A lot of my work time is spent on the phone or answering the email contacts that I receive daily. A good portion of my business comes through contacts on this computer typewriter and I’ve booked trips from just email contacts, but most of my business comes from the first phone contact that’s made after the email contact. I don’t know about you, but first impressions mean a lot to me. Spend some time with your guide on the phone. Ask how many days a year do you fish, how’s the fishing been in the last few days and what is the fishing forecast for the time you are going to be visiting. Remember you’re going to spend a small fortune with him and also be on a boat with him for most of a day. If he doesn’t have thirty minutes to spend with you on the phone he’s probably not going to give you the time of day on the boat. This has prompted me to write about what I think a guest would want to know and ask before hiring a guide.
Finding a good guide could be the highlight of your vacation or it could be an experience that makes you never want to go fishing again. A good guide is going to want your repeat business and word of mouth advertising. A knowledgeable guide has to be much more than just a guide, we have to know the conditions around us all the time. It’s not enough just to know which tide to fish for a given species, but your guide should also know which hour of the tide to fish. We have to know the effects of the water temperature, wind speed and direction, cloud cover, moon phase, barometric pressure changes, fish habits and their habitat and a wide variety of other variables. Your guide should not only be good at finding fish, but must also be able to share their knowledge of how to catch them in a clear and fun approach to you. The best guides will combine teacher, entertainer, tour guide and historian all in the right proportion. The key to my success as a professional fishing guide is to have guests want to come back and fish with me again because of the awesome all around fishing experience they had, not necessarily just catching large numbers of fish—although that is the ultimate goal- to catch lots and lots of fish!
First, do your homework. With this internet highway, there is no reason a person can’t locate a fishing guide through an internet search. Begin with keyword combinations that start with the area that you’re going to be staying; such as “Pensacola Florida backwater fishing guide", “Navarre Florida near shore fishing guide” or “Destin Florida inshore fishing guide”. This should give you a number of web sites belonging to guides. Stay away from the booking agents!!! All they do is cost you more money. They get a cut of the fee for referring you to a guide; he sends business to the highest bidder not the best guide. Also, if you contact a guide and he tries to refer you to another guide because he’s booked, ask him if he charges a booking fee, the best guides won’t try and make money off their friends. It’s also very important that your guide knows what you are looking for in a charter. You may have some young anglers where one or two fish each will be ok. Or you might only be interested in a stress-free boat ride through the intercostals waterway with fishing playing a small role. Your guide definitely needs to know these things in advance and you need to find out if your guide is able to provide the kind of trip you are looking for.
Another important thing that your guide needs to know is an idea of your angling ability. There are some types of fishing that’s just aren’t suited for rookies, so to avoid frustration for both you and the guide, it’s best to let them know about your parties angling skill level at the time you’re booking the trip. By the way, feel free to ask about your guide’s level of experience also. Ask for a couple of personal references and give them a call. Ask if they’re a Full Time guide or just part time. Remember, a FULL TIME guide spends much more time on the water and his FULL TIME job is fishing. Although this is rarely asked, it certainly is appropriate to inquire about seeing the Captain’s Coast Guard issued license and proof of insurance as well. This indicates to the guide that he is dealing with a diligent consumer. Although many inshore guides will take four or more anglers it would be in your best interest to keep your fishing party to three not including the captain. By doing this it will extend individual fishing comfort and time. This is very important – in Florida if a guide says you need to purchase a fishing license to fish with him --- RUN, he does not have the proper license to be hired. His proper license covers you and you will not need to buy a license! If you locate a guide advertizing an extremely low fare – RUN, he is not in the network of local guides. The local full time guides keep rates as close as possible so price doesn’t determine your hiring process.
Most all of the professional guides have a network of other guides that they work with; this is how we accommodate large groups. I’ve booked corporate parties of twenty plus anglers many times by using three or more boats and guides. I don’t just pick anyone either, my subs are thoroughly screened and the best in the business, after all my reputation is on the line when I refer a guest to another guide.
Remember you’re not cruising around in the comfort of a cabin cruiser. You’ll be in a fishing boat and exposed to the elements, be prepared. In the summer time bring along a hat and pair of polarized sunglasses. Light color clothing is the best choice to wear because it keeps you a little cooler in the sun. Mother Nature is very unpredictable; it would be a good idea to bring along some foul-weather gear as well. Better to have it and not use it than to not have it when it’s needed, it can get cold after you get wet, even in the summer time and especially in the cooler months. Be sure and ask your guide how many layers of clothing to bring. don’t be one of those that say – don’t worry - I’m used to the cold weather, I promise six to eight hours exposed to the elements without enough clothes can lead to a miserable day! Most guides supply a cooler and ice. All the angler needs to bring is food and drinks. Remember most Captains won’t allow glass bottles onboard.
Fishing tackle will be provided by the guide. If not, RUN! A professional guide will have connections with tackle manufactures and get the best stuff out there to use. My sponsors include; SPRO, Gamakatsu, Big Bite Baits inc., Shakespeare, Pflueger, All Star Rods Select Angler Guide Program, Pure Fishing Guide Program – Abu Garcia, Fenwick, Stren, Berkley, Berkley GULP, Johnson, Seven Strand, Mitchell, Spider Line, and the Penn VIP program. If you elect to bring your own gear, let the guide know so they can make room to store your things. Guides get understandably frustrated when they put an angler on a nice fish and lose them because of a tackle failure, so be sure your tackle is in tip top shape. Be flexible, weather can force you to alter the original game plan for the day, this is where the good guides differ from the rest. A good, professional guide will strongly consider the weather conditions and won’t take you fishing in poor conditions. Tipping is optional, if your guide did all they could do to make your trip an enjoyable one, it’s customary to reward your guide by leaving them a tip in the 10 to 20% range. A good guide will cater to the wishes of their guests. We aren't mind readers though - you have to let us know what you want. Don’t make the fishing guide guess what makes you happy, tell him from the start and I promise your trip will be one to remember. Smiling faces are addictive!
I know one thing for sure - You ain’t going to catch’em sittin’ on the couch!!
So get out there, take a kid fishing and have a Blessed Day!
Professional Fishing Guide
Capt. Eddie Woodall
Full Net Fishing Charters L.L.C.
© Copyright Full Net Fishing Charters L.L.C. 2003
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