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Crappie Guides and How to Shorten the First Time Learning Curve

Hiring a crappie guide can be extremely beneficial and more cost-efficient than you might imagine. We spoke with several veteran guides about how to make the most of a guided fishing trip.

The start of a phone call once had crappie guide Brad Chappell wondering if he had unknowingly caused real problems. The caller said her husband had spent $6,000 on crappie gear and wanted to know why Chappell was “making” him buy all that stuff. Her husband, a fairly recent guide client of Chappell’s had been calling regularly since the trip to ask specifics about Chappell’s gear – one week about electronics, the next about rod holders, the next about baits… But Chappell hadn’t TOLD him to buy anything!

Then, with a smile in her voice that Chappell could hear, the caller said she was really calling to thank him because while her husband really had spent that much money, the two of them were truly enjoying crappie fishing together!

Stories like this – and every veteran guide has some – highlight the reasons many fishing guides do what they do and stick with it through the years. Most love teaching and sharing their passion for the sport and their favorite places. Such stories also point toward an important reason for hiring a crappie guide: the opportunity to learn things that make future trips more fun and productive.

Why a Guide?

Missouri guide Barry Morrow has realized that he guides a lot of former boat owners – anglers who at some point realized they spent a LOT of money on payments, insurance and maintenance for as often as they got out, and that it was it was tough to keep up with the fish and to be productive on the occasional days they got out on their own.  

Guide fees can seem like quite a bit of money until compared to what it can cost to keep a boat and when looked at against the benefit of fishing with someone who is out there daily and able to keep up with what is going on with the fish.

Of course, guides are not only for non-boat-owners. Many anglers hire a guide to learn a technique, learn about a river or lake, learn about crappie behavior or provide an easier or better experience for others they are hosting.

Payton Usrey, a guide on Arkansas’ Beaver Lake, noted that he’s apt to hire a guide for the first day if he is fishing new water and if a good guide is available. Even though Usrey is a guide and highly successful tournament angler, he knows that every lake is different and that a guide can help him understand so much about a lake, how it sets up and how the fish tend to behave. He’s not concerned about learning spots. By fishing with a guide and asking questions, he can learn the things he needs to apply his own knowledge and be much more successful through the rest of the trip and on future outings to that lake or to similar fisheries.

Do Your Research

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Not all guides are created equal, so it’s important to do your research before hiring a guide. Fortunately, learning something about a guide is easier than ever before. By searching out websites, Facebook pages, podcasts and articles and asking questions on chat pages or of friends in an area, you typically can learn a lot about a guide’s experience and approach.

There’s no single sure-fire method. Some of the most experienced guides have no official web presence and thrive on word or mouth and repeat business. However, typically you can learn about a guide’s experience level, the kind of boat they fish from, their equipment and more with online searching, and there’s really no substitute for individual testimony for figuring out whether you’d want to spend a day in a boat with someone!

Freddie Sinclair, a long-time crappie guide in the Raleigh, NC area, noted that it’s also important to consider what you want from a trip and pick a guide accordingly. Some guides specialize in one or two techniques and fish those ways exclusively. Others put more an emphasis on “filling limits” than teaching. Asking questions about a guide’s approach helps you better understand whether the type of trip offered is a good fit for you.


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Two-way communication, beginning early in the planning stages, can make a guide trip far more productive and enjoyable. Ask about the best time to take a trip, based on your hopes and expectations, and what you can do to be prepared. As an example, crappie fishermen tend to assume that the best time to come fishing will always be spring, but long time Grenada Lake guide John Harrison would steer any client who asked toward mid-summer because of the consistency of conditions and the crappie bite.

Likewise, Harrison communicates with clients if conditions are forecast to be bad or if the bite has simply been off, allowing them the opportunity to reschedule if they want to and at least making certain they know what to expect.

You can also help a guide make your trip as good as possible by communicating what you hope to gain from a trip. Some anglers want to learn a specific technique or seasonal patterns. Others want to learn as much as possible about that specific lake. Others want their best chance at a trophy fish, while others simply want a fun fishing experience or want to catch and bring home a limit of fish.

Also, provide an honest assessment of your experience level and that of others who will be on the trip. If you are bringing young, first-time anglers, that might impact the techniques the guide chooses to use, and knowing that ahead of time allows the guide to bring the proper equipment and to devise the best gameplan in terms of spots to try.

Listen & Learn

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Arguably the most important thing you can do to get the most from a guide trip are to listen. Pay attention to explanations about the fish’s behavior and the technique and to direction about presentations subtleties, hooksets, landing fish etc., and then seek to apply those things.

Guides know their waters and techniques and seek to customize trips based on the anglers who are aboard any given day. You’ll normally catch more fish and gain much more in the long haul if you put away preconceived notions and seek to learn their techniques.

Similarly, while some guides don’t object to you bringing gear, if it is suitable to the approach, know that many crappie fishing techniques are best suited for a certain length or action of rod or size of line, and guides typically have an entire set of rods that are set up specifically for how they choose to fish.

Finally, ask plenty of questions to further enhance your learning and carry the most benefit to future days on the water. Why this technique? This length of rod? These locations? How are today’s conditions affecting the approach? What would cause you to fish differently? The list could continue, but you get the point. Take advantage of the opportunity and tap a guide’s expertise!

Practical Tips for Better Trips

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  • Bring adequate clothes – Layer with clothes that are properly warm and dry. It’s often colder on the water than you would expect.
  • Plan Multiple Days – If feasible, plan at least a couple of days to allow for swing in conditions and fish behavior.
  • Plan Ahead – Top guides fill their calendars for prime times well ahead of time.
  • Talk & Have Fun – A good day begins with a decision to enjoy a day in the boat with your guide and anyone else in your party.
  • Listen – Already stated, but worth repeating.
  • Tip – Tips aren’t required but are very much appreciated and certainly appropriate when warranted by a guide’s efforts and interaction.

Crappie Guides

Beaver Lake CrappieBeaver Lake Crappie
  • Brad Chappell
    • Guide Waters Ross Barnett, Lake Washington, Mississippi
    • Crappie Bait Pick Stroll’R
  • John Harrison 662-983-5999
    • Guide Waters Grenada Lake, Mississippi
    • Crappie Bait Pick Baby Shad
  • Dustin McDaniel, GFB Outdoors Guide Service, 417-437-5047
    • Guide Waters Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, Oklahoma and other waters in OK and KS.
    • Crappie Bait Pick Itty Bit Slab Hunt’R
  • Barry Morrow 660-723-2667
  • Freddie Sinclair 919-219-2804
    • Guide Waters Jordan Lake, Lake Shearon Harris, Falls Lake, North Carolina
    • Crappie Bait Pick Hyper Grub
  • Payton Usrey
    • Guide Waters Beaver Lake, Arkansas
    • Crappie Bait Pick Slab Hunt’R