Choosing the ultimate angler’s gift

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The best gift for the fisherman or woman in your life is to give them more of what they like to use.


Tight Lines

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A few weeks ago, we stated that finding gifts for anglers is so simple. Easiest task: Give more of what they like to use.

But something more special may seem almost ridiculous, especially if they have their own boat. So why consider a professional guide?

Think of a guided trip as the ultimate treat, where your angler is totally pampered like at a spa visit. All your gift recipient has to do is step onto the guide’s boat, take a seat and be chauffeured to the honey hole of fish, take a hold on that perfect rod, tackle with proven bait. Cast. Catch and release. Repeat, repeat and repeat. Truly a spa-like treatment on the water. How perfect is that?

Now that you are thinking about it, how do you find that just right guide?

Mark Twain once said, "The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation." My guess is that most successful professional fishing guides would agree with that assessment wholeheartedly.

Your choices are many, so be selective and do your homework. In today's speak, that means performing due diligence. In other words, find out if this dude is worthy of your time, money and effort. We say dude, but we don't mean to "dis" the ladies. We are very aware that some extremely competent and skillful ladies have joined the ranks of the professional fishing guides.

The term "professional guide" is relatively new to me. Growing up in Maryland not too far from the Chesapeake Bay in the 60s, if someone referred to a professional guide, I would have thought they were talking about an outdoors expert heading up a high brow fly fishing or backwoods hunting excursion. A boat and guide for hire to go fishing was usually referred to as a charter, and the individual heading up the outing was a charter boat captain.

Every waterfront community and marina had a few boats for hire, but nothing close to what you see out there today. Every Tom, Dick and Harriett wants to be a professional fishing guide today, and I can't blame them. Sounds like a good plan to me.

Professional guides are everywhere, and all it takes to be one is to say that you are, plain and simple. Many professional guides study for and pass the certified Coast Guard Captain's License exam. It is a form of certification, and a good and worthy accomplishment. However, successful completion of this test is not mandatory for one to refer to oneself as a professional guide.

Experience is probably the best tool a professional guide can bring to the table. Book and video knowledge is useful and nice, but it takes much more than that to earn your professional guide "chops." Clocking water time and fish catching expertise is what counts first and foremost in the guide biz.

Pick up any fishing newspaper or tabloid, and you will inundated with a ton of ads for professional guides. Bait shops also have stacks of professional guides' business cards and flyers.

Being a good, successful angler does not necessarily make you a top-notch guide. Attitude, personality, caring customer service, and a passion for fishing and a willingness to share that passionate knowledge are very important tools and tenets for professional guide success.

Is it smart to chase flatfish with a guide that does not enjoy floundering? We think not. Guides specialize in certain areas and types of angling. Question them, and explore their expertise. A Gulf Stream blue water guide is not necessarily the same guy that would excel at putting you on a school of speckled trout in a creek off the Pamlico River. Professional guides are not one-size and style fits all. It's up to you to search out the one that is your perfect fit for your gift recipient.

Professional guides are like anything else. Some are better than others. Just because they put their name next to the title professional guide does not make them "professional" or a worthy guide. Call and get all your questions answered before you commit your hard-earned greenbacks.

The boat captain is always large and in charge, but you are paying for their expertise, knowledge, and experience. Chat it up a bit. What fish are you going to target? Where? Baits? Not into trolling? Clue your guide in before you step on his boat. Discuss options and your fishing likes and dislikes.

Let's say best case scenario is that at the end of your allotted time that you are catching fish big time and don't want to leave biting fish. What a problem! Are extended fishing hours available, and if so, at what price? Good info to know in advance.

Professional guiding is definitely a service industry, and being so means tipping is usually appropriate and genuinely appreciated. Don't fool yourself, the captain has a lot of expenses that have to come out of that guide fee you are paying. Profit for guides is smaller than most people imagine. Plus, keep in mind that even the best of the best guides don't usually have gigs every day. Fuel cost is a big factor in pricing and overall guiding profitability.

Customer safety and satisfaction should be a guide's goal each day they are on the water. Repeat business and referrals are the lifeblood and future of any decent guide business. A positive word-of-mouth recommendation is the best form of advertising available. It is free of charge and loaded with credibility.

The bottom line on tipping is, did my guide work hard to accommodate my needs and show me and my crew a good time? If so, an appropriate gratuity is certainly in order. A good rule of thumb would probably be 10-20 percent of your guide fee, depending on your degree of satisfaction.

No guarantees, but a decent tip might establish an ongoing relationship that could include future reservation priority considerations, or maybe a courtesy heads-up call when the bite is strong and fish are jumping in the boat out there.

If a mate was involved, we like to put his individual tip directly in his hand. He is low man on the totem pole, but most likely working his hindquarters off, and doing most of the "grunt" work. Underpaid and overworked is usually a good description of most mates on for-hire fishing boats. On some high-dollar offshore excursions, several mates might be used and worth plenty when you are trying to land a trophy fish.

Do we have favorites among local professional guides. Of course, and we will be glad to share them with you. However, we don't feel like this general article on professional guides is a good place to list our personal preferences. Tell us the type of fish you want to target, or area you would like to fish, and we will try to point you in the right direction. Our only motive would be to help you find a good professional guide suited to your needs that will put your angler on the fish.

A little help, please! Send your fishy snaps, stories, tall tales, and bragging lies to CarolinaAngler@Gmail.com

See you on the water, my friend.