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  • Writer's pictureSteven Paul

Get the Most From a Musky Guide Trip

Whether you find yourself interested in landing a new species or fishing an unfamiliar water way, there are several tricks to achieving angling success, but nothing will jump start your trip quite like acquiring the help of a local guide. Hiring a guide can relieve the pressure involved in scouting a new location and target fish, but before you pick up the phone, it is very important to understand how to get the most from your guided trip, what the expectations are of your guide, and what your guide expects from you.

As a professional musky guide, I can definitely shine some light on the process from a captain’s perspective. After spending countless hours in the pursuit of elusive trophies, while in the company of complete strangers, several helpful hints come to mind about how to best utilize your paid trip on the water. Each trip should start with the basics: lessons on the particular prey, equipment involved, and assessment of skill level. Every angler can usually demonstrate a basic understanding of the rod and reel, but more importantly is the ability to be coached on tactics and presentation. Your willingness to be lead is far more important than the distance of your cast. So make sure you approach your guided outing with an open mind and a willingness to acquire new skills and techniques from your coach. If you approach your trip with a coachable attitude, your guide will be much more determined to produce a successful venture. If you are unwilling to take advice, follow instruction, are disrespectful or argumentative, your guide will likely reward you with a second rate trip, greatly avoiding the “extra mile”.

If your guide’s sole expectation of you is to remain open minded and respectful, then what can you expect from your guide? First and foremost, you should make sure your guide is properly licensed by the state and their vessel is in full compliance with regulations. All guides in the state of Tennessee are required to have a TWRA guide license as a minimum, while maintaining various safely standards on board their vessel (life jackets, fire extinguisher, stern/bow lights, etc.). A safe trip is a successful trip, so don’t board a vessel with less than appropriate equipment. Also, a guide service should provide all of the equipment required to successfully target the expected species of fish. After all, you are not paying for just a boat ride, but also rental of equipment and area knowledge. So make sure all the rods, reels, baits, etc. will be available to you and your guests.

Prior to booking a trip, I encourage consumers to access the layout of a captain’s vessel. Make sure that your guide will be able to accommodate the appropriate amount of people in a comfortable manner. Also, be prepared to discuss the realistic expectations for your targeted species. Trophy class fish are not a dime a dozen, many require patience and persistence. All guides should be willing to give you an accurate forecast of what to expect during your trip: numbers or trophies. As many guides are prepared to tell you, some species are harder to locate and even harder to catch. Many larger fish will require hours of casting heavy lures or trolling deep baits with the ever menacing chance of failure. Even though it is your captain’s responsibility to find even the most elusive fish, sometimes it just doesn’t pay off. On your list of expectations should be the concept of failure. Many of the water ways in Tennessee are plagued by a constant lowering and raising of water levels due to the network of TVA dams. This can spook even the most predatory fish. Also, unpredictable weather can blow in at a moment’s notice. Not every problem that arises has a premeditated solution, so expect your guide to do their best, but don’t expect miracles. If all goes wrong, you can approach your captain for a discounted trip or free day in hopes of landing your desired fish.

While you are discussing all things fishing, make sure to ask captains about what you need to provide for yourself while on a guided trip: food, drinks, sun screen, clothing etc. By discussing every point up front, from expectations to preferred sunglasses, you are insuring that you get the most from a guided fishing trip. By developing a mutual understanding of the requirements of a client versus those of the captain, you will ensure that your trip is a safe and productive one.

Steven Paul

Melton Hill Musky Fishing Charter

Melton Hill Musky Guide


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