Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Day In The Life Of A Fishing Guide

What it's like to go fishing for a living

I often get comments reminding me how easy I have it. And how my job must be the easiest and most enjoyable job in the world. Well, It just may be the best job in the world; that is if you love fishing, have tons of patience and love meeting people from all walks of life and helping them learn to catch fish: as I certainly do. But the simple truth is, it's far from being as easy as many people seem to think; and not always as fun. I also often get the question, "whats it like to guide fishing trips for a living?" Well I'm going to walk you through a typical day here.

I'm up at 4 am after working until 11:30 pm the night before to get all my tackle back in order from the previous day of fishing with 2 drunken stock brokers who wanted to go catch a bunch of bass; even though one of them had only been fishing once in his life 25 years ago. And the other never tried fishing but was sure that he would catch the new lake record and likely go straight to the bass masters classic after this trip, and win. Oh, and getting the beer cans full of pee out of the cooler and the chicken bones out of the livewell in my boat.

First thing I do is turn on the weather channel to see what the weather for the day is going to be. Chance of severe thunderstorms with a tornado watch in effect. Hmmm should I call off the trip for today? I mean my clients booked this trip 5 months ago and they're here on vacation and have to leave tomorrow. So I check the noa weather radar online. looks like most of the storms are moving to the south of here so I'm fishing.

6:am, Since I'm meeting my clients at the boat ramp, I swing by the tackle shop to gas up, pick up some jigs, get a cup of coffee and a chicken biscuit. As I'm pulling into the parking lot I hear a thumping noise coming from the boat trailer. So I ease on up to the gas pumps get out to check it and see that I have a flat tire on my trailer. Since it looks like a piece of shredded up black rag, the tire must have been flat for several miles. Luckily I have a spare. It lacks any sign of tread and looks more like a peeled onion than a tire but with some luck it'll get me to the water and back home. So I quickly get some gas pull to the side and change the tire. By this time I'm running late; so I skip the breakfast and head for the lake.

6:45 am, I'm back on the road. As I'm driving I think about what my game plan is for the day. My client is a first time customer who's bringing his 2 twin sons of 9 yrs old fishing. He told me that his sons had never actually been fishing but they have a bass fishing video game, think its cool and want to try the real thing. I have some good fish located from the day before but they're pretty finicky and I don't think these kids will be able to finesse a jig well enough catch them. So I'll just give it a try and play it by ear.

7:05 am, I pull into the boat ramp parking lot. One of those storms that were moving south of us is now over the lake and rain is pouring and thunder is rumbling. My clients are already there huddled in the car to stay dry while waiting for me. They see me pull in; the dad rings my cell and we agree that the storm should pass shortly and we'll just wait it out.

7: 45 am, The rain has stopped; so I go over to the car to meet my clients. As they get out of the car, I notice that there's a lady with them. The dad shakes my hand and informs me that the mom decided to come along if that's okay? 4 people plus me is a little crowded in my boat; but I agree, and back the boat down and unload. After managing to get the huge family cooler, the moms suit case / purse and what seems like the entire family wardrobe positioned and stowed in the boat and a 20 minute argument between the family over who is going to were which life jacket and who needs sunscreen and who is refusing, We are off for a 4 mile run up the lake to my first fishing spot.

8:15 am, We pull up on my spot. The storm is over and the sky has cleared. But the front is now starting to come in and there's a 15 mph wind out of the south. I have two 9 year olds in the boat who have never been fishing in there life, a mom and dad who are counting on me to help them catch these finicky bass that are tough for even an experienced fishermen. But I've been in this situation before. I know these fish are holding out on top of a point on fairly clean bottom. So I get out a couple rods with carolina rigs and 3/4 oz weights already tied on. I put a plastic craw on each, cast them out, stick them in the rod holders and begin slow trolling with my trolling motor. in no time twin A's rod begins to bounce, he grabs it and yells "should I reel"? I help him out and he lands a fat 2lb spotted bass. Twin B is pissed and starts to pout.

9:00 am Mom has to pee. The closest bathroom is at the park 4 miles down the lake. so we're off for the bathroom.

9:30 we're back on the fishing hole again and begin trolling. Twin A gets another good fish on twin B is now red faced, extremely pissed and insists on swapping sides and rods with twin A. After some words from Dad twin A agrees and proceeds to catch another fish on twin B's old side and rod. Twin B is irate and refuses to fish anymore. I neutralize the situation by telling twin B that he gets to catch the next one no matter which side it bites on.

10:45 we're still trolling and the fish have stopped biting. Twin B is starting to get more upset by the minute and Mom has to pee again. So we're off 4 miles back to the bathroom. While waiting for Mom at the bathrooms I remember a great spot just around the corner from the bathrooms that should be holding some fish. So Mom returns to the boat and I head for that spot.

