Monday, November 08, 2010


You might think that being a freshwater fishing guide has got to be the ultimate dream job for anyone who likes to fish. Yes … and No!
Pros – You get to:
  • be outdoors and on the water more than any other job;
  • either introduce or enjoy sharing a terrific outdoor sport;
  • spend more time within the Lord’s glorious natural wonders;
  • wear casual clothes to work;
Cons – You need to:

  • get up way before the sun rises;
  • work outside, no air conditioning … so to speak;
  • refrain from fishing while guiding customers (or should);
  • have to clean your bait tank before adding a new batch;
  • keep your boat(s) cleaned up;
  • keep your ride cleaned up;
  • keep your equipment in good working order;
  • purchase many more items than if you were just fishing by yourself;
  • have a captain’s license, if using certain navigable waters, which continually costs a substantial sum;
  • teach those who have never fished before;
  • entertain customers when fishing is slow.
Let me break it down …

Preparation (usually the day before) – Call your customer to confirm the trip and finalize meeting location, etc., usually a long-distance cellphone call. $ Drain the bait tank and scrub it with bleach. Rinse thoroughly and fill with fresh, clean (preferably filtered) water. Add chemical to maintain a good slime coat on the new bait. You need to keep a supply of chemicals on hand for use in the bait tank and in the boat. $ Drive to your local bait supplier and buy whatever is needed. $ If you have several days in a row you can get by with purchasing them all and maintaining them in your own tank. Of course, that means that you must actually have your own tank, along with an air pump, hoses, stones, water recirculation pump, water filter, and filter materials that must be maintained and periodically replaced; along with an electrical supply, since the air pump and water filter must run continually. $

Check all rods to make sure that the guides are okay and that no ceramic inserts are nicked, which can cause line breaks. Check the reels to make sure all are in good working order, also checking the line for any frays, retying all hooks. Have a supply of extra hooks and floats on board; replenish if necessary. $ Also, you need to periodically change your line, as line weakens over time and with exposure to heat and sunlight. This goes for both mono and braid, so you need to have a backup supply of line. $

Clear out clutter in your boat and ride that accumulated since your last cleanup. This helps to make your passengers be comfortable and feel welcomed. Check tire inflation on your ride and boat trailer, checking tread wear for possible replacement requirements. $ Also, check bearings on the trailer, as these also need to be greased and periodically replaced. $ Make sure you have sufficient fuel in both your ride and your boat, refueling if necessary. $ Verify that you have a sufficient number of life vests for the number of persons to be onboard. $ Check to make sure all batteries are fully charged. If not, connect them to your charger(s). $

If you provide ice and bottled water, as I do, you will need to buy ice if you do not have your own icemaker, and bottled water. $ Fill your cooler with ice and stock with water, leaving room for your customers to bring other items that need to be kept cold. If rain is a possibility, have lightweight inexpensive ponchos or rain jackets stowed away. $ Hook the boat to your ride, making sure trailer lights are working properly.

Set out clothing for tomorrow, making sure guide shirt is presentable, even if ironing is required. Guys, don’t expect your wife to do this because this is the age of “permanent press.” A “guide shirt” usually has your name and business logo embroidered on it and is made from a quick dry, UV protection material. Long sleeve is best for UV protection. $ You should carry a camera along so you have fresh advertising material. $ Make sure that the battery for your camera is charge up, along with your cell phone. You should always carry a cell phone if for no other purpose than emergencies. I know of a time when a guide was on the water and his customer had a heart attack. He called 911 and the EMTs met them at the ramp, which saved the man’s life. $

Day Of – Rise and shine around 4:30am and shower to assist waking up. Be neat to present yourself as a professional. Apply a good high SPF sunscreen, having another bottle on board to reapply when fishing for an extended period. According to my dermatologist, sunscreen is much more effective when applied in advance, and recommends Neutrogena 85+. $ Eat a light but substantial healthy breakfast. Grab any snacks you might want to take along for the day, preferably something with protein for energy. Don’t forget the camera and your cell phone. Also, take a hat and sunglasses for added protection. Too much sunlight on the eyes can increase the chance of cataracts.

Add water and chemical to your live well. Using a bucket with a few inches of water, net up the bait for that day, pour them into the live well, and turn on the aerator. If any bait died overnight, remove them so as not to contaminate the rest. See that the air stone is producing enough air. If not, use a sharp edged object to scrape the surface of the air stone which can become clogged with algae buildup. Double check your trailer/light connections. Verify that all the rods are back on the boat. Disconnect battery chargers and, if you are sure that everything is set, drive to the agreed upon location to meet your customers.

Then go to whatever waters you have the greatest confidence in. This is usually generated from prior successful guide trips coupled with fishing various waters on your own to keep updated. This requires extra fuel and live or artificial bait. $

Now is when the fun kicks in, but only if you are one of those rare guides that enjoys seeing someone else catch fish without doing it yourself. There is nothing more infuriating to a paying customer than to watch the guide catch the trophy-sized fish that they had their heart set on. Sure there are times when instructions are not enough and you may have to set on a fish for someone to reel in, but immediately hand them the rod once you have set the hook. Remember, they are paying for that thrill. So, bait their hook for them; cast the rod for them; tell them how and when to set the hook; net the fish for them; entertain them and/or their children with conversation if the fish aren’t biting. Basically … wait on them hand and foot. This is how you establish a good rapport and generate repeat business. Especially if you are having a bad day and this is their first time with you. This generates the best and cheapest advertising, but you need to supplement this with a website and brochures and/or business cards placed in strategic locations. $

If your trip is for 8 hours you may need to take your customers to a location on the waters where lunch may be obtained. Some customers like to keep a few smaller fish for eating, so it is nice if you have some bags for this purpose or, if you really want to make an impression - filet the fish for them. Generally you collect payment at the conclusion of the trip. Some guides only accept cash but, to be flexible in today’s economy, you should accept most major credit/debit cards. This requires you to have a merchant service account. $ Return your customers to where you picked them up and let them know how much you enjoyed taking them fishing. Give them some business cards so they can tell their friends.

Now you can return home … to return unused bait to your main tank, remove clutter from your boat and ride, and you may need to hose out the carpet if any spills occurred. If you haven’t already, drain your live well and remove the screen so you can rinse out the bait scales. Attach your battery chargers to the batteries so you will be ready at a moment’s notice. Check your bait tank and remove any dead ones, add chemical if necessary, and feed them cracker meal or wheat germ if they have been in captivity for very long. $

Are you ready to do it all over again tomorrow?

By the way, in case you didn't catch it ... the dollar signs ($) represent all of a guide's costs.

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