Clayton: Why you should hire a guide

Staff Writer
Stephenville Empire-Tribune
A good guide will go the extra mile to put his client of fish or game. Here Travis Benes, manager of the Choctaw Hunting Lodge in Oklahoma 'sneaks' in to position a turkey decoy.

By Luke Clayton

During my career as an outdoors writer, I have worked with hundreds of fishing and hunting guides while on story assignments and worked as a guide myself for everything from ducks to bear. Many of my close friends are guides.

I have the greatest respect for those that make their living exposing others to their facet of the outdoors, whether that be catching stripers on lake Texoma or hunting elk in the high country.

The reasons for paying for the services of an experienced guide are many. Professional bass anglers that are obviously extremely proficient at catching fish often pre-fish a lake with a knowledgeable local guide. These professional anglers understand there is no substitute for spending time on the water. Oh, they could spend days learning current fishing patterns on a lake that is new to them but one day on the water with a guide “in the know” has the potential to put them high on the leader board come tournament day.

I understand the pleasure one gets from fishing from one’s own boat and having a successful day on the water. But not everyone invests in a boat and is willing to incur all the costs that come with boat ownership.

I once did a magazine article on the topic of hiring a fishing guide opposed to purchasing a boat. I actually “did the math,” comparing the cost of hiring a guide a couple times per month with the cost of purchasing a boat, paying for insurance, maintenance, registration fees, etc. Honestly, I found it to actually be a little cheaper to enjoy a couple of half day fishing trips per month with a guide than pay for a boat. With today’s fully rigged boats costing upward of $60,000 we could probably increase this to one guided trip per week!

I remember when I was young and took our small kids fishing. I was preoccupied with keeping everyone safe on the water and hopefully finding some sandbass or catfish for the little ones to catch, keeping hooks baited and the boat under control kept me busy. Had we been fishing with a guide that took care of finding the fish and supplying fishing equipment, I could have concentrated on devoting my time strictly to the kids.

Hiring fishing guides has become much more common today than 30 years ago. Many of my guide buddies tell me their client base contains a good number of parent/grandparents that wish to spend time on the water actually fishing with their kids while they take care of the work part of fishing.

Guiding fishing trips today has changed a great deal from what it used to be. Without exception, every successful guide I know possesses the people skills to work with and instruct everyone from the youngster to older folks. Locating actively feeding fish is often the easy part of their day on the water. They need to “read” their clients personalities and quickly decide how to proceed to make their time on the water special. For instance, some older men might feel a bit intimidated by someone giving them fishing instructions where a lady or youngster often readily applies the guide’s instructions and begins catching fish immediately.

Hunting guides offer all levels of involvement with their clients. Big game guides usually offer one on one hunts with their clients or sometime, the agreement is for the guide to pre-scout and position his hunter in a spot where he has a good change to harvest game and let the client hunt on his own.

I have had a good bit of experience guiding and outfitting hunters out west as well as here in Texas for deer and wild hogs. Usually, it’s part of the guide’s job to do the field dressing chores and see to it the meat is properly cared for and in a cooler or delivered to a meat processor. It’s important before hiring the services of a hunting guide to make a list of questions to insure everyone is on the same page and services expected by the client are services the guide will provide.

Locating a good guide

Whether you are looking for the services of a fishing or hunting guide, Face book is a good spot to begin but of course, nothing is better than personal references by friends that have used the guide service you are interested in.

Most guides today post regularly on Facebook. You can “like” them and see frequent posts of their clients and the fish they catch or game that is taken. If you desire, you can message the guide with questions and learn a good bit about their style of guiding before you decide to choose a day and put down a deposit on the trip.

The guide you are looking for will post pictures of his clients and the game or fish they harvest. Beware the posts that begin with “I did this or that,” or where the guide is talking more about himself or his skills than his clients having a fun and successful day on the water. Smart people will understand that the guide was the primary reason for their client’s success. He need not attempt to bolster his skills; doing so does far more harm than good to the prospective client that is considering booking with him or her.

Throughout this COVID-19 thing, the majority of my guide buddies have reported brisk business. Folks simply wish to get out and enjoy the great outdoors as well as put some tasty fish or game in their freezer. The next couple months will provide some of the best weather for outdoor outings of the entire years. If you might be planning a guided trip, not is a great time to get on the books.

If I can be of help always feel free to contact me via my website My email address is

Luke Clayton