Why hire a fishing guide?

Finding your target species while on unfamiliar waters is much easier if you book a guided trip. (Photo by Brian Cope)

Booking a guided trip can be the best money you’ve ever spent

You’ve got plenty of fishing gear. Maybe even your own boat. So why should you hire a fishing guide? 

That question has halted many anglers from booking a guided trip, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

In many cases, booking a guide is the least expensive way for you to catch fish. And if the idea of that makes you laugh, you’ve probably never looked at it the right way.

Capt. Noah Lynk of Noah’s Ark Charters (252-342-6911) in Harkers Island, N.C., said he books a lot of clients that initially call him simply asking for fishing advice.

“A lot of guys, especially those that don’t fish my area often, are calling just to find out what species will be biting when they come to town. And they’ll want to know what to catch them on, where to go; the usual questions,” he said.

But the more they talk to him, the more they realize they’re better off just booking a trip with him.

“Every day is different, even for a guide that works these waters full time. Some days the fish want live bait. Some days they want a certain type or color of lure. And some days, they’ll hit anything you throw at them. But you just don’t know until you get on the water,” said Lynk.

And when the folks asking him questions begin to add up the cost of live bait and certain lures that they may not already have in their inventory, the less it looks like they’ll save if they do it all on their own.

Knowledge is priceless

“The biggest thing they’re paying for is local knowledge, and you can’t put a price tag on that. A professional guide knows the lay of the land, where to get out of the wind if it’s windy, where to be at the turn of each tide cycle, how long it takes for the tides to completely change, what’s been biting best in recent days, what typically bites that time of year, and where (and what) to try if the bite is vastly different than it was the day before,” he said.

Another thing anglers hoping to DIY their own trip must keep in mind is the equipment required for the area and species of fish they’re hoping to catch. Just because you’ve got all the rods and reels you need to catch catfish on your local lake doesn’t mean it’s going to be fitting for catching bull redfish, etc. And that’s not including any specialized tackle you may need for the area you’re fishing. 

“Most anglers from out of town, when they add the cost of what they’ll need to purchase, they start realizing it’s simply more economical to book a guided trip,” said Lynk.

Fishing guides will have all the tackle you need, and plenty of it. (Photo by Brian Cope)

And the money isn’t the only factor. Hauling your own boat, bringing (or buying) your own gear, then trying to learn enough about a new area in time to catch enough fish to make it all worth it can lead to frustration.

“It’s especially true if you’re on vacation with your family. You’ve taken all the time and effort to bring everything you need, but you have a limited amount of time because you’re also wanting to spend non-fishing time with your family. So now you’ve got all your stuff, and you suddenly realize you don’t understand the way the current works in this area, you don’t know where it’s safe to travel at low tide, you’re hoping you’ll have good enough weather to get some fishing time in because you don’t know where to stay out of the wind, and on and on. 

“It suddenly hits you that it’s not just money you’re saving by booking a guide. You’re also saving yourself a lot of time and frustration that may not even lead to catching fish,” said Lynk. “Your chances of catching enough fish to satisfy your desires increases dramatically when you book a local guide. That should ease your mind and allow you to simply enjoy the fishing part.

A learning experience 

Capt. Jason Wolfe of Wolfe’s Guide Service (803-487-3690) fishes numerous lakes and rivers. He said booking a guide can also help you learn new waters, or new techniques that you aren’t familiar with.

“A lot of folks book a guide just to catch fish and have a good time. But I have some that want to learn how to fish a certain way that they don’t have experience with,” he said.

And when a guide knows what you’re looking for, they can craft your trip in a way that will get you what you’re looking for.

“I’ve had guys that are good at anchoring down and fishing for catfish, but they’ve never drifted for them. Never used planer boards for them. So we’ll spend the whole day drifting and pulling planer boards so they can see what goes into it. Then I tell them to take those basics with them and put their own twist on it. That’s how we all learn, and that’s how different techniques and tactics come about and spread to different areas,” he said.

Wolfe said one thing that some folks don’t seem to understand about booking a guide is that you’re not going to find a guide’s hotspot that produces fish every time. And that’s not because they aren’t willing to share it with you.

“The hottest spots on any body of water change all the time. You can get an idea of what general areas are good at certain times of year, but if you’re looking to nail down a hotspot that works every day of the year, you’re not going to find it with or without a guide. But a guide that fishes that body of water every day will know what other areas to try if what worked yesterday or last week isn’t working on any particular trip,” he said.

Still, Wolfe said fishing with a guide can certainly help you learn what to look for.

“You can learn a lot about different depths, different contours of water, what to look for in the main river channel; all that type stuff will help you on future trips much more than finding out what the hottest spot is on any particular day,” he said.

More than just fishing

Capt. Rob Bennett of Kiawah Fishing said hiring a guide starts long before your fishing trip does.

“I’m always thinking about what fishing trips I’ve got booked, and I’m checking locations leading up to them, scouting out holes to catch bait, making sure my tackle is in order. And any trip you book starts the day before, at the latest, for the guide. He’s going to have everything cleaned up from his last trip, have tackle repaired, line retied, boat and truck gassed up,” he said.

Fishing with a guide, you’ll have the best gear available. (Photo by Brian Cope)

Likewise, Bennett (843-367-3777) said your trip with the guide ends long after you’re off the water and having dinner with your family.

“And for the guide, it starts all over, with cleaning the boat, gassing it up, charging batteries, changing fishing line, dealing with dead bait and either catching bait for the next day or scouting out where to catch it. The time you’re on the boat with the guide is just a fraction of the time the guide is spending on making sure everything is in order for you to have a good day on the water, then cleaning everything up after,” he said. 

Money well spent

If you’re fishing a new body of water, or even if you’re fishing a familiar body of water that you haven’t mastered, you’re financially better off paying a guide to put you on fish, and it’s not just money you’re saving.

Sure, you can “make do” with the gear and knowledge you have, and maybe things will go your way. But if you want to give yourself the best chance at catching fish without the hassle of figuring it all out yourself, it’s money well spent.

Even for anglers who are comfortable fishing on their own, a guided trip tossed into their calendar can help them learn new techniques, gain a better understanding of currents and topography, and offer them some fresh ideas on how to catch certain species of fish on certain bodies of water.

And if all you’re looking for is a good day of fishing with the chance to catch your target species, hiring a guide that’s going to show up with a boat, the bait and all the necessary gear is a big weight off your shoulders. So all you have to do is show up, fish, and leave the rest to the guide, who has every incentive to make sure you have a good time and catch fish.

The post “Why hire a fishing guide?” first appeared on CarolinaSportsman.com.

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