Hawk Talk - How to Get the Most Out of Your Next Guided Bass Fishing Trip

By Kevin Hawk

Have you ever considered hiring a bass guide for your next fishing trip?  As a full-time guide myself, and one who’s hired guides in the past, I’d like to share a bit of insight that should prove useful in helping you find the right guide for your next bass fishing trip.  

My Experience

When I qualified for the Stren Championship on the Mobile Delta in Alabama back in 2007, I hired a guide before the off-limits period after learning the Delta was a shallow, dangerous tidal fishery to navigate.  I wanted to learn where I could safely take my boat and what areas to avoid, so when I returned for official practice I’d have the confidence to cover water quickly without worrying about getting stuck on a sand bar or damaging my boat or motor on hidden underwater obstructions, like stumps and rocks. 

My search began on the internet and after narrowing my choices down to two guides, I called both of them and explained what I wanted to accomplish on the trip: learning safe and quick navigation routes from the tournament launch to the areas I’d planned on fishing during the tournament official practice.   

The first guide I spoke with wasn’t interested in accommodating my needs, but the second was happy to help, and so I chose him.  By clearly communicating what I wanted to accomplish with my guide I got exactly what I asked for and I felt it was money well spent.  

There are several other reasons to consider hiring a guide for your next trip, including spending the day on the water with family and friends while on vacation (hopefully) catching bass, learning how to fish a new technique, or learning how to get the most out of your electronics.

My Guiding Experiences

I’ve had several clients book trips who specifically wanted me to teach them how to better utilize their electronics.  For those clients, I always recommended booking a trip during the post-spawn and summer months.  The bass group up heavily on offshore points and humps from May to August, and are best located with electronics rather than fishing for them blindly.  

I’m able to show my clients what bass look like on both my Lowrance 2D sonar and Downscan imaging.  After marking the bass with a waypoint, we’ll begin fishing for them.  Once my clients start catching the bass we just marked their confidence level grows significantly.  They’re able to take that confidence with them and apply it when using their own electronics. If you’re specifically looking for help in this area, consider post-spawn and summer for booking a guide.

Research

Most professional guides have websites where you can get the information you’ll need to determine if they’re worth hiring. Is the guide licensed (if required by state) and insured?  What are their rates and cancellation policy?  Do they provide the fishing equipment—rods, reels, lures—you’ll need for the trip, or are you required to bring your own?  Getting answers to these questions up front will help you narrow down the list of guides you’re considering. 

Once you have a short list I’d highly recommend calling them and expressing what you’d like to accomplish on your trip. Do you want to focus all your time on trying to catch bass?  Do you want to learn a new technique or get more experience with one you don’t fish often?  Not only will you get a feel for the guide’s personality, but you’ll have an opportunity to ask the right questions to help determine if they’re the right guide for you. Making sure your guide is willing and able to accommodate your goals will help ensure you’ll have a productive trip. 

Proceed With Caution 

If you’re a tournament angler and are considering hiring a guide for an upcoming tournament I’d highly recommend making sure the guide is not fishing the same event.  Naturally, you can see the possible conflict from a situation where both the client and guide are fishing the same tournament.  While the guide may be open to showing you the techniques he has the most confidence in, it’s highly unlikely they’ll show you their best fishing spots—the ones they’ll be fishing in the tournament.  

When I started guiding I decided not to fish any local tournaments on Lake Guntersville.  I didn’t want find myself in the position where I was taking a client out who was fishing the same tournament I planned on fishing.  I knew I wouldn’t be giving my client the best possible guide trip experience and I wasn’t willing to book a trip under those circumstances. 

Be Prepared

Once you’ve chosen your guide and you’re packing for your trip, make sure to take a close look at the weather forecast so you’re properly prepared.  I always recommend my clients bring rain gear even if there’s no chance of rain in the forecast.  The weatherman isn’t always right and being caught in the rain without rain gear can ruin a trip.  

If you’re taking a summer fishing trip in a hot climate make sure to pack sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat. The last thing you want is a severe sunburn. You’ll also want to bring water (if your guide doesn’t supply it on the boat) so you don’t get dehydrated.  

When you meet your guide at a predetermined location and time on the day of your trip, be observant of your guide’s boat.  Chances are it will be clean and in great condition, so treat it like you would your own boat.  If you bring a family member or friend along, chances are someone will be fishing from the front of the boat with the guide and the other on the back deck.  Avoid stepping on the seats which can tear or wear on the fabric and stitching.  Most guides make it a priority to keep a clean boat and if they see you respecting their equipment they’ll take notice and they’ll find a way to return the favor during the trip.  

If you have any questions leading up to and throughout your trip don’t hesitate to ask your guide.  Communicating with them will reduce the chances of surprises (not the good kind) that can hinder what you’d like to accomplish on your next guided fishing trip. 

Doing your research and taking these steps won’t guarantee everything will go perfectly on your next guided fishing trip, but they will certainly help put the odds in your favor.