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Mixed feelings on how much to tip a guide

3/7/21 @ 7:57 AM
USER SINCE 7/14/11

I took my Dad and Father in Law out with a guide as a Father's Day Gift.  We were fishing mainly for Pike and Bass on a medium size inland lake close to home.  Then when we were pounding fish the guide actually said it was time to go to another location.  We all looked at each other wondering why. We then went to 3 different spots and caught only a couple more.  The guide also kept saying what a long day he had a head of him and how tired he was and basically stared at the locator the entire time.  So by the end of the trip both my Dad and Father in Law caught their personal bests in both bass and pike and my Dad caught a 6lb LMG almost 24 inches long. They both had big smiles coming back to the launch.

So as the boat came up to the launch and the guide tied us to the pier, my Dad in his late sixties slipped a little trying to get out of the boat and came close to stepping on a couple of the fishing rods. I caught him before he fell and nothing happened.  The guide started yelling at my Dad about how he almost broke the tips off of his rods. Not one comment about if my Dad was ok.  I just looked at him in disbelief for a minute before I paid him thinking about what to tip him. I gave him 50 bucks. So as we were leaving I did ask the guide if he needed help with his trailer and he said no that he had another guide trip in 30 minutes.

Now when we were driving home on what I thought was a great fishing day and hoping my Dad and Father in Law enjoyed their gift all they talked about was what an ass the guide was and about his probably free fishing poles maybe breaking which they didn't. 

And the kicker, the trip was over at 12 noon. That evening I went fishing by myself and guess where the guide was with his new clients. Yep, the honey hole that he had us leave earlier that day.  So I have wondered if that is why he had us leave that spot earlier when we were smoking them to only catch a few other fish the rest of the trip.

And now whenever I bring up the 6lb LMB and what a monster it was, the conversation always turns into the guide being rude. A great memory ruined and isn't that what fishing is suppose to be about? or is it all about the fish you catch? Still wondering if I should have not left a tip?


3/11/21 @ 9:29 AM
USER SINCE 12/19/10

No way he would’ve gotten a tip from me!  MasterPiker on the other hand sounds like a guide I would tip. It’s all about the experience, if u want to get yelled at stay home with the wife lol. 

3/11/21 @ 7:19 AM
USER SINCE 5/11/20

I understand the guide not wanting to burn a dependable spot, especially if he has many trips lined up over the next couple of days. He has to produce fish for each group of customers, and protecting the spot from getting burned lets him do that. Its part of being a good guide. For all you know, he could have been there the day before with someone else, and did the exact same thing to protect the spot for your group.

Being rude is another matter, there's no reason to be rude to anyone, and even if some stuff gets broken. Accidents happen, it goes with the territory. 

I still would have tipped him, but probably would have given him $20 and said look, I would have been more generous but the rude comments were uncalled for. Let him know why he only got a small tip. If he has an issue, he needs to know so he can do something about it.

My two cents.



3/10/21 @ 7:11 PM
Thomas Droste

I'm a full time fishing guide. I never expect clients to tip. It is very much appreciated but I never think negatively on the clients if I don't receive a tip. I decided to take the leap and pursue this passion as a full time guide. Just being able to be on the water 5-6 days a week is enough for me. 

A large part of being successful as a guide, especially in my area is to set the expectations for your would be clients before you even book the trip. Some of the best fishermen I know are guides and tournament fishermen. Even we don't catch limits every time out on the water. Most days are good but you can't control the fish and the weather. If you're going to tip a guide do it for the work he put in for the trip. Not necessarily how many fish you catch. On the Petenwell Flowage I consider myself a damn good angler but even I have bad days and that happens. 

As for broken gear, that is also something that happens. I'm a pro-staff member with St. Croix and a couple other companies. We don't get free gear. In the last two years I've only gotten upset with a client once for breaking a rod and that was after I and his buddy both told him MULTIPLE time to stop trying to pull snags by grabbing the rod half way up and pulling. I said my peace and handed him a new rod and we continued the day. 

In your case, that guide was wrong. You never leave active fish to find fish. If that spot was really that good then it should have been good later in the day or he should have more than one honey hole to fish. As for your father almost stepping on the rods, that was the guide's fault for not moving then to a safe location in the boat. 

3/10/21 @ 11:17 AM

Tipping has been discussed here on L-L before. I've had excellent luck with the guides recommended to me by people with more info on the subject than I have. All of them worked hard keeping rods and rigs in our hands that produced plenty of fish and they got tips because of that success. Burning boat gas, replacing broken stuff, and long hours are all part of a job that I think, would take all the fun out of fishing, but they still do it. That said, I purchased a 4 foot pry bar that I pull out of the truck to both lift old buildings to level them and to get open my wallet when it's time to tip good service. The choice is yours.

