How to Hire a Guide

Here Are 10 Questions To Ask First.

Most avid anglers of today get all geared-up with new rods, reels, fishing lines, lures, electronics, and of course, a new boat. Although it appears their fishing prowess is now renewed, many struggle to even get a bite. With the advancement of today’s fishing technology, anglers have to learn as much about their equipment as they do the lakes they fish. How do you have time to do both and still enjoy fishing? The quickest way to learn is to find someone with the experience and knowledge that you are lacking. No one angler is on the water as much as today’s bass guide. Being on the water daily allows most seasoned bass guides to know where the big bass are.

When hiring a guide, the learning experience you get for your hard-earned dollars is a short cut towards your angling goal–Catching Bass! Although many anglers may have sampled some type of guided trip in the past, whether it was a good outing or not, a guided trip of the 90′s (or new millennium) will be a valuable learning experience. Guide trips allow you to discover new places to fish on your favorite lakes and the proper lures and techniques to use in these areas. Learn different tips on boat handling and navigation along with how to effectively use a map.

Be shown how to use today’s sophisticated electronics and GPS coordinates to discover underwater structure and pattern bass on a daily basis. You are probably wondering, “How do I pick the right guide to get my money’s worth?” Before hiring a bass guide there are many questions that must be answered. Here are 10 questions to ask yourself and the guide that should give you the input needed to make the right decision.

#1. Is The Guide Qualified?
A respectable guide has a good reputation both on and off the water. References are readily given upon request and any guide that can’t produce a few satisfied and repeat customers should be avoided. Checking magazines, local tackle stores, marinas, newspapers and the Internet will usually tell if this is a qualified and well-known guide. A real bass guide is on the water several times a week and often daily. This constant exposure to the elements, while fishing to pattern and locate bass, is what keeps most guides “sitting on ready” for any client and allows them to adapt to a number of fishing situations.

#2. How Much Does The Guide Charge?
Actually, this is usually the first question most potential clients ask. Followed by, “Is there an extra charge for two people?” Normally, for most bass guides, the fee ranges from $150.00 to $250.00 a day. Splitting the expense with two people is a lot cheaper. Find out exactly what his fee includes. Is there a cheaper rate for a half-day? Will charges increase if the lake is a considerable distance away? Are two-day outings cheaper and will there be a discount for repeat clients? Never hold back from asking these questions and more.

The guide should not mind for this clears the air before ever booking a trip. Add up the facts and figures before booking a trip and sending a deposit. Most bass guides are fair with their rates and make very little profit for a day of guiding due to the expense of a new bass boat, gas, upkeep, equipment, insurance, plus wear and tear on towing vehicles.

#3. What Does The Guide Furnish?
Most guides usually cut their expenses by eating breakfast at home and bringing along a few sandwiches. Some will meet you and get acquainted over breakfast. Lunch is usually left up to each person and few guides provide meals unless asked to do so. Drinks and ice are usually furnished by most guides. Specific brands or diet drinks should be requested.

Rods, reels and tackle are always available with most guides however having to adjust to someone else’s equipment can take time away from productive fishing. The best suggestion is to bring your own tackle if you have it. Other items such as rainsuits, jumpsuits, sunglasses, sunscreen, hats and life jackets aren’t always furnished. Always ask and never assume anything. Don’t wait until you are out on the lake when its too late to find out about these necessities.

#4. What Is The Length Of The Trip?
Meeting a guide at 9 A.M. and quitting at 3 P.M. doesn’t leave much time for fishing especially when the day involves traveling all about the lake burning time and gas. A good day of fishing should last 10 hours or at least until you, not the guide, are ready to go home. If you want to quit early then tell the guide before he is 20 miles from the launch. It could be he has saved a honey hole for the latter part of the day. On many outings it can take all day to find the fish and discover what they are hitting.

Some guides will quit early, especially if their deed is done and they have put you on quality bites. A business-minded guide will met you at dawn (year-round) and bust their buns to give you your money’s worth even if it involves staying for the majority of the day. Keep in mind that many big bass are caught year-round during the late evening hours. Patience has its’ rewards and many clients have caught the fish of a lifetime during the last meandering hour of daylight. Give the guide a chance to prove his worth because the last stop of the day could be his best “big bass hole”
# 5. Do You Have A Certain Style Of Fishing?
There are dozens of ways to catch bass. Chances are the guide has various presentations, lure choices and techniques that will vary tremendously from what you are used to. Find out what he specializes in and be prepared to do the same. There is no better time to acquire some new fishing techniques. If you want to learn about something specific then let the guide know. You may want to learn more about the creeks or be taught how to locate deepwater bass. You might already know a lot of spots on the lower end of a lake but want to find areas upriver. The best thing to do is tell the guide beforehand what you’re most interested in and even give him a friendly reminder at the dock.

# 6. What Type Of Bass Do They Specialize In?
There are basically six types of bass most anglers fish for and some guides are more knowledgeable about only one or two of these.

(A) Largemouth Bass : The most sought after of the entire bass species. Some anglers are obsessed with catching that world record largemouth bass which hasn’t been beat since 1932. Others would be content with a real wall hanger especially one over ten pounds. The chance to catch your trophy is greatly increased when traveling our nation’s waters with an experienced bass guide. If it is at all possible he will do his best to put you on the biggest bass available. He not only wants to give you your money’s worth but it’s great for repeat business and word-of-mouth recognition.

(B) Smallmouth Bass : Smallmouths only reach half the weight of the world record largemouth but make up for their diminutive size with a fighting fury. Smallmouth, or bronzeback bass, are acclaimed to leap as high as the head of the fortunate angler that can hook one. Their aerial acrobatics and hard pulling runs will test the tackle (and patience) of even the most experienced angler.

