When visiting a new province, state, country, or an unfamiliar body of water it is best to head out with a guide, at least for your first trip. Most beginners or non-anglers would believe that any guide service in a particular body of water will get you on some fish, maybe even that trophy you’ve been looking for. But any avid angler that has chartered a guide, especially a one that isn’t great, will tell you to do your research.
Recently, I took a trip to Fort Myers, Florida to visit my parents who have a small condo on a golf course. The bass fishing in the ponds around the course is good, but I had grown a little tired of fishing the same old spots. My brother-in-law, who also happened to be there at the same time, suggested that we go goliath grouper fishing. We had seen the videos online, which were absolutely insane, and decided without doing research on the guide or experiences had by others, to book a trip. He was charging $800USD for a 4-hour trip. I thought the price was a little steep, but he was supposedly the best.
We showed up to the marina about 15 minutes early and proceeded to wait. The guide showed up 20 minutes late, and made some excuses for his tardiness. It wasn’t a big deal to us as long as he gave us back the time on the end of the trip. However, to our disappointment, the story got worse.
He took us to the bridge pilings where the GG’s shelter themselves from the sun. He instructed me to grab a jack – a small but powerful fish – out of the bait well so that he could hook it up. I assumed, as I began to open the lid, that there would be at least a dozen or so in order for us to have enough bait to last the entire trip. Man was I wrong. He had one. Yes, only one baitfish for us to use on these monster fish. I grabbed the jack by the tail, pulled it out of the water and handed it to the guide. He hooked it up, then handed me the rod. He then verbally instructed me on how to lower the fish into the right area, and right away I got a bite. This is when things started to go really sour. Myself being a bass angler felt the bite and tried to set the hook. The GG ripped the jack from the hooks and I was left with no bait. The guide decided that now was the time to tell me that I was supposed to reel down on the fish, which was no help now that we were out of bait. He also had the audacity to ask if I had ever seen his videos on YouTube, hinting that I was supposed to learn everything about GG fishing from some low budget videos of him basically screaming like a banshee.
With no bait left, much to our dismay, we were now paying to do his job, which is preparing for a fishing trip. So he threw out a large bait net and dragged in a bunch of small bait fish, dumped them in the bait well and started up the motor so that we could head over to another area in order to catch more jacks to use as GG bait. Three hours later, we had two jacks in the boat and less than a half hour left in the trip. With the ride back, which he counted as time on the water, we were done for the day.
I have since been informed that this is not a unique experience, which did very little to calm me. I was angry because I had overpaid for jack and snook fishing which basically set up the guide with bait for his next trip, was yelled at for not being able to read his mind, and all the while had to listen to delusional stories of greatness by a guy who had just ripped us off.
I can’t stress enough, that should you use a guide service, do your research before you book anything. There are review websites and social media outlets that are littered with customer experiences. You could even call around the area to the marinas or bait shops, which usually know a number of guides. While they may not throw one of their own under the bus, they can steer you in the right direction.
Fishing you the best of luck!