Tales of a guide

I got my first guide job when I was 14 years old.
All winter I had begged Roger Clinton, then owner of Ash Rapids Lodge, to give me a job as a guide. I started working as soon as the ice went out, but it wasn’t as a guide. Instead, I got to rake leaves, cut the grass, or do one of the countless jobs Roger could find for me.
It wasn’t until mid-June, when one of his regular guides didn’t show up, that I got to get in the boat.
I was kind of nerdy when I was 14—skinny, glasses—but I absolutely loved to fish and I wanted to take somebody and prove it to them.
When I walked down to the dock that day, Roger came down with me and told the guests that I would be their guide that day. It was a couple of guys from Kentucky and they were not overly impressed that a 110-pound kid was going to be driving their boat.
I’m sure Roger made some kind of deal with them behind my back that if they didn’t catch any fish, they wouldn’t have to pay for the guide.
But we ended up having a pretty good day of bass fishing on Shoal Lake and my guiding career was started.
Over the years, I’ve worked for probably a dozen different camps and resorts—something that worked out really good for me. Because of my participation in tournaments and the busy seasons of certain camps, I could float around to a variety of places.
It was good for me because I was able to spend time on a variety of waters from Lake of the Woods to Rainy Lake to numerous fly-in waters—something I think has made me a better angler.
So why would someone want to go fishing with a guide? Most of the clients I take are tourists who are unfamiliar with the waters. By hiring a guide, people can hop in the boat and just go fishing.
The guide will drive the boat, put the people on fish, and share tips and tricks to catch fish. Beyond that, a good guide has a good personality and is a pleasure for people to share the boat with for a day.
Think it’s an easy job? I have to be honest, most days it’s probably the best job in the world. However, there are days when another occupation would seem more enjoyable.
Weather, like the consistent rain, wind, and cold we’ve had this summer, can take the fun out of it. Not only does it make for uncomfortable conditions, more than anything, bad weather makes for bad fishing.
And it never fails, at some point throughout the season you will get the grumpiest, know-it-all angler in your boat.
I used to always get these kind of guys on the worst weather days and all they would want to throw is a topwater lure for bass—even though there is pretty much zero chance that a bass is going to hit a surface bait in three-foot rollers.
These days, I don’t guide as often as I used to. Tournaments, writing jobs, and side jobs with sponsors keep me busy. Most of the folks I take are repeat customers that I really enjoy getting in the boat with; that I have made a relationship with over the years.
Guiding is a job I would recommend for anyone who enjoys meeting new people and spending time outdoors, no matter what the conditions are.
Our area is unique because we have some of the best fishing guides in the world: some who specialize in big musky and pike, some who are walleye and bass specialists, and some who are just great talkers.
I’ve met hundreds of fishing guides over the years and some have poor angling skills, but they can leave guests with the best memories ever because they can tell great stories all day and take good care of them.

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