So You Wanna’ Hire a Catfish Guide

by Brad Durick

Sometimes hiring a guide just makes sense. It can save time and money as well as teach you some valuable lessons

A happy customer of Captain Jason Bridges who caught a big blue catfish on Wheeler Lake in Alabama.

In today’s fast-paced society, time is of the essence and when you do get a chance to go fishing you want to make the most of it. Hiring a fishing guide can be a cost-effective and efficient way to make the most of your time and provide a quality experience. Hiring a guide can also be an educational experience as guides tend to be the experts of their waters. They know the spots, patterns, and tactics it takes to put fish in the boat.


Save Time with no Pressure

Time is precious in this day and age. We work and play harder than ever before. We are always connected and when the time comes to go fishing, we want to make the most of it. Hiring a fishing guide can take the guesswork out of a day of fishing.

When you go fishing on your own, especially if you have kids, you have to think of everything and pack accordingly. Then you have to go to wherever it is you are going and find the bait and the other things that nobody else thought of.

The guide will have all of your gear, bait, and know where the fish are so you don’t waste time searching. All the pressure of finding fish and being ready is shifted to the guide. Speaking for myself, I still worry about all of that stuff on a daily basis but the boat packing and preparation is just automatic.

Captain Jason Bridges guided this client to a trophy flathead on Wheeler Lake in Alabama.

Save Money

There are a couple of scenarios here. The first is travel. If you want to fish somewhere far away it can be much cheaper to drive a car or small SUV versus a full-sized pickup pulling a boat. Just the gas savings can cover most of the cost of a guide.

A second scenario that can save you money is if you do not fish very often and don’t want to deal with boat ownership. When you consider the cost of a boat, the insurance, fuel, and the cost of a truck to pull the boat it is much cheaper to hire a guide if you don’t fish often.


Learn New Tactics and Bodies of Water

Local waters have local secrets that can be learned. If you fish with different people in different parts of the country you can always pick up a nugget or two that will help you put more fish in the boat while learning the uniqueness of a new body of water.

When you have never fished a body of water it can be very effective to hire a guide for a day to get the lay of the land. A guide is the expert of that body of water and who better to pick up some tips and tricks of different attributes of that body of water.

Captain Jason Bridges, a guide from Alabama, told me that many tournament anglers who are preparing to compete on Wheeler Lake hire him so they can get the lay of the land and observe his techniques for finding fish on the lake. He also said a huge percentage of his clientele comes to learn certain techniques that he uses with success.

According to Bridges, many people travel to fish the famous Wheeler Lake in order to “take home the knowledge they learn”. He told of a group from Kansas that came to him specifically to learn how he catches blues so they could take it home and implement it on their own waters.

While I don’t often get guests at my guide service who are looking for a specific technique, I do get people who want to see and learn to run their Humminbird electronics more effectively. I have noticed that many just want to see MEGA imaging in action as we look for fish during our trip.

This lady loves to catfish and that smile says it all. When researching guides look at the photos of happy customers. A great guide wants to show off happy customers.

What to Expect

“Fishing guide not fishing god.” You are probably not sure what that means right now but when you hire a fishing guide you have to have realistic expectations. Many fishing guides are the best in their species in their area but they can’t always make the fish jump in the boat. Mother Nature has a way of throwing curveballs and even guides sometimes have challenges.

Before you book a guide do a little research on them. First, look at their web site. See if it is updated and has photos of happy customers. Happy customers show that they take pride in the smiles of their guests. If it has not been updated in a year or two, they may not run many trips or have many customers.

“…fishing without the stress of preparation…”

Another good place, but should not be the only place, is social media. Find their Facebook page and look for photos of happy customers. Some “guides” are more interested in pimping sponsors than actually running trips and it does not take long to sort out who values you or their sponsors more.

Once you know who you want to fish with it is advisable to pick up the telephone and make a call. Tell the guide when you hope to fish with them, ask what to expect with the fishing and tell them your expectations. Guides with great reputations are going to give it to you straight and upon request will provide you with a few references should you so desire to ask around.

Hiring a guide is a great way to go fishing without the stress of preparation and the work that is involved. It is also a great way to learn a body of water or a new technique. Either way, it is a great way to get out and make the most of your time and enjoyment on the water.

Hiring a guide in a new location is likely to produce a big cat. Capt. Brad Durick put this happy client on a trophy channel cat on the Red River.

Captain Brad Durick is a nationally recognized catfish guide on the Red River of the North, seminar speaker, and author of the books Cracking the Channel Catfish Code and Advanced Catfishing Made Easy. For more information go to

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