A good guide can find fish and help his clients catch fish most of the time.

There are no guarantees in fishing even if you hire a guide.

Although novices perceive guides as omnipotent fish-catchers, more experienced anglers know that even the best of these professional fishermen are only human and have no control over certain variables that can turn your dream trip at Lake of the Ozarks into an expensive day on the water. However a good guide can find fish and help his clients catch fish most of the time.

Through my years of outdoor writing, I’ve fished with plenty of guides—some very good and some mediocre. I even dabbled in guiding for five years at the Lake of the Ozarks until my writing endeavors drastically cut into my time on the water. Spending time on both sides of the guide-client relationship has given me some insight on how clients can find a good guide and what questions they should ask while setting up their guided fishing trip.

Searching for the right guide requires some homework. The Internet is full of web sites listing Lake of the Ozarks guides. You can also find a list of fishing guide services on the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau website, www.funlake.com

A guided trip can be expensive in some areas, so you need to do some homework to make sure you get your money’s worth. The following tips provide some guidelines on picking the right guide and setting up your trip.

1. Get References

Talk to somebody who has used a few guides. Make sure the guide is commercially insured and Coast Guard licensed and then ask him for references.

2. Equipment and Services

When calling guides or looking at their web sites, try to find out what type of equipment they own (boat and gear). Find out exactly what you are paying for, such as is the gas and oil included. You want to know everything up front so there are no hidden costs afterwards.

Other questions you should ask the guide include:

*How long will they be fishing?

*What do they do for lunch?

*Who supplies rain gear and tackle?

3. Cancellation Policy

You need to find out what a guide’s policy is on bad weather or emergencies.

4. Compare Rates

The Internet is one of the best sources for comparing guides’ rates.

5. Call in Advance

The best guides usually stay busy during the peak times at the lake (usually spring and fall), so make sure you book a trip well in advance.

You should at least call a guide 24 hours in advance to give him plenty of time to get his boat and equipment ready.

6. Hire a Local

Certain guides fish certain areas of this massive lake, so you should hire a guide who has the most experience in the part of the lake you intend to fish. Let the guide know where you plan on staying so he can make arrangements for taking you to the best fishing spots there.

7. Specify What You Want

You should let the guide know what you want out of a trip. A good guide will ask his clients if they just want to go catch fish or pre-fish for a tournament. Then the guide tries to customize the trip to fit his clients.

8. Multiple Client Trips

A bass boat can handle only three to four passengers, so don’t expect to hire a guide and take a bunch of friends and relatives unless you plan on paying more for another guide or tag boat (clients following the guide in their own boat). Two persons and the guide is an ideal situation.

9. Guide or Fish

I’ve never experienced this, but I’ve heard some anglers at other lakes complain that they felt their guides were using their trip as pre-fishing for a tournament or that the guide fished too much. Fortunately I have not heard such complaints about the guides at Lake of the Ozarks. The best guide will only fish if he needs to find another technique to trigger bites when his clients are struggling to catch fish.

11. Keeping Fish

Lake of the Ozarks bass guides practice catch-and-release these days, so if you want to take some fish home you should set up a guide trip for other species. Many of the guides offer catfish or crappie trips for their clients who want to keep their catch.

A guided fishing trip at Lake of the Ozarks can be a rewarding experience. To guarantee that you get your money’s worth, shop around and ask plenty of question before picking someone to guide you at the lake.