We all dream of becoming something cool when we grow up. I was no different. When I was a young lad I knew one day I’d be working in the fishing industry. Even before I could afford to buy my own boat I spent years fishing the shore lines of the Red River for channel cats and green back walleye. When I had some money I would rent boats out in the Whiteshell looking for northern pike and walleye.
I would hang out at different tackle stores and learn as much as I could about fishing in all aspects. I even joined a fishing club called the Walleye Wizards and learned from the fishing pros of that time.
You could say I was well on my way to putting in the time to get where I am at this point in my life and let me tell you it wasn’t an easy path to get to where I am today. So here it is all the positives and negatives to becoming and lasting as a professional fishing guide based on my experiences in the ever-growing fishing industry here in Manitoba.
First things first
To start you need to figure out which body or bodies of water you wish to guide on that you can successfully put fish in the boat. You need your own fishing spots and lots of them. Respect other guides and fish your own spots and stay off theirs. This is important if you want to be respected by other guides. Plus you don’t want them to get back at you by fishing your spots.
Now you need to come up with a cool name for your guide service then register the name. Next you need to apply for a guide license. If your excepted the fun begins. First off—and this is very important—don’t quit your day or night job. It can take up to three years or longer for you to build up a reputable name and start making money. You also need a website. They can be cheap or very expensive, plus you need to update it to stay current. Try to make your website cell phone friendly as more and more people use their cell phones to book trips. You need a good tackle store to take care of you. For example I use Cabela’s Winnipeg as my go to place for supplies and bait. If your boat breaks down you need a place to take it and get it fixed fast as you stand to lose money every day you’re off the water.
Social media like Facebook can be a great place to promote and make contacts with clients and potential sponsorship for the future. This is a very interesting fact to remember: treat people on Facebook or whatever kind of social media you use with respect. When making posts don’t tell people how they should fish unless they ask. Be a positive influencer and stay away from the drama. Sponsors don’t like their pro-staff getting in to it on social media or anywhere else for that matter.
When it comes to sponsors good things come to those who wait. Don’t be in a hurry or you could crash and burn. If you’re good, sponsors will come to you. As a rule you should make ten dollars for your sponsor for every dollar they invests in you. Don’t sign with a sponsor unless you plan to use their products exclusively. What I mean by that is use only one brand of rods and reels if you’re being sponsored by that brand. Don’t be a frog if you can help it. A frog is someone who jumps from one sponsor to another. Before long you will develop a bad name and no good sponsor will touch you.
When the phone calls and emails start to come make sure you respond back in a timely fashion or the client will move on to the next guide on the list. You will always get tire kickers. A tire kicker is a client that calls every one trying to get the lowest price. I myself don’t like tire kickers because they don’t tip and there’s more about the price than the quality of the trip.
Don’t sell your trips cheap. Other guides will get upset because you’re undercutting them. Try to keep your prices the same as other guides doing the same thing. You’ve got to like people and have good social skills to be a guide. You must also be a good teacher for them to be successful. A good guide is selling their next trip half way through the day with the customer.
Safety is very important. Make sure you have good quality PFDs in the boat like Mustang, and kids should always be wearing their PFDs. Don’t ever let customers drink in the boat. This can be dangerous and bad for your reputation. You could also lose your guide license as well if caught. Donations can be a great way to promote your guide service. There are two things that people with money like to do and that’s golf or fish. So outdoors banquets are the best place to get the right promotional exposure. I’m not going to lie to you I still have challenges to this day as more and more guides are starting up and my piece of the pie is getting smaller. But this is what I do and I love it more the anything in the world. Good luck to all you new guides out there. I wish you all the best. I hope this article can help you on your way to becoming a successful fishing guide.
Please visit www.citycats.ca or join me on Facebook under Cabela’s Canadian pro-staff—Todd Longley.