Walleye Central

Muskie,musky
Going with a Guide
Tips for making your experience the best possible

By Bernie Barringer, editor, MUSKIE Magazine 

I stumbled as the guide cranked the bow-mount electric around, turning the boat on a dime. He was in the front, I was fishing from the rear casting platform. “I can’t let a spot like that one go by,” he said as he pointed back to an opening in the weeds. “I have been leaving some of the better looking openings for you, and you never failed to cast into them until this one.”

My splash of my lure was followed immediately by a boil and the zinging of my line heading for deep water. This guide was a good one. He was fishing the heavily weeded shoreline too, but he was leaving some of the best locations for me, watching carefully to make sure I covered all the good casting locations. When I missed one, he spun the boat around and made sure I got off a good cast.

I have had the opportunity to fish with a lot of guides for many species of fish. I can tell you with conviction that just because a person is a good angler doesn’t make them a good guide. And some of the best guides I’ve known couldn’t place in a fishing tournament if their life depended on it. Yet they knew how to give their clients exactly what they wanted.

I once had a guide that looked up at the clouds and told me emphatically to reel up because we were going to shore. When I didn’t respond immediately, he powered up the boat while I was still bringing in line, my lure bouncing on the surface as we streaked to the opposite shoreline. I was a little angry until I saw lightning strike the flagpole on the dock we were fishing near. Good guide. Really good guide.

They haven’t all been good. I remember being out with foul mouthed chain-smoker who seemed to always be upwind. We trolled that day with ancient equipment––old Diawa reels on 6-foot pistol grip rods–– and I was sure I was going to lose the only fish I hooked. How can a person choose a good guide and then make the trip a memorable one––good memories, not bad ones––the kind of trip that makes you want to come back again soon?

First of all, be prepared. Make sure the trip doesn’t go sour on your account. If you take every precaution to make sure you do your part, then you can make the best of even a bad situation. For example one of the best days of bass fishing I ever spent would have been miserable if I hadn’t had on good quality rain gear. It was raining when we put the boat in the water in the morning and raining when we took it out that afternoon. I never let up for even five minutes in between. Yet I remember that day fondly because the fishing was simply unbelievable and I was comfortable enough to stay with it.

Prepared for anything
Be Prepared I carry a small duffel bag along on guide trips. This bag contains most everything I might need including things the guide might overlook. In addition to what you see here, I often throw in a bottle of Gatorade and a couple granola bars. These are things I can eat and drink that don’t need to be kept cold.
1)  Good quality rain gear.
2)  Neoprene gloves for cold weather.
3)  Sunglasses in a hard case.
4)  A duffel bag to stuff it all in.
5)  Camera (this one is waterproof).
6)  An extra roll of film.
7)  A half-roll of toilet paper in a ziplock bag.
8)  Towel for cleaning things off.
9) sunscreen.
10)  Insect repellant.
11)  Line clippers on a lanyard. My teeth are a dentist’s nightmare from ignoring these too many times.

It’s important to discuss your expectations with your guide prior to going out. I try to always remember that I’m not paying the guide to get me hooked into a big fish (or a limit of fish depending what the target of the day is) I’m paying the guide for a day of fishing.

If you want to take home a limit of walleyes, you can buy them at the store a lot cheaper. If your sole reason to go with the guide is to boat your first 50-incher, you are probably going to be disappointed. Remember that you are paying him for his effort, not for how much fish slime you get on your hands. And your tip should reflect that, by the way.

Will the guide provide lunch? What does he have for tackle? Is his equipment up to date and well taken care of? Does he have the proper tools for the job? A boat that’s suitable for the type of fishing you will be doing? If he keeps a disposable plastic poncho in the boat for the client, you are going to be miserable if it rains all day.

Here are a couple more horror stories: I was using a rod and reel provided by one guide, I noticed a frayed area of the line whenever I would make a long cast. I didn’t say anything because the frayed area was so deeply buried in the spool and I didn’t want to seem picky. But when a big fish hit early in one long cast and the line parted right at the rod tip, I felt really stupid for ignoring it. I still do. Another time I casted all day standing on the bench seat of a wobbly aluminum boat. I did not fish effectively, and by the end of the day I not only had sore muscles, but I was sore at the guide for putting me through that. Still, it was my fault for not asking about the boat ahead of time.

When booking a guide with whom you have not fished, have a list of questions ready and expect him to answer them thoroughly. Ask for references and call them. Talk openly about your expectations and listen carefully to his answers. If the guide promises you the world, be a little skeptical. The same if he is very vague. If he doesn’t make promises but explains carefully what you can expect as a best case scenario and a worst case scenario, you have probably got a good one. If you are uneasy about something, trust your instincts and choose a different one.

Are you planning to be there all week, but plan to use the guide for only the first day or two? You should probably tell him that and see how he reacts to it. Some guides don’t mind helping you set up a milk run for later, but some become angry at the thought of you going back to spots he showed you.

There are a lot of muskie guides. Many of them have been around a long time and most of them are excellent. I’ve had a few bad experiences and you probably will too if you hire them often. But you can minimize the risk by planning ahead, asking the right questions and trusting your instincts and the advice of the guides former clients.

 
 

 
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