by Larry Larsen
There are a lot of poor bass fishing guides out there in Central Florida. And there are a lot of good ones. Often, they are one and the same. One that may be a great guide for one client may be the world's worst for another customer who has entirely different goals and expectations.
Word of mouth, or a referral from a trusted friend, is often the very best way to find a good guide. Other means are by talking with tackle shop owners, marina owners, outdoor writers, tourism representatives, etc. You can find them listed in brochures, magazine advertisements, write-ups in newspapers, magazines or books, or other print sources, as well as in television, video or radio. Once you have the names of a few guides, realize that your job isn't over. The additional time you invest in finding the right fishing guide will pay off.
Selecting the right trophy bass fishing guide usually comes right down to communications prior to the booking. Your ability to define your objectives to the guide and thoroughly understand his qualifications and abilities is generally the key to have a successful and enjoyable trip.
"Learn as much about the guide and the kind of fishing he is experienced at," says Bob Stonewater, owner and operator of the Trophy Bass Guide Service. "He may typically use heavy tackle, or light tackle; he may use only artificial lures, or only live bait. If the kind of fishing that he is experienced at is what you want to get involved with, then book him." Ask the right questions ahead of time, and you won't often be disappointed the day you're on the water. The guide may specialize in wild shiner fishing for 10 pound largemouth and call the day great if you catch one...only one. But if your focus is to thoroughly explore a body of water and catch lots of fish on your ultra-light spinning gear and artificials, it would be wise to call another guide. Make sure that the guide's gauge of success or failure of the outing is similar to yours.
"Once you've talked to the guide, talk to the people that have fished with him," advises Stonewater. "A fellow's references really will speak for him. A fishing guide can tell you how many fish he's caught, but that doesn't mean much; anyone can brag, but if you call a couple of his clients and hear differently, then it's another story."
Ask the guide for several references that are repeat customers over a period of two or three years. Then talk to two or three of them. You should learn quite a bit about the prospective guide, his compatibility, professionalism, equipment, drive and skills. Check him out!
Stonewater, of Deland, Florida, has been a very successful full-time fishing guide for the past 17 years. He fishes central and north Florida waters year round and books several additional guides with multi-boat parties and his constant overflow of clients. Stonewater's well-deserved reputation is derived not only on his customer interaction and success, but also on the abilities and competence of his fishing guide assistants.
"The guides that I book in my guide service are very personable, and that is very important to the clients," he says. "They are also flexible and will try several things if one technique is not working. I think one of the most important characteristics of a good guide is his ability to put forth a true effort during the day. They don't quit trying. That doesn't mean you won't hit some rough fishing days. Most anglers know that fish just don't bite every day of the year."
"If I know that I've really given them my all, tried freelining rigs, bottom rigs, deep structure, shallow structure, just whatever I can possibly think of that might catch some fish, I'm comfortable with the fact that the bass just were not biting," confides Stonewater. "The clients will know that you've really tried hard."
Those guides that make trying hard look easy are often on the water almost every day. They are the full-timers who are usually more in touch with the action. A good guide will know the fish, the waters and how weather might influence the action from one day to the next, because their paycheck depends on their performance. And they are often booked far in advance.
Rolling into an area and trying to find the right guide for the following day may be extremely difficult. You might get lucky, but you would be well advised to locate the guide far ahead of time. Like in other endeavors, your satisfaction is often based on the effort you put in at the beginning of the activity, and that is in the vital selection phase.
What to discuss with the prospective fishing guide.