You don't really need a fishing guide for your next adventure.
Your biggest fishing trip ever is rapidly approaching, but you don't want to spend a lot of money by hiring a costly fishing guide service. Now you're questioning if you really need them.
You're a good fisherman and you already catch fish on your own just fine, right? You don't need some overpriced guide to tell you how to fish!
Here's how you can utilize your own fishing skills to have a great trip without a professional guide.
Do your homework.
Angling guide services aren't always as vital as they used to be. Before the Internet, you likely had no idea what most of the big-name lakes like Lake Champlain, Okeechobee or Sam Rayburn Reservoir even looked like unless you had been there before.
You'd likely be boating around the lake like a chicken with its head cut off without a guide. Then you'd finally figure out the pattern in the last hour of the last day, but by that point, it's time to head in. You almost had to use guide services if you wanted a decent trip.
But now, let's say you're going to a well-known bass fishing destination like Lake Fork in Texas. It doesn't take a whole lot of searching on the Internet to find what the largemouth bass are hitting right now.
Look back at any professional fishing tournaments that have happened at your destination. The pros are always eager to share what worked for them to win. You know, sponsor deals and such. The locals hate it, but they just spoiled the hot pattern!
If you dive even deeper on the Internet, you can sometimes even find tons of fishing message boards where the local anglers might be spilling the secret areas on the lake you were planning to visit.
Sometimes hidden info like that can take quite a bit of searching to find, but it's worth it if it gives you a great fishing experience and saves you a hefty $600-a-day guide service fee.
Remember when I mentioned Lake Fork? On a whim, I did a short search on YouTube for techniques on the lake and found a guide with a YouTube channel who was spilling secrets of the lake for free. Hey, we'll take it!
Now, granted, this doesn't work everywhere. Let's say you're planning a trip to a wilderness area like Boundary Waters in Minnesota, which has literally thousands of obscure lakes. You might have a hard time pinning down exact hot spots.
However, you can get a good idea of general lures to pack with a little research. It didn't take me long to find out silver floating Rapalas and inline spinners like the Mepp's Comet are a must in that area.
Fishing reports are your best friend.
This is a great tip, especially for any saltwater fishing enthusiast, as fishing reports are readily available online and they're updated often.
More popular locations like the Outer Banks see reports daily. Start reading them months ahead of your trip.
Keep note of what they're saying and what lures and baits are working if they mention them. Because nothing sucks more than driving 16 hours away only to find you brought the wrong color spoons.
Then, you get gouged at the local tackle shop because they're the only ones for 100 miles who have that color. The owner of the store laughs at you because he knows you have no choice but to buy from him and that expensive trip just got a lot pricier.
Fishing reports will help save you money!
More than anything, fishing reports will help you to find patterns in the bite. Compare the reports to the local weather reports and sometimes you can piece together how the fish are moving based on cold fronts or severe weather patterns.
We guarantee the fishing guides are watching this stuff every day and making the plans for their clients based off them. But with a little detective work yourself, you can avoid those expensive fees and do it yourself.
Powers of Observation
Ever wonder how those guides get so good at their jobs? Well, aside from the fact they probably neglected their family to fish the lake 300 days a year to figure things out! No, a big part of what makes some guides so good is their powers of observation.
It's a skill of fishing that doesn't get talked about nearly as often as it should. Too many fishermen rely heavily on electronics and maps without taking the time to conceptualize what that data means.
This is also what makes so many bass pros successful. They take that electronic and map data and then use their powers of observation to figure out the pattern quickly.
They have to put the puzzle together quickly because their livelihood depends on it!
You can use those same powers of observation on unfamiliar waters to bypass the guides and still have the best fishing trip of your life.
Let's say you're fishing a northern lake for big smallmouth bass and you've been jigging rocky points all morning. Suddenly, you see a big swarm of baitfish near the surface and the boat.
Now is the time to quickly try to "match the hatch," as fly fishing enthusiasts would say, because the bass might be closer to the surface than you previously thought.
A big part of what makes fishing pros so successful is that they are always looking for the subtle clues that let them know what the fish are most likely to be eating in that moment. They also know how to adjust on the fly and how to properly fish each lure in each situation.
Don't forget to observe what other anglers are doing. Now, we're not suggesting you pull up next to them and ask what they're using, nor are we advocating shadowing someone closely enough that they get angry about it. But, you should keep notes on where other boats are fishing throughout your trip and be sure to check to those locales to see what they were keying on.
Just wing it!
You may think that sounds like bad advice, but is it really? Some anglers get so focused on catching tons and tons of big fish that they let their trip be ruined if they don't catch anything.
Isn't getting out in nature and just enjoying time on the boat good enough? It's a chance to unwind from the stresses of everyday life. A bad day of fishing is better than a good day of work, right?
I believe this obsession with having to catch a ton of huge fish cuts into some fishermen's enjoyment of their trip sometimes. That's why many people hire guides to ensure their success every time.
There is, however, something to be said for just heading to a locale and doing things totally on the fly. You never know when some offbeat technique may lead you into stumbling upon a pattern the locals don't know about yet.
Maybe you went to Canada for some big smallies, but instead you hooked into a 50-inch muskie! It may not have been your target species, but is that not still a memorable fishing trip?
In some ways, going without a guide is almost better. You don't feel the pressure of the time constraints of a half-day trip. You don't feel constrained to use only new fishing methods you're unfamiliar with. Most of all, your wallet is still heavy at the end of it!