Hiring a guide is a great way to catch fish on new waters, or to learn new spots and tactics on waters you already fish. Guides spend almost every day on the water looking for schools of fish and studying their habits. You can benefit from their knowledge by paying them for a trip. Consider sharing the cost with a friend to save money.
What to Expect from a Freshwater Guide
Freshwater guides usually concentrate on one species of fish or one method of fishing. Bass guides are the most common in most areas and will take you out for a half or full day of fishing. They usually provide everything you need, but welcome you using your own equipment if you want to do so. Many will share as much information about the structure where fish are holding and fish habits as you want to hear.
Muskie guides will warn you that it takes a lot of effort to hook up with one, but will give you the best chance to do so. Trout guides will help you find suitable waters and equipment to catch different species in different areas. You'll also find guides specializing in crappie, walleye, striper, or hybrid.
Some guides specialize in live-bait fishing and you can catch a wide variety of game fish with them. You can also learn how to get the bait, how to keep it alive, and the best ways to hook it, and what baitfish to look for if you come back later without a guide. And you never know what you might catch when you're fishing with live bait. Striper guides often bring in catfish and bass, and muskie guides catch pike and bass, too.
Some guides specialize in teaching you as well as helping you catch fish. They'll tell you why you're fishing a particular place, why fish are there, and what they are doing. The equipment you're using on the trip will be explained — why it's the right choice for that particular time. The guides will help you understand the fish so that after the trip you can catch them better on your own.
Saltwater Guides Are Boat Captains
Guides on salt water are usually called captains, even on small boats or when they take out only one or two fishermen at a time. They tend to be very specialized in the areas where they fish because the equipment and boats have to fit that kind of fishing. Going out on the flats for tarpon, bonefish, or redfish requires a different kind of boat than the one that takes you bottom-fishing for grouper.
Hiring a guide to take you out on the flats or for inshore fishing is a much more economical way to fish salt water unless you go often. If you live a long way from the coast and fish a few times a year, you're better off hiring someone that knows the water and has the equipment than trying to maintain your own. And you're more likely to catch fish since the guide knows what's biting and where, because the guide fishes almost every day.
Unless you're working through a resort or hotel, check references before going out with a guide. If you hire a guide on your own, you should check with other customers to make sure you'll get what you pay for. Check ahead of time to avoid wasting your money on a bad experience.
Nobody, not even guides, can catch fish on every trip. Sometimes you may fish with a guide and have a poor day catching fish, but you can still get your money's worth if the guide explains what's going on and shows you places you can catch fish later. Some will offer another trip or a refund of part of your money if the fish just don't bite; but remember, the guide has done the job even if the fish did not do theirs. If the guide has a good reputation and you enjoy the trip, you can blame the fish, not the guide, for the lack of action.