I am pretty sure that almost every angler has seen a fishing guide and thought enviously:
‘That is the life — fish every day and get paid for it. It just doesn’t get any better than that.’
Before we all quit our jobs and get our ‘Fishing Guide’ business cards printed up let’s back up and take a real look at what it takes to be a guide in the fishing business. And that is just what it is: a business.
First let’s look at what a fishing guide must offer.
It matters not if the guides’ customer is an individual right out of the suburbs with their 1.73 children, two automobiles and tract home, a high-rise condominium in downtown Houston, or an experienced angler that has been fishing tournaments for years. They must have something to offer all.
Our lakes are nothing more than flooded lands that were covered with underwater structures, trees, brush, roads and bridges just to mention a few. As many boaters look over the surface of a lake and see no obstacles sticking out of the water, they feel safe to open up the throttle. It is also not unusual for boaters to hit sandbars and debris also. A fishing guide can never do that.
A fishing guide must know their lake. When the water is low, as it periodically is, they are out looking at where all of the structures are located. When some of those stumps and trees are exposed to the air, they will start to deteriorate more rapidly, break off and end up floating just under the surface of the water. Also while they are out there checking out the low water, a guide is making notes as to where these structures are and their condition, as that is where fish will be at different times of the year.
I have spent a lot of time with numerous fishing guides in the lakes and bays of Texas, have learned a lot and added to my fishing knowledge over the years. Lake Conroe fishing guide Butch Terpe once pointed out to me that on Lake Conroe you see less than 10 percent of the stumps that are in the lake, especially north of the FM 1097 Bridge. The submerged trees, stumps and sandbars are mostly covered by water in all the East Texas lakes when they are at pool.
Fishing guide Brian Brawner, who guides on East Galveston Bay, has taken me to places where we caught speckle trout and redfish. Left on my own, I would’ve passed the places by.
Knowing the fishing history of a body of water also points the guide to the best locations at any time of year, as does the water temperature and clarity. We have not even started to discuss fishing equipment.
We all have good hindsight and I am no different. If I could go back in time I would not have purchased any new fishing equipment after I moved to the lake until I had been out with one or more of the fishing guides and fished and spoken with them on the subject. They have their personal opinions and prejudices about equipment as we all do, but they know what works and what lasts. They know what they use and what they see other anglers use that is good and not so good. They know what lures are the big producers at any given time by constantly fishing and observing the folks winning the local tournaments.
If you are an aspiring or experienced tournament angler, a fishing guide can help. You would probably be surprised how many bass anglers will hire the services of a local fishing guide to take them fishing prior to a tournament. The local guide, who fishes a lake every day, will be one of the few people who can lead you to the fish at any given time, and the tournament people know it.
One fishing guide told me how much he enjoys taking parents and their children out fishing. He said, ‘There is nothing more enjoyable than watching a child catching fish, or the parents’ faces watching them do so.’
A fishing guide can teach you how to cast a rod and reel, what bait or lure to use under every different circumstance, and how to work any particular lure or bait.
Let’s take a look at the responsibilities of a fishing guide.
Like every other entrepreneur, they must keep their customers happy. No matter what time of year, the weather and water conditions, when they take out a party they want to catch fish and do not want excuses. They must make sure everyone is safe and having an enjoyable time. They must show them how to safely handle the equipment and return the fish to the water unharmed or how to keep them fresh until they get their catch home.
Besides a boat a fishing guide must provide all of the fishing equipment, safety equipment and whatever else may be needed. They pay an exorbitant amount for insurance on equipment as well as liability, and must have both fishing and guide licenses.
So the next time you think of the leisurely lifestyle of a fishing guide with envy, think about the responsibilities, the alarm going off at 4 a.m., and knowing you have to be out on the lake with customers and catch fish, no matter how good the bed feels.