Guides can be well worth the money in making good fishing


Mar 11, 2001
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May 24, 2002

Charlie Farmer, Springfield News-Leader

Guides can be well worth the money in making good fishing trip

Most of us anglers have our familiar home waters that we know like the back of our hand.

Lakes like Table Rock, Bull Shoals, Stockton, Pomme de Terre and Truman. We know the honey holes and are confident we can find fish — most of the time.

On the other hand, visitors from other states may have heard of the good fishing in Missouri but have never casted a lure into any of the lakes above. If the visitors have friends or relatives who fish in the area, it’s a good bet they will get into good fishing. But without connections, finding where the fish are can be a slow and disappointing process.

That’s why those who travel to new fishing destinations generally pay for the service of a fishing guide. Guide services are listed in newspapers, magazines, tourism brochures, tackle shops and marinas.

Finding a reputable guide is not a sure bet. There are excellent guides, good guides, mediocre guides and some that put out little effort.

The going rates for lake guides in Missouri run in the $200-$300 range, plus the cost of boat gas. There are half-day and full-day options. A guide who finds plenty of fish for two anglers during the day may find an extra tip or an invitation to a steak dinner afterward.

The majority of guides are bent on giving their clients the best fishing possible. They have a reputation to uphold that ensures their clients will fish with them again and spread the word to their friends.

There are freshwater fishing guides throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. Some of the finest guides I have fished with live in Canada. Granted, the remote fishing lakes and rivers there do not have the fishing pressure we have in the states.

Still, there is a tradition in the north country that makes fishing a genuine adventure. The scenery, wildlife and isolation have a lot to do with the trip. Whether it’s camping in a tent or cozy log cabin with wood burning stove, the Canadian guides are part of the mystique. Indian guides especially have a knack when it comes to a magnificent spot for a shore lunch of walleye fillets, potatoes and beans.

The Indian guides are paid by their outfitter boss. But most anglers tip the Indians guides themselves for their remarkable instincts in finding fish.

On May 14 and 15, I was invited to Beaver Lake with Jim Shirato, Chris Shirato, Jim’s son, and Mitch Westbrook. For several weeks, the four of us were hoping we could get down to Beaver Lake for striper fishing. The cold, wet weather, however, put a damper on the fishing trip. Finally, we found two days that had the makings of being both dry and warm.

The only stripers I had caught came from a lake in New Mexico about 15 years ago. The fish were small 4- and 5-pound stripers. They fought hard and I released them so they could grow bigger.

Shirato told me that there was a good chance of catching large stripers in Beaver Lake. He had contacted a guide out of Garfield, Ark. We drove into Garfield late on the 14th and bought Arkansas fishing permits. After that we met Rich, the head guide, his wife Tommie, and Conrad, another guide. After dinner in town we headed to our motel and a good night’s sleep.

We meet Rich and Conrad at 5:30 the next morning at the Beaver Lake boat ramp, Jim Shirato and me in Rich’s well laid-out Lund boat, Westbrook and Chris in Conrad’s spacious striper boat. Both boats carried up to 14 stout striper rods and reels each.

The morning was cool. It got a lot cooler when Rich passed the no-wake zone and gunned the 225-horsepower engine into misty lake air. We held on to our hats. The boat was equipped with a large, recirculating bait tub for gizzard shad that Rich seined himself, two depth finders and a cell phone for Rich to keep in touch with the other boat.

In the end, we caught a 15-pound striper. My friend Jim put several hefty white bass in the livewell. Even Rich, the skipper, caught some whites. The other boat had no luck. It started to rain, even though there was supposed to be clear skies that day. We cut the day short. All I could think of after that was the high pitched tone of Rich’s cell phone. It’s the first time I have heard one in a boat.

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