Tips for Booking a Fishing Guide
A guided fishing trip can be a blast and a great way to learn more about fishing. Not all guides are created equal and a good fishing guide can be the difference between an amazing fishing trip and a boat ride. Obviously I am a freshwater guide and target largemouth bass, but I have fished with guides all over the world for a variety of species, a lot of this information will apply even if you are booking a trip somewhere other than Austin, Texas.
1. Do read the guide's website! Read it in its entirety before contacting the guide. This will save both you and your fishing guide a lot of time and back and forth. I can not tell you how many times I get inquiries through my contact form asking what my rates are, what lakes I guide on, or what my rates are. Truthfully, 90% of the emails I get are answered on my website. A quick skim on my FAQ page would answer all those.
2. Do read reviews online! Before booking the first guide that pops up on Google, read some reviews online. Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook are all great places to read reviews. Don't just look at how many stars they have, read the reviews themselves. Some guides are better at teaching, some are better with kids, some are great for freezer filler trips, reviews will help you figure out who is who. There are relatively low barriers to entry when it comes to guiding. Finding a guide who is licensed, insured, and does this for a living, rather than a weekend warrior who owns a boat and bought a guide license is a much safer bet.
3. Decided what you want in a fishing trip and find a guide who will be a good fit! Some guides are excellent teachers and are great if you want to learn to fish better. Some guides are hammers and will put you on fish, but may not say much or teach you anything other than pointing out where to casts. Some guides will fish from the front of the boat the entire time you are on the water. None of these are bad things! But decide what kind of fishing guide you want before booking a trip to ensure you have a good time.
4. Do tell the guide what you want to fish for. Some guides offer trips for a variety of species, others focus on just one. Be up front and ask if they target the fish you want to catch. I would also recommend asking the guide how you will be fishing for them. If you are expecting to fish with live bait, but book a guide who only uses artificials, you could have alleviated the disappointment just by asking up front.
5. Do tip your guide. Guides are not like waitstaff that are paid a reduced wage with the expectation of making a living off your tips. However it is customary to tip your guide. After all, you are not paying for a product, you are paying for their service. 10-20% of the trip's base price (not including fuel, licenses, or bait) is a standard tip. Personally I always tip my guides, but the amount I tip is based off how hard they worked to put us on fish, if they were friendly and enjoyable to spend a day with, and the quality of their gear/ boat. I do NOT base it off how many fish we catch. Mother nature always has the final say in this, and how many fish we catch is more dependent on the ability of the clients than anything. You could have the best guide in the world, but if you can't cast a rod or set the hook, it doesn't matter how good he is! If my guide works hard to find fish, changes baits, moves spots, and keeps looking for fish when the bite is tough, I would tip just as well as if we caught 100 fish!
6. Do have a good time! When you're on the water, don't lose sight of the fact that you are out there not only to catch fish, but to make memories with whoever you are fishing with and to learn. Soak it all in! Half the fun is driving around the lake, taking in all the sights nature has to offer, and enjoying a day off from work.
1. Don't be a know it all! Sometimes I get clients who talk down to me, act as if they know more than me, or tell me how to do my job. That's not to say they don't know what they're talking about or that they are not a great angler. Not to be rude, but you are paying your guide for their experience. Take their advice and learn from them. Your way of fishing may be different from your guides, but I bet you money your guide has a reason for giving you a certain bait or having you fish a certain way!
2. Don't lie about your skill level. I do not care how good of an angler you are, I love fishing with people of all skill levels! But if you are upfront and honest about your skill level, its helps me to rig up certain rods or baits that I think will work best for you. I curtail my trips to each group of clients, so don't think you need to be a pro to fish with me. Sometimes though I get guys who insist they can cast a baitcasting reel. But after $20 of ruined line and lot of frustrating backlashes, they finally take my advice and start using a spinning rod... then they start having fun catching fish and not fighting the gear!
3. Don't over pack! I get clients all the time who show up with 4 coolers, a backpack, a purse, and beach towels for a half day trip. You would think we were headed out for a multi day trip. Most of the time you are just fishing between breakfast and lunch. A small lunch box with some drinks and granola bars is usually sufficient. I keep one of my rear compartments of my boat open for client's belonging so they have a place to keep their things. I encourage clients to bring a jacket, some sunscreen, a hat, and a small lunchbox sized cooler... anymore than that is overkill.
4. Don't mistreat your guide's gear or boat. As a professional fishing guide, nothing drives me more crazy than clients stepping on my fishing rods, stepping in the boat seats with shoes on, using my $3,500 fish finder as a handrail, or getting in my boat with muddy shoes on. I'm a super easy going guy, but I work hard to provide my clients with the nicest tackle and boat possible. Simply treat it as if it were your own and all will be good.
Next time you are looking around online for a guide, or have already booked a trip, remember these tips and I guarantee you'll have a great time!