Aside from “How many people will there be in your party,” the most important question I can ask when a new client calls is, “What do you hope to accomplish by hiring me to take you fishing?”

More often than not the response is, “To give us a better chance of catching fish,” which opens the door to a number of options for me that may or may not enhance the client’s expertise. I will immediately plan to fish for the easier fish to catch at the time whether it be trout, flounder or reds with the most user-friendly technique and lures.

There are no guarantees, but if I am going to spend $500 for a day on the water I personally want the most bang for my buck. If I accomplish nothing else I want to tap into the guide’s experience and learn more about fishing. As a matter of fact, I would prefer to zero while learning more about techniques and the habits of the fish than filling the ice box with small keeper trout caught under a flock of birds that you could see from the launch!

If the majority of my clients simply wanted to catch rather than learn, I would cancel very few trips due to wind or inclement weather. Catching is the key ingredient to longevity in the guiding business, but as a prospective client it would never be my number one reason for fishing with a guide.

There are some techniques and patterns that inexperienced anglers just can’t master quickly enough and regardless of how good the bite is… it is worthless on that particular day. The guide should be the only one in the boat having to deal with frustration and added stress. Hopefully, there is a substantial Plan B that includes catching, but that isn’t always the case.

The bottom line is that while I have no recommendations since I am content to fish all day and spend my evenings at a local ball park, I still have to believe there is something else more entertaining than fishing simply for the sake of fishing. If I haven’t totally turned you off to ever hiring a guide at this point, remember to select you guide wisely and expect answers to questions that will make you a better fisherman in the future.

Perhaps it was because we struggled late last week in the daily winds that eliminated much of the open lake as well as missing a solid bite that was taking place too early for traveling clients, but I could not have been more impressed with Michael Braxton and Michael Vaughan’s performance over the weekend.

The local team has been diligent in quietly doing their homework all year long and they reaped the benefits Sunday evening with a win in the two day Speck”tacular”Gulf Coast Trout Series Championship. They finished the day a close second on Saturday, but sealed the deal with Sunday’s big catch. Their two day total edged out the team of Erik Renteria and John Havens by less than a pound. Their six trout limit bottomed the scales out at a whopping 35.25 pounds!

The wind was an absolute nightmare all weekend, but Vaughan and Braxton stuck to their game plan and weighed in almost identical stringers each day.“The first day we weighed in 17.07 pounds,” said Braxton “and the second day our three fish weighed 18.18 pounds. We weighed in both of our seven pound trout on the second day, but were still afraid that we had made a critical error that morning that would cost us the championship.”

Before Braxton could even turn on the live well Sunday morning Vaughan was in the process of boating a 6 ½ pound trout.“We learned right off the bat that our trout were still there and that helped settle us down,” stated Braxton.“We were culling very early and on top of the world until we discovered later in the day that our third trout was an eighth of an inch too long!”

Panic temporarily set in as the duo realized that even with two fish over seven pounds in the box they no longer had a third trout to weigh in. It didn’t help matters when their next fish was another trout over 25-inchs.“There is no doubt that we released several heavier trout under the 25-inch that morning, but we could not have been more excited when Michael finally put a four pounder in the boat.”

Their win is even more incredible when you realize that it took a catch like that to barely nose out the second place team. The championship win was worth $6500 in cash and prizes.“The catching actually proved to be the easier and less expensive challenge for the winning team.“Aside from the added cost of making the long runs to the weigh-ins each day, we both got speeding tickets Friday rushing to make a Captain’s meeting that turned out to not even be mandatory,” added Braxton.

It must not have been too upsetting, however, as both anglers are already making plans to fish the same circuit next year.“We missed the first two tournaments of the year so we were out of the hunt for team of the year, but we plan on giving it another shot in 2014,” stated Braxton. I wouldn’t bet against them!

Michael Braxton and Michael Vaughan with championship trophies.