Make Your Guided Fishing Trip A Success- Part 1 Down South
It’s the start of a new and hopefully better year in 2021! This year, maybe your bucket list includes taking a trip for that trophy fish of a lifetime with a professional guide. Maybe you are interested in catching a new species of fish, or learning more about how to fish the bodies of
water around you. A professionally guided trip is a great way to learn a lot of information in a short amount of time, and have a chance to possibly catch a trophy fish.
So what should you know about booking and preparing for a guided fishing trip? As a guide, I know it would help if you could get the guide’s insights and advice ahead of your trip- you know, the type of information that’s not on the website or in the brochure.
I decided to collect a variety of opinions, information and advice from guides around the country. I think you will find their opinions beneficial. They have years of guiding experience, even if it is not specifically the fish you are targeting. The hope is that it will help you understand how guides think, enable you to ask good questions of your guide, and increase the probability of having an enjoyable time on the water.
I split this article into two parts. For part 1, we’ll look at what guides predominately from the South had to say. In part 2, we’ll make our way up North. You will note a focus on guided trips that require active participation from the client, as opposed to trips where the guides do most of the work, such as offshore trolling.
If there is one thing I have learned firsthand, it’s that professional guides are required to be fully licensed, meaning they must go through a rigorous (and costly) process intended to ensure your safety on the water. At iBass360, we strongly encourage you to check with your guide to be sure
they are fully licensed and insured before booking a trip.
Now, let’s start in the Deep South. Captain Billy Wallbaum guides out of Venice Louisiana. If you are not familiar with Venice, it’s the southern-most point of the Mississippi river, a delta area made up of the silt that has traversed the length of the river and been deposited where it dumps into the Gulf of Mexico. It is a beautiful, exotic, luscious, and largely untamed habitat for all kinds of wildlife- aquatic and otherwise. The mix of salt, fresh and brackish water creates a variety of productive fishing opportunities.
Captain Billy was born and raised in Shreveport in the northwest portion of Louisiana. After many fishing trips down to Venice, and with the encouragement of a longtime tournament fishing buddy, in his late 30’s Billy decided to begin guiding in the area. Twenty years later he is still
guiding, and loves both the fish and environment where he guides as much as ever. Here are his insights:
Where do you guide out of and what do you guide for?
I guide out of Venice Louisiana through the Paradise Plus Guide Service. We handle fishing, duck hunting trips and lodging in Venice since it is so remote. I largely guide redfish and speckled trout. We frequently run into flounder and black drum as well. In the summer months, on some of the barrier islands, we get into some bluefish and sharks. Occasionally when the weather is right, I go offshore for red snapper, but I run a Skeeter Bay Boat so we largely do inshore fishing for reds and specks.
Venice is such a remote area, how did you end up guiding down there?
I started fishing down in Venice for fun. It’s a six hour drive from my home in Shreveport, and I would go down with my bass fishing buddies. It’s a fantastic fishery and a beautiful wild area. It also has the best redfish fishing in the country. The fishing has gone up and down in recent years due to the hurricanes and coastal erosion, but it is still the best place to catch reds. On the right day you can still catch 100 fish. Just last week (late December) we caught 35 which is hard to do in many places. Reds are extremely aggressive and hard fighting, and I was “hooked” after I caught my first one.
What also attracted me was the environment. The Mississippi River Delta is like nowhere else in the country- 2.7 million acres (7th largest in the world) of untamed marshlands- lined with miles and miles of Roseau Cane (pronounced “rose-o”). It’s a totally unique area, full of fish and
Do I need any fishing experience or knowledge to come fish with you?
You need zero fishing experience to come fish with us. We take people who have never fished before and everyone has a great time. I will say that it helps if you can do some practicing in the backyard with casting accuracy. If you can, take your spinning rod out in the yard or local lake and work on accuracy before you come. We fish Roseau Cane “walls” quite a bit and being able to place your bait close to them helps a lot, but like I said, we frequently take out customers with no fishing experience and have a fantastic time.
What are the best times of year to fish in your area?
We fish successfully year round. I caught 35 redfish on December 20th. The fishing somewhat depends on what the Mississippi river is doing. A rising river tends to slow down the current due to influxes of dirty, cold water from north. A falling river clears things out and the fish know it. It positions the fish and the bait better. It’s all weather dependent. The best time for the big bull reds (over 27-inches) is probably August, September, and October which is when they make their way from the ocean into the shallower brackish water to spawn. Speckled trout like a little bit warmer weather so April through October are best. We catch quality redfish in the 4 to 8lb range year-round, and as I mentioned, you always have a chance at flounder, black drum or other species. It’s the ocean, you never know what you’ll catch!
What kind of techniques will we be using?
Our most productive way of fishing by far is with popping corks. The cork is like a bobber except you work it to create noise that attracts the fish to the bait hanging below. We primarily use spinning tackle for this. The key is to get the cork as close to the cane as possible. This is a little work on casting accuracy can go a long way to making an enjoyable day.
A redfish will hit anything you use to catch bass. They like topwaters if the water is clear. At times we throw Texas-rigged craws or shallow wake baits like a Mann’s One-Minus. We fish shallow water which makes it fun, because you can often see the fish take your bait. Of course, our guide service provides all the tackle.
What would be one thing specific to your fish that you wish more clients knew or listened to you about?