11:30 am we begin trolling on the new fishing hole. Twin B finely catches a one! and it's a fat 4 .5 pounder. Bigger than any of twin A's fish. So now Dad wants to catch one. at this point Mom is grossed out by the fish smell and ready to leave but agrees to stay a while longer. This area is protected from the wind so we decide to try casting and let Dad fish. I work with the twins helping them learn to cast at the front of the boat while Dad fishes from the back. Dad lands a small fish and twin b manages to land another 1 pounder.

1:30 pm Mom is ready to leave and the twins are tired so we call it a day early and head in. Back at the ramp the twins are happy and excited about there new experience. Dad settles up with me and they head to the lodge.

2:15 pm I'm happy to get off the water early because I have to go by the tire store before going home as I'm driving I calculate my profit for the day. Lets see I'm up $250.00 for the trip - $60.00 for a new tire - $40.00 for gas - $5.00 boat launch fee. I should clear around $130.00 for the day. Oh but my liability insurance premium is due. Crap there goes my profit for today.

Oh well, on the other side of the coin, tomorrow will be better and today I helped give a couple kids an experience that they'll never forget and they'll likely be hooked on fishing for the rest of their life. Yaaa this is the best job in the world! without a doubt.

4:30 pm, I get home walk in the door and the Wife informs me that since she has a job and is tired, and all I do is fish all day, I will be cooking dinner. I smile, agree and head for the kitchen.

Until Next Time

Monday, January 17, 2011

Jig Fishing For Bass

An overview of bass fishing with jigs

I've been putting off posting on jig fishing for a while now. Mostly because when I get started talking or writing about one of my favorite baits, I tend to ramble on and on and usually end up with a long post that some may find a bit boring. But today I'm a bit bored myself so whata heck I may as well bore anyone else that has nothing better to do than read my ramblings on bass jigs.

Jigs or the jig and pig as it is commonly known as, has been one of the most popular baits available among pro's and
tournament fisherman for as long as tournaments have been in existence. Among the reasons they're so popular is the fact that they are so versatile and are well known as a great lure specifically for big bass. The average size of the bass caught on a jig is usually much bigger than those caught on most other lures.

Jigs come in so many different styles and forms that I will not even attempt to explain each one and how to fish it in one post. There are jigs that imitate craw fish some that imitate shad, minnows, grubs and just about any other form of life that walks, crawls or swims. Today I'm going to focus on just 2 types of jig which are most commonly used for bass.

The typical basic bass jig

The most popular and widely used is the silicone skirt jig with a fiber weed guard. This type of jig is designed to mimic a craw fish. A trailer is almost always added to the hook to give the bait legs and added action. And the weed guard makes this lure one of if not the best lure available for getting to bass in thick cover.

The selection of trailers that are available is almost endless. Commonly used trailers are soft plastic craws or pork chunks. The soft plastic trailers are the most preferred by bass fishermen these days. But many of the old farts including me, still prefer pork trailers. By the way if you havn't figured it out yet, the pork chunk trailer is where the name jig & pig comes from.

How to fish with a bass jig

This lure with its weed guard is designed to be used in thick cover such as wood, grass, mats and lily pads. But it is so versatile that with the exception of casting it into bushes and trees which are on the bank and no where near the water, there is really no wrong way to fish a jig. However there are common techniques that work best most of the time.

Flipping and Pitching

Flipping is a technique that usually works best in stained or dirty water; as it requires the fisherman to move the boat up very close to the cover where the bass are holding without spooking them. The technique usually involves using a long seven foot rod and heavy line to pull the bass out of the cover. Flipping is a really effective technique of catching bass out of thick matted cover and the technique doesn't just work with jigs it is a also very effective using other weedless baits such as plastic worms, creepy crawlers, spider jigs or any other soft plastic critter.

Check out this video made by Tim Horton, on flipping and pitching jigs

Swimming a jig

Swimming a jig is pretty much what it sounds like. This is a good technique to use when bass are suspended in, or holding on the outside of cover. To swim the jig you want to cast the bait and reel it through or past the cover. Basically fish it just as you would a spinnerbait. I like to swim the bait along the outside edges cover and give it short twitches with the rod tips. This gives a little more erratic action and will often trigger more strikes.

Deep water jig fishing

This lure is not just for fishing shallow cover. In fact, the jig is one of my personal favorite lures for catching bass off of steep rock banks, bluffs and deep water structure. Again here, I normally fish the jig with the same basic presentation as a plastic worm. That being said there are 2 presentations that usually work best for me when fishing the jig in deep water. The first is called hopping the jig. With this method I simply cast the jig out onto the structure, let it sink to the bottom. Then I use the rod tip to pop the jig up about 8" off the bottom; and then let it sink back to the bottom on a tight line. As with most other lures fished in this manner the strike will usually come as the lure is falling.
The second presentation I use is simply dragging the jig along the bottom very slowly keeping contact with the bottom. Just let the bait sink to the bottom. Then lift the rod tip very slowly from 9: o clock position to the 11: o clock postiton. Then reel up the slack line and repeat. This presentation is deadly on those inactive, lethargic fish; especially in cold water.

