Selecting A Guide

By Steve Sams - June 1, 2005
On one of those cold December nights, while playing sheepshead with the boys the discussion of fishing came up. When you were younger you dug your own worms, used whatever tackle you could find, and happily spent the day fishing on your favorite body of water whenever you wanted. Back then it was fun but know with families and jobs our time on the water is limited. Just imagine the time it would take under these conditions to learn a body of water on your own.

Having a little more spending money now days we looked into hiring a guide to learn a new area we wanted to fish. Where do you start? You could look in any of the outdoor magazines or web sites available, phone book, grocery store bulletin board, or newspaper ads. With so many choices available it's a tough decision. I am a licensed guide with access to sources to find a credible person but not all have this advantage and there is no guarentees.

The first question is: What does it take to be a guide? In the state of Wisconsin all you need to do is send $40.00 to the state and you get a guide license. I have run across many "guides" whose claim to fame was catching one nice fish, probably by acccident, and now they consider themselves a professional. This seems to be the most abundant type of guide available. Most of these individuals have a full time job and guide on weekends for beer money. You need to find someone who spends more time fishing than working. All right, I know this sounds like our brother-in-laws, but there has to be legit guides available.

Occassionally, on various outdoor shows the host will use guides. This is a great way to get an idea who is good or not. I contacted one of these individuals I know and tried to set a date but like the finer things in life, he wasn't available on the dates we had selected so he recommended a newer guide in the area who had openings. There is a reason he had openings and I should have known better. We scheduled a trip anyways. We were to meet at a bait shop at a specific time. We were there, he wasn't. After an hour went by, and all the other anglers had left, guess who shows up. He apologized for being late and explained he had girl troubles and had to make arrangements at his job. All this aside, we finally got on the road to go to his hot spot.

After a few hours of fishing and no success I asked how long he had been guiding, something I should have asked earlier. His reply- awhile. I then asked how he became a guide. With a smirk on his face he said-beats working. At this point I was hoping his girlfriend would show up and this misery would end. Needless to say we didn't catch a fish all day. I understand that everyone has a bad day, and fishing isn't guaranteed so I decided to give him one more chance. The real reason is I didn't have my boat with us.

We were to meet the next day at 5:30 a.m. Well he showed up at 6:45. I thought to myself what was the problem now? Apparently after fishing the prior day, he went bow hunting and gut shot a deer. He wanted to go back at daylight to try and find it. Not being one who likes to see game go to waste I agreed and suggested he take his girlfriend along. As you get older you are suppose to get wiser. Maybe there is hope for that guide and me. Hiring a guide doesn't guarantee success but attitude goes along way.

Using guides will actually save you money. Take into account the limited amount of free time you have so why waste it on trying to learn a body of water. Think of the time you would have to spend to learn what you could in one weekend. Add up motel costs, gas, food, bait etc.

Take your time in selecting a guide. Ask alot of questions, get referrals, and make sure they don't have girl troubles.

Author Steve Sams

Steve Sams
Steve Sams is an outdoor writer and licensed fishing guide who specializes in walleye, musky and deer hunting.