(C) Spotted Bass : Like their cousins, the Smallmouth, spotted bass are more compact, hard-fighting and can exhibit hard pulls which make them one of the favorites among sports fish. The world record spotted bass is half the weight of the world record largemouth and seldom reach weights over ten pounds. Often referred to as “Kentucky Spots”, these lean, mean, fighting machines prefer deeper water. Due to their habits of foraging in numbers, often like sharks in a feeding frenzy, many spots can be taken from one area by the knowledgeable angler.

(D) White Bass : White bass are known to hit a lure with a rod bending power. These bass, averaging in weights of one to three pounds, are always a treat for any client on a guided bass trip. Schools of over 100 white bass have been known to erupt in a feeding frenzy and then go back down only to appear again 100 yards up the lake. During the summer season, they have been seen schooling in the same areas for weeks at a time.

(E) Striped Bass or Hybrid Striped Bass : The ultimate guide trip. Years ago, before our rivers were dammed up and reservoirs were created, the striped bass, also known as salts, stripes, linesides or stripe bass, originated as a saltwater species living in ocean waters. Fish hatcheries are now used to breed these striped bass which, when bred to white bass, has also led to the birth of our hybrid stripe bass. Although these guide trips are typically more expensive then others, the rewards are much greater. They are considered our nation’s biggest freshwater fish with weights which may exceed over 50 pounds.

# 7. Is The Guide’s Boat Suitable?
Most people don’t worry about this as long as they get to go fishing although there are some factors that you need to consider. Has there been any recent problems with the boat that may cause you to lose time fishing? Is there enough room for your tackle without tripping over everything? Do you have enough room to bring a friend, to share the expenses, and his tackle? Is there dry storage room available for you?

Does he have a place for cold drinks or do you need to bring an ice chest? Most guides will let you know what room is available and if there are any problems that you need to be aware of. They would rather you know before the trip then risk not being paid because you feel cheated. Breakdowns can occur with any bass boat even brand new ones. Early morning problems at the dock can arise which may cause you to be stranded later in the day. If there are problems and you have your doubts then suggest fishing nearby to see if the problem occurs again. All guides have boat problems and they should understand.

# 8. How About Guarantees On Catching Fish?
If you have fished on a regular basis then you know how unpredictable bass fishing can be. Will the guide also fish? Having to determine the fish’s preference of the day by discovering the right patterns, techniques and lure selections requires the guide to fish on some days. When its only you and the guide fishing, two lures in the water are always better than one.

You need to know if you have one of those fishless days, will the guide compensate you? Some guides advertise a no fish then no pay policy while others guarantee nothing. Many knowledgeable guides, who realize how important repeat business is, will give a discount when faced with situations beyond their control. Extremely slow days when the fish have lockjaw or sudden bad weather are prime examples that nobody can control

#9. Keeping Fish allowed?. Will you be able to keep some fish to eat ? Some guides only allow 1 to 2 trophy bass to be kept for mounting purposes. Bass nowadays are much more scarce than 30 years ago when fishing to put food on the table was the norm. There are many other species of edible fish that are more tasty and in abundance. Or you can get a replica mount.

#10. How are we going to fish? The success of your guided trip can also depend a lot on your fishing experience, and whether or not you are honest with your guide. Most guides expect their clients to have little or no experience, but if you act like you know more than you really do, then you might miss out on some important information.

The guide may assume from your bragging, that you know the correct way to fish a particular lure, when you really don’t. Therefore he gives no instructions, assuming you are already experienced. Of course, it doesn’t take long to figure out who is more adapt, when your guide is catching all the fish, while all you do is cast and reel! You don’t have to be a novice to hire a guide, and you won’t be, after a day on the water with a good, qualified and experienced guide.

Many bass tournament anglers hire guides to learn new areas, techniques and lake navigation when practicing on unfamiliar, upcoming tournament waters. Bass guides expect calls from tournament anglers, who actually make up over half of their clientele.

No matter how much knowledge you have acquired over the years, you can always learn something new from someone that fishes daily. Check out his lures and you may have to visit the tackle store to pick up some supplies. Trust his judgment, chances are he’s caught fish recently and has a good idea of what they will be hitting.

As you can see there are many things to consider when hiring a bass guide. Spending a day on the water with a qualified and experienced guide is definitely a short cut to your fishing success. When all of your questions have been answered and you finally decide to book a trip, keeping these ten tips in mind may help your decision

1. References.
2. Expense.
3. Length of day.
4. Book in advance and call to confirm a trip.
5. Agree on a meeting place and time.
6. Be on time.
7. Be ready for bad weather.
8. Leave it up to the guide to decide where you fish.
9. Check to see if the guide has services on other lakes.
10. Tip the guide (if you had a good day).

Remember, even Roland Martin and Bill Dance have fishless days. Don’t expect miracles. Many good guides have those days when the fish won’t cooperate, but even on those days you will always go home a much better and more knowledgeable angler.

A day spent with an experienced bass guide, who is willing to share his years of acquired knowledge, can be as fulfilling as reading several fishing magazines (or Internet sites) from cover to cover.

Get the most out of your trip because that’s what you’re paying for! After all that’s the reason you hired a bass guide in the first place, right? Good Luck… and may you catch the bass of a lifetime.

Good Fishin’

Reed Montgomery

About Reed Montgomery

Alabama's Oldest, Professional "Bass Fishing Only" Guide Service For Over 40 Years Fishing all of Alabama's Lakes for all Species of Bass and Striped Bass.

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