A Guide to Guides by Bill Wezel

A Guide to Guides

by Bill Wetzel

There are many different type of guides, but I believe all of us should share some similar qualities to give our customers what they are paying for. But why the heck would you book a guide, especially a surf fishing guide? That is a question I often get asked, and hear tossed around in fishing circles as well. On a personal level I have taken out some very proficient surf casters, some were writers, fellow guides, and very salty sharpies. Some names I am sure most of you would know. The reason they booked me? Well, it varied. Some casters wanted to up their game by tweaking a few things. It may have been learning a bait migration that they did not know about, fishing a type of water that they had little experience with, a tweak in their cast as simple as finger placement, learning new retrieves, the list is long. For others it may have been that they were coming from out of state and wanted to learn as much as they could about the area that they were only going to spend five days or so out of the year fishing. Maybe they have never surf fished before, and just wanted to get that experience from a professional guide? The list is endless.

If you are going to book a guide the first thing I think you should ask yourself is “what do I want to accomplish?” After you figured that out, then I would recommend doing some research on the guide or guides you plan on booking. Most will have a web site, but I would advise going beyond the website, by finding others who have booked the guide. The main thing that you want to know is if others had a good experience. Some guides like myself do very different trips based on ability. Therefore if you get into a conversation with someone about specifics of their trip it will help you if that person is if your ability level, so that you can make a better assessment if the guide is right for you. Here are some questions and things you should consider when booking.

  • Be honest with your guide. A good guide will ask you as many questions as you ask the guide. Be honest of your abilities. If you are not, you could find yourself on a slippery rock, one hundred yards or so away from shore, at 2am, with six to seven foot waves coming at you, when all you really wanted to do is some gentle sand beach or Back Bay fishing.
  • In your research find out if the guide lives in the area he is guiding. If the guide lives in Kansas, and wants to guide you in Cape Cod, you are better off staying away. A guide should have the area he is taking you tweaked to the point he knows more about the area than just about anyone. He should be able to tell you specifics about winds, tides, currents, bait migrations, and very intimate details about the area he is taking you. Of course you will not get to know those details until you are out there with him, but you can get a general feel for him in conversation.
  • Price. Most guides in the area you plan on booking should be in the same ball park. I would recommend not letting a difference of 50 bucks or so sway you in the other direction. Book the guide you think is going to best suit your needs.
  •  Equipment. Most of the guides I know in both fishing and non- fishing fields can supply some great equipment. Ask what they have and what you will need. If the guide has better equipment than yours and he recommends that you use it, then by all mean use it. In many cases it is true, better equipment will enable you to catch more fish. Believe me I have been there on this one!
  • Perhaps there is not any better advice I could give you then to tell you to listen to your guide. You are booking a guide in part due to the specialized knowledge of the guide. If he tells you to take off the SP minnow and slap a yellow darter on because there is a presence of larger baits, I would recommend doing it and listening to the details.
  • Some other questions that you may want to ask or get asked.  Are you in good physical shape? How often do you partake in the activity you are booking? What type of equipment do you have? How old are you? Do you have any physical problems?  Always be honest and give as much info as you can about your needs.
  • Taking a buddy or two? Depending on the kind of trip you are booking it may be wise for you to book with a buddy of equal skills to yourself. As a surf fishing guide I will tell casters that if your buddy is a beginner and you are an advanced caster then more than likely the trip will be limited to the caster with the lesser abilities. Further the guy with less experience usually will get more attention, simply because he needs it.

If you are considering booking a guide that takes you on a high mountain top, or sight fishing on a South American flat, or even your local surf fishing guide, I hope this helps you in your decision. See ya on the beach!


Bill Wetzel is what we like to call “The Hardest Working Guide in the Surf”. A quintessential Montauk Regular Bill works hard at teaching his clients the secrets of Montauk coves and consistently puts them on the fish. No wonder most of his customers come back for more year after year. Bill also runs a Surf Rats ball, Subscribers only forum at http://www.surfratsball.com/ There he exchanges ideas with his subscribers and of course, logs each and every one of his trips for all to read. Check it out at http://www.surfratsball.com/


4 comments on “A Guide to Guides by Bill Wezel

  1. BigjJim

    Another great job explaining things that a lot of us may not figure out until it was to late and a trip turned out crappy Thanks Bill

  2. Tom

    Can anyone tell me why my browser is stuck on Feb 7th. When I bring up the blog on Firefox it shows upto date posts. Any help? Please


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