that the guide is serious about their business and will treat a customer right. Also, you usually get the opportunity to see the type of boat the guide uses and make a more informed decision if that guide has the proper equipment to suit your needs.
On the other hand, you should not hold it against a guide who does not have a web site. It could mean he has all of the business he needs from current customers and doesn't have to advertise. Usually, with a guide that has a full schedule, their reputation will be well established and you will hear their name several times on bulletin boards as well as from friends.
The next step is to contact the guide in person and inquire about the details of fishing with him or her. Of course the first question you should ask is about price and deposit. Most guides charge between $250.00 and $350.00 per day and will require up to a $100. 00 deposit to hold the date for you.
At first, this may seem like a lot, but after the guide pays for the boat, fuel, and gear he or she is actually working at a pretty cheap hourly rate. Make no mistake about it, guiding is hard work, and yes guides do feel a tremendous amount of pressure to put you on the fish.
The deposit, as aggravating as it can be, is also well within reason. The guide does not know you and has to have some assurance that you will not cancel at the last minute and leave him without a paying fishing partner for the day. After a guide becomes acquainted with the customer, it is not unusual for him or her not to require a deposit. One thing to keep in mind is that fishing might be a passion for you, but for that guide, it is a living. If you book a trip, plan on being there or at least cancel early enough for the guide to book another trip.
The next thing you should tell the guide is your experience level as well as the level of experience of your partner or whoever might be going with you such as a child, and what you expect from a trip - especially if you are an inexperienced angler and will need a lot of hands-on attention. Most guides are very patient and will go out of their way to help you. On the other hand, some guides would rather work with more experienced anglers and some won't take children.
You should also tell the guide if you are interested in learning more about any particular techniques that you will be using or a pattern you will be fishing. A good guide can provide a wealth of information in an eight-hour trip, if they themselves have the knowledge. Unfortunately, some guides do not have the knowledge. They are the type angler that has several "honey holes" marked and if the fish are not there, they are as lost as you might be.
Another question you will want to ask the guide is if you will be fishing with them or one of their associates. It is a common practice for a guide who is already booked to book a trip with you and then hire another guide who does not have a trip planned to fish with you. You can rest assured that the guide you call is not going to be as careful about picking a guide as you would be.
You also want to ask the guide what type of lures he expects you to use and what type of patterns he expects to find. A good guide will know from season to season, almost to the week, what lures should work as well as what type of depth will hold the most fish.
If the guide is reluctant to provide anything more than basic information pertaining to specific lures, it might be because he or she isn't sure what you will need at that time, but most guides will be able to provide you a fairly good list of lures to have on hand for the particular time of year you will be fishing with them.
A knowledgeable, established guide might not give you specific locations, but he will almost always give you some idea as to what lures you should bring along for the trip and the depths you will be fishing before you arrive.
After booking the trip and making arrangements to send a deposit, it is important to make arrangements about the meeting location and time to meet. If you are booking the trip in advance, the guide will usually ask you to call closer to the trip for the final arrangements. Usually, the guide has a plan in mind and wants to arrive at a certain location at a designated time. It is important that you arrive on time and be ready to fish.
Also, even though you are paying the guide, your responsibilities do not stop there. It is important to remember that you are a guest in that guide's boat and you should act accordingly. If you make a mess, plan on cleaning it up and if you break something, plan on paying to have it repaired. You will definitely have a better time if everyone is working together.
A good guide's primary functions are to put you on fish or teach you more about a particular lake and assist in any way reasonable. He will usually cast a few times at each location to see if there are fish in the area, but a good guide is not there to catch all of the fish. They are there to help YOU catch fish.
A good guide will help you have a great day on the lake and would always appreciate your referral to friends and associates. Keep in mind that he is an angler and not marketing specialist. By spreading the word about a good guide, you are also helping others in their search for that perfect day on the lake.
Good luck and tight lines.