Author: Matt Foster
It’s a dream of most fishermen to be able to crappie fish nearly every day of the year. If you are anything like myself, you probably often wonder just how amazing it would be to fish all the time and get paid to do it. This article may also give you some insight as to how hard these guides work for their clients day in and day out, just to make sure they have a great experience.
I reached out to several friends of mine in the crappie guiding community. My first telephone call was to Jason Sandage, with Sandage Guide Service. Sandage and his father, Sam Sandage have a combined fifty-four years of experience as crappie guides. Jason offers guide trips on Enid, Sardis, and Grenada Lakes in Mississippi, along with Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee. I asked Sandage to describe the best part about his job, and without hesitation, he replied, “The best part is the smiles on satisfied customers.” Sandage said it also helps that he truly has a passion for crappie fishing and loves his job. However, Sandage informed me that the good parts of the job come with the bad too. Sandage explained the worst part of being a guide is the changing conditions, water levels, and cold fronts. He stated that fish will often move overnight and finding them is a must. To stay on the fish, he will hit the lake scouting in preparation for the following day. Sandage said during 2019, he guided 275 days and fished 325 days. The one piece of advice Sandage said he would give someone interested in becoming a crappie guide is, “Do your homework. You owe it to your customers. As a guide, you have to always be on fish, know what they are biting on, and do your best to provide limits for customers on a daily basis.”
I contacted Carlos Willis, with Grenada Lake Charters, for his take on the guide life. Willis has been a crappie guide for five years. Guiding clients on Arkabutla, Sardis, Enid, Grenada, and Washington Lakes in Mississippi for the past five years, he has seen a big crappie or two. When asked what the best part about being a crappie guide was, Willis said, “Being on the water every day with different people, teaching and coaching them throughout the day and watching them succeed.” Willis, like most guides I spoke with, said the hardest part about being a crappie guide is the ever-changing weather and lake conditions. As anyone who has fished Grenada knows, a strong wind can turn the water into unfishable conditions. However, through the years, Willis has been able to adapt to those changing conditions. Willis said, “It’s all part of being a guide, the good guides learn to adapt to the changes in weather and try to put the puzzle together, day, after day, after day. That’s what I love about it. The puzzle is never-ending.”
I also had the opportunity to speak with Fred Mooney, with Full Moon Fishing Service. Mooney has been a crappie guide for six years on Rend, Lake of Egypt, and Kincaid lakes in Illinois. I asked Mooney to explain the best part about being a crappie guide. Mooney said, ” First and foremost you absolutely must have a true passion, love, and respect for the outdoor world and the willingness to share that knowledge and all those great fishing spots you’ve acquired.” Mooney also mentioned that, “years and years of good and bad days go into the making of a quality guide whether it’s woods or water there is just no substitute for experience.” Mooney said, “From sharing all those great spots day after day, the ability to improvise and find new areas that are productive is a must. The client is here today so you don’t have all week to find that next great spot to catch a limit.” Another obstacle that Mooney, like all guides, deals with is the constant change in weather. Mooney stated that, “being able to read the weather can literally be the difference in a paycheck or not because ultimately the elements will decide your budget.” Mooney said, “At the end of the day, I’m on the water doing what I love the most and that’s the reward. Seeing those smiles, hearing tons of stories, making lifetime friends, fellowship and fishing alongside when possible make it all worth every minute of trouble it takes. However, at the end of the day, being a guide is a job and like any other profession it’s not always fun, but loving your job sure makes it easier when the alarm clock rings.”
I contacted Patrick Stone, with Grenada Lake Crappie Guides. Stone has been a crappie guide for sixteen years on Grenada Lake. Stone also offers guide trips on Enid, Sardis, Washington, Ross Barnett, and Arkabutla. Like most of the guides interviewed, Stone stated the absolute best part about guiding is being able to fish every day and see the happiness catching fish brings people of all ages. Stone guides 200-250 days a year and fishes another 50-60 days when he is not guiding or scouting. I asked Stone to describe the most challenging aspect of being a guide, and he replied, “When customers insist on going in crumby weather even after you told them you probably won’t catch much.” As a guide, you are expected to produce fish for the customers even when the weather is less than perfect. Stone said the best advice he could give to someone thinking about becoming a crappie guide is, “Don’t do it if you cannot literally fish every day.” He also advised not to get into being a crappie guide to get rich. “It takes a lot of money to roll every day in a boat that is suitable to guide from.” Stone added that anyone interested in becoming a guide should be prepared for the endless hours of searching for the best spots when you aren’t guiding clients on afternoons and days off.
I had the opportunity to speak to Billy Blakley. Blakley, with Blue Bank Resort, has over 37 years of fishing experience on Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee, in his War Eagle boat. Blakley guides on average 240 days a year for Blue Bank Resort. When I asked him the best part about being a crappie guide, Blakley said, “I like guiding for crappie because I simply like watching people catch fish and share my passion for the sport.” Blakley explained the hardest part about his job is the weather. Like all great crappie guides, Blakley likes to put his clients on fish. Putting people on fish can be difficult when the wind is gusting 40 miles per hour. Blakley said the most important attribute any guide can have is patience. “When people hire a guide, they expect to catch their limit of fish. Sometimes the fish do not cooperate, sometimes it’s the weather, and sometimes it’s just fishing.” He added that, “It will drive you crazy at times, but all you can do is sit back, take a breath, and say, ‘Hey, I’m getting paid to do this,’” I asked whether he would still be a crappie guide if he could start life over. Billy responded, “Yes, sir. I love every minute of it!”
While researching and conducting interviews for this article, I gained some insight into the daily life of a crappie guide, and I hope you did too. It’s more than getting paid to fish every day. The work is hard, but the end reward of having satisfied customers is worth it. They put in countless hours so you, as their client, will have a great time. I want to express my gratitude to the guides who took time out of their day to answer all of my questions. If you are looking for a crappie guide, don’t hesitate to contact them!
Sandage Guide Service
Number: (573) 624-0250
Grenada Lake Charters
Number: (662) 227-9210
Full Moon Fishing Service
Number: (618) 731-1601
Grenada Lake Crappie Guides
Number: (662) 458-9758
Blue Bank Resort
Number: (731) 538-2112