A Professional Guide Can Change Your Luck

Rockport fishing guide Capt. Jerry Timmins unhooks a trophy-class redfish caught by Bill Mills.

I figure I’m a lucky guy.

No, the reasons have nothing to do with wealth or (heaven forbid) fame. Beyond the obvious reasons for my fortunate circumstances, such as good family, reasonably good health, and living on the Texas coast, there are other important reasons for my good fortune.

High on my list of reasons is having the fortunate opportunity to hunt, fish, and share a lot of sunrises and a few sunsets with some of the best professional guides in the business. I have hunted trophy exotic game, upland game birds, and waterfowl as well as pursued saltwater fish from the Panhandle to Port Aransas with some great professional guides.

You may occasionally find a “bummer,” but as a group, guides and outfitters are friendly, hard working, and knowledgeable about their profession. They have to love a life in the woods or on the water.

Many casual fishermen I know think it would be great fun to be a fishing guide. “Just think, you would not have to go to work and you could go fishing every day!” is the usual comment. That sounds great on the surface, but in reality, being a fishing guide is not that easy.

First of all, before even thinking about taking paying customers on the water, a special license is required. The U.S. Coast Guard regulates saltwater guides. Prospective guides must pay the fees and must pass the rigorous courses on things like boat handling, navigation, first aid, and current regulations.

Once launched into the profession, it becomes a job. No matter how much someone enjoys fishing or enjoys their job, there’s a certain amount of hard work involved.

After a long and hot day on the water, which many times involves picking out backlashes, re-rigging lines, baiting hooks, and pulling anchors, there is still a lot of work to be done.

At the end of a trip when the guests are standing around a cooler celebrating the success of the day, the guide still has fish to clean, a boat to wash, and fishing tackle to oil and get ready for the next day’s trip.

On the surface, a fishing guide’s fee seems pretty pricey to the average guy for a few hours of fishing. However, considering the cost of an expensive fishing rig, plus bait, ice, and fuel, prices are pretty reasonable after all. The main things the customer is really paying for are the intangibles, such as experience and fishing knowledge.

Professional guides are on the water every day and can closely monitor how and where the fish are moving, what time they are feeding, and what they are feeding on.

Before plunking down hard-earned money for a guided fishing trip, there are several factors to take into consideration.

For one, you need to hook up with a professional guide that closely matches your own style of fishing. For instance, many guides are artificial lure “purists” and do not cater to anyone wanting to fish with live bait. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are guides who fish with nothing but live or even dead bait. In between there is a large group of guides who may prefer chunking lures, but always carry a back-up batch of bait in their live well.

Before climbing into your guide’s boat, talk to him or her about how you want to fish.

Numerous fishermen I know prefer wade fishing shorelines, shallow sandbars, or grass flats. Conversely, I know several salty anglers who see no sense in jumping out of a perfectly good boat just to catch fish, unless it is an emergency.

Most guides I know are very versatile and are capable of catching just about anything out there with scales or fins, but many individuals gain a following and have a reputation for some type of specialty. Some have a well-deserved niche for their expertise in catching flounder. Others have become well known for putting customers on impressive strings of big redfish. Of course, from Trinity Bay to the Laguna Madre, trophy speckled trout chasers are a big draw.

The options of baits, styles of fishing, and methods of catching a long list of gamefish along our sprawling Texas coast are almost endless. A knowledgeable and experienced guide is someone to point the way and is a priceless asset when it comes to putting fish in your cooler.

I was wading into a shimmering gold sunset along a desolate Aransas Bay shoreline recently. Right after my congenial guide whispered over my shoulder, “Cast right over there into that sand pocket next to the shoreline!” I had an immediate hook-up on a runaway redfish. While savoring the fight of that bronze beauty, I was thinking how I must be the luckiest guy on the Texas coast.

Come to think of it, it was a lot more than just luck!