Why hire a Professional Guide service and what to look for in a guide/charter…

As I was talking to one of my neighbors the other day of course about “Fishing”, he made a comment.  “I can’t believe you are so busy, why are so many people hiring a guide?”  There are several good reasons my clients like to hire a guide service or charter.  Fish tend to move around a lot and they feed differently every day.  However, when you fish every day (and I do) you stay on top of them.  For some anglers who fish only a few times a year, it is cheaper to hire a guide than to make boat and insurance payments plus the tackle needed.  My clients get to try out new and different tackle, the latest new and improved gadgets, such as new rods and reels, GPS and depth finders.  It is great for businessmen to take their customers or employee out for a good day of fishing. A guide trip serves as a good way to build customer relations or seal a business deal and reward employee performance.  Catching some good fish and taking a few pictures during a trip have led to some great achievements.   It is also tax deductible.  Family trips can be a lot of fun, kids can be tough and trips can turn into a real job if you are not that familiar on the water or with fishing.  With the right Professional Guide who guides families everyone walks away with memories of a lifetime.  To learn “sweet” spots and proven presentations on new lakes or rivers is one of the prime reasons.  It can take several trips to learn a lake and which cost money and time. With a good guide you can learn most lakes in a couple of days and that can save you many aggravating trips and possible repair cost on your boat.  Lastly, most guides stay current on latest tactics, anglers can learn a specific tactic like jig fishing, the Float‘n Fly, or the drop shot rig.   With the current economic conditions, we are seeing an influx of people getting into the guide/charter business without bothering to go through all the legal channels or investing in the proper gear. Furthermore, every Fall and Spring lakes such as Kentucky Lake and Guntersville we see an increase in illegal, unlicensed and uninsured guides who are willing to risk being caught and paying a fine of $5,000 to $30,000, jail time, and/or loss of equipment.  They are also putting the clients at risk; normal boat insurance does not cover guiding.  In short, protect yourself use a USCG Licensed service and in Tennessee guides must be licensed by the TWRA. (Note:  USCG license is not required on some inland lakes that are “Land Locked” such as Percy Priest or Center Hill. Lake’s that a guide MUST be USCG Licensed are Kentucky Lake, Guntersville, and Old Hickory, any of the Great Lakes, and Mississippi River.

Capt Jake Davis with all the gear
Capt Jake Davis with all the gear

If you are planning a guided fishing trip; here are a few questions to ask the Captains/Guides so you can choose the one you feel most comfortable with.

  1. Does the Captain have a valid US Coast Guard issued US Merchant Marine Officer license?
    2. Does the Captain have a valid TSA issued TWIC card (Transportation Worker Identification Credential)? This is the background/security check required for all licensed Captains.
    4. Is the Captain certified in First Aid and CPR?
    5. Does the vessel contain all safety equipment as mandated by the US Coast Guard?
    6. Does the Vessel/Guide have valid guide insurance coverage?  Normal insurance DOES NOT cover using a vessel for guiding.
    7. Does the business maintain up-to-date website(s)? Are reports current-not more than 2 weeks old?
    8. What are the business’ charter rates and what do they cover? Is there a fuel surcharge or any hidden charges such as lost lures, drinks, etc?
    10. What is the business’ cancellation policy?
    11. Is charter fishing the Captain’s full-time job? Or, does he do it only part-time apart from some other job, as a hobby activity or are you paying for them to pre-fish/practice for an upcoming tournament?
    12. Can the Captain provide testimonials from satisfied customers?
    13. What is the condition of the tackle, rods and reels? This is an area many businesses skimp on. Is the equipment, if not new, in well-maintained condition?

The most important question to ask…Does the Captain LOVE what he does and VALUE his customer relationships?


Capt Jake Davis, Mid South Bass Guide, a Professional Service on Lakes Guntersville, Tim’s Ford and Normandy Lake. www.midsouthbassguide.com