3/9/21 @ 10:36 AM
USER SINCE 1/10/12

Nice post Master Piker

3/8/21 @ 4:50 PM

only experienced with 1 guided day with shore lunch on TFF... it was a great day of learning, story telling and some fish catching...

was outstanding and a tip was given without a 2nd thought... and I didn't even go, I booked the day for 2 of my sons and great friend that were up for our annual spring trip


3/8/21 @ 8:49 AM
Asleep at the Reel
USER SINCE 3/23/12

Great post MP.  Thanks for sharing.  Need more of that in these times.

3/8/21 @ 5:40 AM
USER SINCE 12/7/05

This is a widely (and often HOTLY) debated topic. Just like in a restaurant, tipping is up to each individual and the experience they have. As a former guide, my rates were based on cost of fuel, bait, insurance, equipment and my time. I guided only on my days off my regular job and used it as a way to fish more bodies of water and meet new people. I guided people that had unrealistic expectations and those who basically paid me to take them for a boat ride and show them the lake. One guy literally sat in my boat and read his book and insisted that I fish, as he wanted to just enjoy the day and see different species of fish caught, while others told me at the end of the day that they were disappointed that they weren't taking home their 3-man limit of panfish in a half day trip (father and his 5 and 7 year old kids). They took home 40-some crappies and gills (I never wet a line, so they did the catching, not me) and literally spent 4 hours untangling lines and re-spooling reels. I said all that to say this...there are MANY variables present that even a seasoned guide has no control, client fishing ability (or lack thereof), etc. I always focused on the things that WERE within my control...being polite and helpful, boat control, making sure equipment was maintained and I had plenty of bait, etc. I had a client hook me in the forearm 30 minutes into a trip once. He insisted we go back to the launch and leave to have it removed. After a few minutes it didn't hurt all that much and I told him I was fine with cutting the hook off the lure and leaving it so he could continue fishing. He tipped me $100 and told me nothing he could give me would ever be able to repay me for toughing it out for 3.5 hours after having a treble hook buried in my arm. We ended up catching quite a few fish, including his biggest smallmouth.

In your specific case, that 'guide' was WAY out of line yelling at your dad for almost falling on his rods (he could have just as easily fell out of the boat and hurt himself) and I would NEVER pull clients off fish if they were catching them and having fun unless they requested it or were wanting to try multiple spots and I knew I would be able to get them back on fish. The reason I stopped guiding was because the wear and tear on my equipment and boat was not worth the part-time money and people being inconsiderate and flat-out rude. I always told my clients that I would demonstrate the technique and show them how to fish the pattern we were going to fish and then let them try to mimic that while I helped them. Some would insist I fish with them, but I never tried to 'show up' my clients. If I felt I was catching substantially more fish than them, I would just set my rod down for a while and try to help them put more fish in the boat. As a guide, you should set your rates such that you don't need to be tipped to make it. A tip was always a nice surprise, but there was also a few times that I refused to take it. It should not be expected. 

My favorite guide trip was not even a scheduled one. I had a client no-show me one morning and after launching my boat and waiting at the landing for nearly 45 minutes, I had made small talk with a Vietnam Vet named 'Nick' (to this day, I still do not know his last name, never asked) he was catching a bunch of small gills off the dock at the launch, and mentioned that his wife said if he could catch them some bluegills she would clean them and make fried fish and potatoes for supper. After chatting with him for a while, I gave up on my clients showing up and asked Nick if he wanted to join me for a while on the lake. The smile on his face didn't require a verbal answer. I helped him into my boat and off we went. Over the next 3 hours, he talked about his life, the war, his family and losing his best friend and fishing partner the previous year. We caught some dandy gills and he took 8 or 10 home for dinner. When we got back to the launch, he wanted to pay me for taking him out. I pointed to his Vietnam Vet hat and said he already had, and thanked him for the company and 'showing me how it was done'...I helped him carry his small cooler of fish and fishing gear to his car and off he went. Initially, I was peeved that those clients stood me up...but by the time I loaded up my boat, I was kind of glad they did.

If you feel the experience was better than you anticipated and feel the guide went above and beyond to get you on fish and you want to tip him/her, then feel free. I never once was offended by someone not tipping me. I didn't expect it and it was always a nice surprise if they did. 

3/7/21 @ 12:30 PM
USER SINCE 6/24/01

Man I think you were damn kind giving him the $50. If my Dad was still around if he would have said that I'm afraid the guide wouldn't have been making his next guide trip.

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