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I’ve been guiding full time for almost 14 years and I’ve pretty much seen it all — or so I thought. For some crazy reason, big investment guys have decided to take a shot at the charter industry and start 3rd party referral services booking websites. As most BIG guys in any industry, they carry a little more money and advertising dollars than the actual “small guy” running HIS actual charter business. While the websites and boats might seem all glamorous and great on their sites, the old saying, “don’t believe what you see and read on the internet” holds true.

My point to this blog is to educate the customer on what to ask and what to look for when choosing the right charter for your trip. The ultimate goal is to have a great time and know that you will catch fish. And, more importantly, get back to the dock safely. With that being said, I’m  going to give you a few tips that will help you choose the right Tampa fishing Guide for your next Tampa Bay fishing charter.

One of the first and most important things you should do when booking your next fishing charter is… actually call the Captain and talk with him. People come in all shapes and sizes and some get along better than others. Some are more outgoing and some are quiet. My point is, talk with them over the phone. This will ensure you are both on the same page and both will know what is expected of each other. (This is very hard to do when booking with a 3rd party as the person on the phone rarely knows anything about the trip or fishing for that matter)

Call the Captain and talk with him.

People come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities. Some people get along some people better than others. Some captains are more outgoing and some are quieter.  My point is, talk with the prospective captain over the phone. This will ensure you that you are both on the same page and you both will know what is expected of each other. This level of assurance is very hard to get when booking with a 3rd party as the person on the phone rarely knows anything about the trip, or the fishing guide, for that matter.

Ask plenty of questions.

There are no dumb questions! Here are a few good ones that seem cut and dry and you should consider asking them. In my 14 years running a charter business, I’ve seen a bunch come and go and also have seen corners cut that just should not be.

Are you licensed and insured?
While insurance is not required in the state of Florida to run for hire it’s a smart move to hire someone that is taking the business serious and it will also offer you peace of mind that they are legit.

What type of boat do you have?
Again what you see for a picture online might be far from what you see when you show up to the dock. Not everyone needs to run a new boat but having something respectable will make you feel better about the trip. Size is another big deal. Boat sizes range from 18 to 26 feet and some have shade some don’t. Depending on how many people are going you might opt for the bigger boat for comfort and a piece of mind if you get in some rough conditions. I personally run a Pathfinder 26 Bay boat which typically handles anything the  Tampa Bay can dish out. (This is something else you might not be able to find from a 3rd party booking agency as they have whoever on staff that is available.) Might I add some of these guys book you with the guide paying them back the highest referral fees not the best captain for the job.

Do you have any reviews online that I can check out?
Reviews are a great starting point. However, make sure you read them thoroughly. Some can be little off and be misleading. Take your time when using online research tools and read through all the reviews. Again before booking CALL THEM. You will get a good for how solid a fit the captain will be for you by simply talking to them and asking questions. They might not be a bad guide but maybe not the guy for you. (Not to sound like a broken record, but the receptionist at the booking agency won’t tell you much about what your captain for the fishing charter is like.)

Understand the captain’s availability.

If you call during the morning or mid-day, a good captain is probably on the water. Leave a Message. This means that if you call a guide that you really think would be a good fit and he doesn’t answer the phone, leave him a message. Most great captains are booked most of the time and reception on the water is sketchy at best. He might be also devoting his attention to clients during the charter when you call. Texting is another great option if you need to get something booked fast or just get an answer.

Find a good captain but he’s booked? Book with his buddy!

What I mean by this is, sometimes we are just booked up and there is nothing we can do but find you another captain. Most of the time we have a buddy that fishes full time for a living and we can get you booked with them. I personally won’t recommend anyone that I wouldn’t trust or anyone who doesn’t have the correct credentials. Since I’m recommending him, I typically will make sure that the trip goes smoothly from start to finish. You would also have a conversation with the guy I’m sending you to, with prior to the trip, to ensure you feel comfortable. This is an industry standard if you run a charter business — not a referral site. After all, we make money based on our repeat clients and reputation, not referral fees from our website.

I hope this blog educates you and helps you book with a good charter captain — whether it’s my company or someone else in Tampa Bay. At the end of the day, you want to have a great Tampa fishing charter and come back year after year. If you have any interest in my charter service please feel free to contact me on my cell 813-727-9890 or I would be glad to answer any questions you might have and hopefully get you booked for a great day of fishing!

Contact Me! Book a Charter!