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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

wildlife.


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?


I have said it before, a day with us can definitely be made more enjoyable with a little work on casting accuracy. It is not essential, but you’ll have more opportunities to catch fish if you can put the popping cork right on the cane edge.


What is one piece of general advice you would give to people going on a guided trip?


Do what your guide tells you to do. If you are not sure what he is saying, ask him to clarify or show you. Most guides are really accommodating and love to teach. If he tells you to slow down, slow down. If he tells you to throw on a particular side of the boat, do that. I saw a t-shirt once in a tackle shop that said, “If at first you don’t succeed, do what the guide tells you to do.”


I treat my outings like I am the coach and my clients are the team. I want them to win. The more you follow the instructions, the better your chances are of catching more and bigger fish. I would also add, wherever you fish, always bring sunglasses and rain gear. It does not matter what the weather says, at least bring it to the dock and talk with your captain about whether you will need it or not. Oh, and by rain gear, I don’t mean a cheap poncho. Bring real rain gear! Always talk with your captain ahead of time, and remember, they want you to have a good time, so they are willing to talk and answer any questions you have ahead of time to make the day a success.



If I have more questions or want to book a trip, how do I contact you?


I work through Paradise Plus Guiding Service. We guide year-round so contact us and book a trip! We also do duck hunting trips and have lodging on site as well. There are a variety of package deals.


Paradise Plus Guide Service- Captain Billy Wallbaum

Website: www.paradise-plus.com

Phone: (504) 628-4526

E-mail: Anthony@paradise-plus.com

Facebook: Paradise-Plus Guide Service and Lodge

Instagram: Anthony_Julie_Randazzo

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Next we move a little east to hear from Captain Scott Taylor. Scott guides out of Central Florida, but he is originally from Michigan where he was a tournament fisherman and smallmouth bass guide. In 2011 he decided to become a “snow bird” and guide in Florida during the winter months and guide back in Michigan in the summer. In 2014, he made the move with his family to Florida to guide there full time.


Where and for what species do you guide?


I used to guide both largemouth bass in Central Florida and a variety of inshore saltwater fish on the coast. If it swims in Florida, I’ve guided for it. The large- mouth business has been good, so I gave up the drives to the coast to focus on largemouth. I run the guide service for Guy Harvey’s Camp Mack on the Kissimmee Chain. We are a full service outfitter with lodging available onsite. Largemouth bass are our primary target. I primarily guide the Kissimmee Chain in Central Florida, as well as the Winter Haven Chain. I do run some trips over to the Harris Chain from time to time, which is not too far away.


What got you into guiding and why now in Central Florida?


I have been bass fishing my whole life and I love it. I grew up on the west side of Michigan where there is a strong bass fishing culture. You might have heard of a few famous guys from over there! As I got older, I started fishing over in southeast Michigan for smallmouth on Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair, and eventually guiding there as well. Unfortunately over the course of my life I have had quite a few injuries and the cold Michigan winters were getting tough on me. In 2011 my wife and I visited Florida in February. We walked out of the airport and it was 80-degrees. Two weeks later we bought a condo down there! We rarely get cold or bad weather and I appreciate that about the Central Florida area.


The area comes with a lot of options. You have all the family options like theme parks, but just a short drive away you have old-world Florida- peaceful and quiet, with a wide variety of outdoor opportunities. You can also get to the Atlantic or the Gulf within an hour and half, so it is an ideal vacation or even permanent living locale.


What kind of fishing knowledge or experience do I need to come fish with you?


I take out everyone from first time fishermen all the way to the semi-professional. You don’t need any experience to come fishing with us and have a great time. We do a lot of family trips as well. My boat can take a family of five relatively easily so it’s a fun experience for everyone.



What are the best times to fish in your area?


Our most popular times are Thanksgiving through end of April. We get a lot of folks wanting to escape the cold in the north! Of course, the fish are spawning as early as December so that’s a popular time to be down here. However, one misleading thing people think is that bass fishing disappears in summer. I can tell you from experience it does not at all. In fact, summer can be some of the most fun fishing if we are able to locate some offshore schooling fish. We throw a lot of topwaters and swimbaits in the summer and it’s a lot of fun. About the only time that gets a little tough is October, but other than that, we catch good fish year- round.


What kind of techniques will we be using?


I do mostly combination trips where we use both live bait and artificials. Usually I have my clients fish from the front with artificials and we drag some live shiners out of the back of the boat to give us the best chance at a big largemouth. As far as the type of artificials, it depends on the time of year. We throw a lot of soft and hard jerkbaits, swimbaits, and Texas-rigged worms. One of our most productive baits, believe it or not, is an old fashioned Rebel Pop-R topwater.


What would be the one thing about your guided trip that you wish more clients knew or would ask you about before they arrive?


I would say that people who have read about fishing in Florida often come with misconceptions about the techniques we will be using. Just come with an open mind and trust that the guide knows what he is doing, even if it seems contrary to what you have read or watched about how to catch Florida bass.


What is one piece of general advice you would give to people going on a guided trip?

Even if you have a lot of fishing experience (and especially if you don’t), listen to your guide. I promise you we want you to catch fish. We want you to come back again and we want you to spread the word. That only happens if we put you on fish, so trust us to do that for you and follow the guidelines we give you. That is not to say bad days don’t happen. They definitely do. We are dealing with Mother Nature and her creatures. But overall your chances of having an enjoyable experience go way up if you can follow the advice of your guide. If you have a bad day, we have a bad day.


