|This client is a happy camper after landing this fine Sarasota Bay redfish.|
So, you want to be a fishing guide?
You went to bed, dreamed of being a guide, then woke up the next morning and decided you are one.
The kayak fishing guide profession is a rather new phenomena since kayak fishing itself is rather new. Seems as if everyone and his/her brother/sister is a kayak fishing guide these days.
I've been guiding since 2005 and full-time since 2009. During that time, I've seen a whole bunch of wide-eyed neophytes become guides and I've seen a bunch become disenchanted and quit.
There are many reasons to become a guide.
I became a guide via a suggestion from my wife, Kathy.
"You're all the time take people fishing and they always seem to catch fish," she told me one day a few years back. "You ought to become a guide."
At first, I resisted. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I made the decision and jumped into the endeavor head-first. I haven't regretted that decision for a second. I run Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing (www.kayakfishingsarasota) in Sarasota, Fla.
Here are a few things you'll need in order to hang your shingle:
Kayaks: You'll need as many as the amount of anglers you'll anticipate taking fishing. I prefer to limit the number of anglers I take to two. So, I have three kayaks. I have two Jackson Cudas and a Jackson Kilroy.
Rigging: You'll need to rig each kayak. I rig mine with anchor trolleys, anchors and rod holders.
Paddles: Of course, you'll need one for each kayak. I use Aqua-Bound Paddles. I find it wise not to skimp when it comes to paddles (for you or your clients).
Safety equipment: Personal floatation devices and whistles (or air horns) are required. And you'll need lights if you plan to fish in the dark.
Tackle: I like to carry two rods and reels per anglers. So, if I'm taking two out, I'll need four rigged rods and reels. And since there are a variety of fishing scenarios, I have rods ranging from light to medium heavy. In all, I have 16 spinning rods and reels.
Lures: You'll want to carry an assortment, ranging from topwater plugs to jigs. I do not fish with live bait, so I have plenty of artificials from which to choose. I am sponsored by MirrOlure and D.O.A. Lures. Your clients will go out and buy the lures that you use after they've caught fish on them.
Fly tackle: If you plan to take fly anglers, you'll need tackle for them. I usually carry rod rigged with a sinktip line and another with a floating line. I am sponsored by and use TFO Fly Rods.
Freshwater gear: There's a demand for freshwater trips in Florida. I specialize in fly fishing for bass, panfish and exotics. I have six fly rods and reels suitable for this venture.
Other gear: I also carry rain gear for my clients. In addition, I take a first-aid kit on every trip, along with duct tape, screwdriver, pliers, toilet paper, sunscreen, etc. You never know what emergency might arise. And don't forget a cooler. You'll need to carry cold drinks on every trip.
Camera: I always tote along a camera to get photos of my clients fighting fish and/or posing with catches. I try to email photos of clients the afternoon after a trip.
Liability insurance: You're a fool if you take anglers fishing for money and don't have insurance. You may never need it, but you'll be glad you have it if the situation arises.
Website: An essential. It's imperative to have an attractive and up-to-date website. And you'll need to work the Internet almost daily when you're not on the water in order to get your services and your website exposure.
Knowledge: You can't buy this. You have to earn it the good, old-fashioned way: hard work. If you don't have a charter, you need to be on the water. Nothing's worse for a guide than to book a trip for the next day, but you haven't been out in a week or longer. Some call it fraud.
Personality: Your clients sometimes will endure a slow day. It might not be your fault, but you can insure that they have a good time by keeping things lively. Make sure you have a good knowledge of your local fish, flora and fauna.
Clean equipment: You'll need to clean all of your equipment after every trip. It usually takes me at least an hour to prepare for a trip and another hour to clean my equipment afterwards. Clients expect clean and well-maintained equipment.
Business sense: Run your charter service as a business. Remember to tuck money away for lean times and whenever the need might arise. You'll find that rods break, reels get dunked and lures are lost. And there are slow times of the year when the phone doesn't ring.
Exposure: Your phone probably won't start ringing just because you decide to be a guide. You'll need to get the word out. Join local kayak fishing forums and be a regular contributor. Speak at kayak clubs in your area and around your region and state. Many fear public speaking, but it gets easier as time goes by.
As you can tell, becoming a kayak fishing guide can be a costly endeavor. You can offset the cost somewhat by obtaining sponsorships. Many kayak manufacturers have guide and or pro staffs and offer discounted products to them. Ditto for those companies who make rods, reels, lines and lures. To obtain sponsorships, you can start by sending a query email and attaching your bio.
It's important that you don't abuse the sponsorship. Offer to assist at shows, demo days, etc. And talk your products up to your clients during every trip. Over the years, I've had more than 30 clients go out and buy the brand of kayaks I use.
I also do not seek sponsorships for sponsorships' sake. I only want to be associated with products that I use and believe in. What could be more worthless that to get a sponsorships for products that you don't or rarely use? Might look good on your sponsor list, but it's not right or fair.
One last tip: The way to make a small fortune in the guide business is to start out with a large fortune.