Hopefully this has given you a good overview of jig fishing for bass. As I mentioned I love to ramble on about my favorite bass baits and the bass jig is certainly one of them. I did say that I would be talking about 2 types of jigs today but this thing has already gotten long so I'm going to leave off here and discuss Hair jigs and give some jig fishing tips another day soon.
Meanwhile if you have not tried jig fishing, I recommend you get a few and get started. You just may catch your biggest bass yet.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Try Bass Fishing Tournaments

Bass tournaments can teach you a lot about bass fishing.

Along with learning about fish finders Out of all my fishing experiences through the years, I would have to say that bass tournaments have taught me more lessons about catching bass than any other.

I doubt if there are more than a handful of bass fishermen in the entire world who have not dreamed of being a pro tournament fisherman. Even though very few who dream the dream ever realize it; most all do try their hand at tournament fishing at some level during their time.

One of the most often asked questions I get from those who are new to the sport of bass fishing is "how long do you think it will take to learn enough to be able to fish in tournaments?" My answer is, as long as it takes you to pay the entry fee and get on the water. You do not have to be a good or even an experienced bass angler to get in a bass tournament. In fact I encourage all beginners to get involved in tournaments as soon as possible.

Now, before you start thinking that my motives are sinister and I want you to lose all your money fishing tournaments that you have no chance of winning, let me explain. I'm not telling anyone to go throw down big bucks to fish against pro's or much more experienced fishermen. I'm simply saying that bass fishing competitions with other anglers whether it be more experienced, less experienced or at the same level as you, is an extremely valuable tool for learning bass fishing even if you yourself do not catch a single fish.

How you will learn from
bass tournaments

When you fish at the same time and on the same water with a group of other fishermen who are all willing to share their information with each other, its equivalent to getting a month of experience in 1 day.

Whether it's for money, trophy or just bragging rights, each time a tournament is launched, there are a number of different fishermen using different lures and techniques on different parts of the lake or river and the results of this scenario is a world of fishing information if shared by all. You will learn what worked and what didn't work even if you don't catch a fish.

The best bass tournaments for learning are those that involve little or no money. When dollars are at stake in competition it motivates fishermen to keep the information they gain secret or even worse they lie. As a beginner you should look for small pot tournaments or even start your own. It doesn't take very many fishermen or even any money to have a bass fishing tournament that can be extremely beneficial to all who participate in terms of a learning experience.

How to start your own bass tournament

If you have a few friends who like bass fishing then you have a potential bass tournament. You don't even have to have boats; you can have a bank fishing tournament. Make up your rules, set a date and place, call up your friends and tell them about your tournament. You can buy a small trophy or plaque for $20 show it to everyone and tell them this is the prize for the winner. I guarantee that at least some of them will show up if a trophy is at stake; people love trophies.

If you don't want to buy a trophy you can have a pot tournament. In the pot tournament format everyone puts a set amount of money into the pot. it can be per person or per boat; and the winner gets the pot. the entry fee can be whatever amount you decide on. However I recommend that you keep the entry fees low. The more money that's involved the less willing the fishermen will be to share information. On the other hand, the smaller the pot the less fishermen you will draw to your tournament. But those who are only interested in the money are not likely to honestly share fishing information with competitors so you don't need them anyway.

Whatever tournament format you decide on, since your motive for putting on a tournament is to learn; one of your rules should be that the winner has to tell everyone how he caught his fish. You should make it known to all the competitors that the tournament is about learning to catch bass. and everyone will be expected to share fishing information honestly.

Bass club tournaments

Joining a bass club is another great way to learn to catch more bass. There are hundreds of bass clubs located in most every state here in the US. If you live in this country, odds are good that there's a local bass fishing club near you. While being in a club can be a little more expensive and require more of your time; joining a club is certainly a great way to learn and have a lot of fun fishing. You should understand before joining a club however, most clubs are extremely competitive and not every member will be willing to share information with others.

There are clubs who use a tournament format of fishing against other clubs. In this format the club works together in tournaments as a team to catch more fish than the other club. This format is designed for learning bass fishing and is in my opinion the very best and most beneficial to all who participate. In this format all the members of the club are much more motivated and willing to share fishing information with other members of their club.

No matter what format is used, what the stakes are, whether you just use bass fishing as a relaxation method or you plan to make it a career, a bass fishing tournament is a ton of fun and one of the very best ways to learn and gain experience as a bass fisherman. So no matter what your experience level is, I encourage you to get involved in tournaments at some level.