If I have more questions or want to book a trip, how do I contact you?


Guy Harvey Camp Mack - Captain Scott Taylor

Website: www.guyharveycampmack.com

Phone: 800-243-8013

Facebook: Camp Mack, a Guy Harvey Lodge, Marina & RV Resort Instagram: guyharveycampmack

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We wrap up the South in Texas. Some would argue that Texas is the big bass capital of the country. Florida and California might put up a fight on that, but it is hard to argue with the sheer numbers of large bass that consistently come out of Texas lakes.


Clark Reehm is an MLF Big 5 Pro Circuit angler who has been fishing competitively for twenty years and professionally for over ten. He has been guiding on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in east Texas for just as long.


What is your guiding experience and where do you guide?


I have been guiding since 2012 on Sam Rayburn in East Texas. I do some guiding on some smaller lakes in the region, but 90% of my work is on Sam Rayburn. My dad was in the Army so I have lived all over, but for the last 15 years I’ve been settled in this region.


To be honest, I started guiding out of necessity. I fish competitively as a professional and I needed an income stream when I was not at major tournaments. I have spent lots of time on Sam Rayburn and it just consistently fishes well, so it was an easy choice to start guiding there. I largely guide for largemouth but do run some crappie trips from time to time.


My guide service has evolved over the years to where now I run my business called “Elite Angler Academy.” Our focus is on using electronics and technology to actually teach my clients how to be better bass fishermen. Fishing and tournament fishing is so popular in this region that most of my clients are experienced fishermen looking to make better use of technology. It’s not just

boat electronics, but things like Google Earth, how to do internet research, looking at pre-impoundment photos, etc. I market my guide service as one where I teach people how to find fish on their own rather than just take them out to catch fish.



What attracted you to Sam Rayburn and East Texas?


First, Sam Rayburn has been the most consistent lake in East Texas for the last 12 years. Some of the other big lakes like Toledo Bend seem to go through more fluctuations in their fishing than Sam Rayburn, and ideally you need that consistency in guiding. I also appreciate that Sam Rayburn has everything a bass fisherman could want, especially if you are running a “teaching” oriented service. You can catch fish from 1 foot out to 30 plus feet in all kinds of structure and cover. You can learn to do just about any technique here, and most of them work year-round. I tend to specialize in off-shore fishing. That does not always mean deep, but it does mean off the bank a ways, and Sam Rayburn has plenty of opportunities for that style of fishing.


What kind of fishing knowledge or experience do I need to come fish with you?


You don’t need any experience to fish with me, but my service is a little different in that most of my clients have some experience. My clients hire me specifically to learn, not just to catch fish. Most, but not all, of my clients already have their own boats and live in the region with some fishing experience. I have the credibility from making Bassmaster Classics and FLW Cups, so

guys want the knowledge. Many times we do a classroom part ahead of the trip. We don’t go out there to throw Rattle Traps like everyone else. We go out there to learn, and we always catch some fish along the way.


What are the best times to fish in your area?


My favorite time is October and November. You can get some mediocre days in there, but the fish are schooling then in accessible places and if you can get on them you can catch 50 to100 fish. It is a great time to learn electronics and fishing off-shore. Obviously the spring in Texas is never a bad time to come either.


What kind of techniques do you use?


Because we are fishing off shore, the Carolina rig is a huge player. It is boring but so effective on East Texas bass. We use a lot of finesse tactics as well. Again, it is about the learning. Many East Texas anglers have that “bubba mentality” that we have to be using heavy rods and line all the time, but you can catch them real well on finesse tactics too. In fact, many times these finesse techniques are ones that fish are not seeing much making them that much more effective.


If my clients are coming to learn, I have them bring their own rods and reels so they are comfortable with the equipment. I usually tell them to bring a rod for a Carolina rig or a football jig, another for a big deep diving crankbait, a third for a dropshot or Ned rig, and a fourth for a tailspin or spoon. My philosophy is, they can do the easy stuff like throw a worm down the bank on their own time.


What would be one thing you wish more clients knew or asked you about?


I do regular guide trips just to catch fish, but because most of my guide trips are tailored to learning, it would be to come with and open mind. We try things that are “off the wall” sometimes, or maybe not in line with seasonal patterns, to try to learn how to use all of our tools. An open mind is the most important thing for learning.


What is one piece of general advice you would give to people going on a guided trip?


Trust the guide, but also look for a quality guide and do your research. Don’t waste your time and money going out with someone because they have a lot of “friends” on social media. That doesn’t mean he/she is reputable! Communicate with the guide. Let the guide know up front what your expectations are as far as big vs. numbers, and any specific learnings you want from the trip. If you are interested in catching a big fish, keep in mind what “catching a big one” means. It can mean hours of unproductive fishing, and sometimes spending the whole day in search of that trophy. If you are more interested in tournament prep and learning, let the guide know that.


Lastly, I would say if you can be flexible on the dates for your guided trip, let the guide know that ahead of time because you have a better chance of him getting you really dialed in on what you want to catch or a technique you want to learn.


If I have more questions or want to book a trip, how do I contact you?


Elite Angler Academy - Clark Reehm