I’ve been lucky. I’ve had the opportunity to fish with Bass guides in many states. From Wisconsin, my home State to Texas, I think I’ve fished with guides in eight different States. Choosing a guide is often like rolling dice. Sometimes you get a great guide, other times your guide is not so great. Tough to find good recommendations on choosing a guide other than testimonials on the guides web site. Anyway, my comments here are not about how to go about selecting a guide, that’s a topic that has a life of its own.
My comments here are about the surprise that I had the first time I fished with wild shiners in central Florida. When I’ve fished with guides in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, live bait was included in the guide’s rate. Now it needs to be said that most of the guided fishing trips I’ve been on in the south or southwest have been using artificial baits. I’m good with that as I am primarily an artificial bait guy when fishing my local lakes.
So it came time to book a trip to central Florida specifically to fish Toho, a lake famous for some monster largemouth. The Orlando/Kissimmee area is a great destination for bass fishermen. Lots of great lakes, affordable lodging and car rentals, and it seemed that every restaurant you could want is only a ten minute drive away. After many hours of internet research, my fishing buddy and I selected a Toho guide and booked three full days of guided fishing.
The day finally arrives, and we meet our guide at the ramp on Toho. Nice enough guy. We will be fishing out of an older, slightly beat up, Ranger bass boat. We join our guide in the boat and he motors over to the marina to pick up live bait. He recommends that we start with 8 dozen wild shiners. Sounds fine to us, you need to follow the guides recommendations. We join the guide in the marina, and he tells us that we pay directly to the marina for the cost of bait. The guide heads back to the boat with the shiners, and we stand in line to pay. It gets to be our turn, the guy behind the counter says “8 dozen wild shiners will be $120.00”.
We had no clue but pulled out our wallets and paid the man $120. Back in the boat, the guide explains that the wild shiners have really jumped in price and assured us that while domestic (tank raised) shiners are less than half the price of wild shiners, the added expense is worth spending the money. He also said, “if the fish were aggressive, 8 dozen would not last the day.” Well, he was right, after 4-1/2 hours of some absolutely incredible bass fishing, we were back at the marina for another 4 dozen shiners. In three days of fishing, we went through 40 dozen shiners. $600 in live bait. Was it worth it? You bet! Lots of big bass and what is still my personal best, a 9.8 lb female that had just spawned out. We spent more on wild shiners than we did for airfare, lodging or the rental car! I’ve been back to central Florida seven times since that first trip. I now budget for wild shiners!
(Ultimate Bass – WisconsinRod)