Ron’s Fishing Tips and Stories: Texas Fishing Guides, A Short History
On this blog I try not to talk too much about our Mexico bass fishing or the Brazil peacock bass fishing. However, this week let me start by giving you the results of our first week’s fishing in Brazil with 2 days left to go. Looks like it is going to be a great season. After 4 days the group had caught 609 peacocks with 97 over 10 lbs, 40 over 15 lbs, and 11 over 20 lbs with the largest weighing 24.5 lbs. Mexico bass fishing starts this coming week.
Now let’s talk a little about bass fishing guides present and past and how things have changed over the past 40 years. When I started guiding part time back in the 1960s on a new Cedar Creek Lake in Texas the fee for a full day of fishing was $35 for 2 clients. The largest outboard used by guides was 40hp and gasoline was around 50 cents a gallon. Man how things have changed!!!!!!!
When I moved to Hemphill, Texas on Toledo Bend Lake the rate was $50 a day and there were over 200 guides working the lake. The bass limit per person was 15 bass a day and the Virgil Ward TV show had made the beetle spin the top bait in 1971.
Toledo Bend was a new lake and when I got there the trees were still green and the fishing was fantastic. In fact it was no trouble to have a 3-man limit of 45 bass by lunch and then go back that afternoon for another limit. That was 90 bass a day almost every day and we all thought it would last forever. The fish and game biologist must have thought the same thing as it took quite a while for the limit to drop all the way to 5 fish a day.
I was a very young guy and thought I knew everything about bass fishing. Truth is you will never live long enough to learn everything about black bass; each trip is yet another learning experience. I joined a great group of experienced guides at Six Mile Marina. Dr. Hayden was the principal owner and Joe Cloud was the manager when I started. A group of veteran guides had moved from Falcon Lake to guide out of Six Mile and they were the best of the best in pleasing their clients. They were James Lavourn, Oddie Denton, and Luther White.
I learned a ton from these guides about fishing, but mostly how to get along with people and give clients a full day of fishing. For example James had a lot of select clients who he had trained to fish his way to catch larger bass. James loved to “Doodle Sock” a spoon, Jig, or slab, straight up and down on the side of a creek channel and his favorite creek was Hurricane, especially in the winter months. James loved to fish so much that I would watch him talk his clients into taking a lunch and not coming back to the marina for lunch.
Luther White was a spoonbill rebel guide who always got his clients a limit of bass. They would not be as big as the doodle sock fish of James but there was always lots of action and lots of fun. Oddie was a numbers guide which is the way I went also. Looking for a limit anyway you can… In the warm months we could go on the Louisiana side of the lake and look for diving birds. These birds indicated schooling bass and easy limits of bass. This worked great if your clients were total novices who couldn’t stay out of the trees when they cast.
Normally we could look at the client’s tackle to determine what kind of fishermen we had for that day. If they had closed face spinning reels on buggy whip rods they were very good candidates for open water schooling bass. If we were lucky enough to get bait casters with good equipment we were in for a great day of fishing. My favorite way of fishing with experienced guys was to go to the pine sapling thickets that held schools of quality-size bass. Most of the schoolies ran from 1 lb to 2 pounds where the thicket bass would be much larger and up to maybe 4 lbs. We normally would tie up within casting distance of the school in an area I had cleared with a saw and made a casting lane. Normally we would start with a topwater, which my clients loved best. A devil’s horse coach-dog by Smithwick or a Heddon chugger were my favorites. When the bass stopped biting on top we would switch to plastic worms with the fliptail being the favorite in those days.
I normally would not take over 10 bass out of each spot but I had several of these secret spots. If you hammered these fish too hard they would move on you just like deer or quail or any wildlife if the pressure is too great. Also, I cautioned my clients to be very quite and not make a lot of noise as you could spook these fish very easily. I carried an ice chest for the fish and when we caught a bass I would hit it in the head with a small hammer to kill it instantly so it would not flop around making noise and spook the school. We all had to be very careful of the clients we took to these secret places. If it was a one day trip that usually meant the clients had brought their own boat so we couldn’t take them to the thicket fish as they would wear out the bass for the last 2 days of the weekend and we couldn’t get on the hole with our next day’s clients.
We also tried to take the clients on a round about way of getting to these fish and try and get the clients confused about where they were on the lake. It was pretty easy to do when all the timber was still standing.Those first years were simply great, fantastic, wonderful, and all the adjectives you can think of in the English language. The water was always clear and the bass were the blackest of the black. Upon returning to the dock we would hang up our day’s catch on the marina rack and take pictures. After the pictures the real work began, which was filleting the bass with non electric filet knives. Yep, in the beginning we used manual-driven knives and I was so glad to get my first electric knife. I thought I was in heaven.
Since Toledo was a Corps of Engineers lake, all guides had to take a course and pass a test to be a professional fishing guide. I went to Port Arthur, Texas to take my courses and the test. Seems like I made 2 or 3 trips to finish the course.
Some of the guides working the lake back in those days were fantastic fishermen and many went on to be stars on the BASS tournament trail. I remember when Larry Nixon left Arkansas and moved to the Bend to guide and went on to be famous in tournaments. Tommy Martin also started as a guide on the Bend — I believe working out of Housing Bay.
Our boats were all front end stick steering which gave you a real thrill maneuvering through the timber and boat lanes. I was the guy that introduced the first BIG BOAT and Big motors to the bend. I managed to get a Mercury Dealership at Yellow Pine, Texas and I opened a marine dealership along with Hugh Walker. I bought the first 80hp Mercury and Lee Craft boats and sold them as guide boats. They were almost 2 times as large as the super Skeeters or the Ray Crafts of that day.
The business was going great and I was having the time of my life and then one day I jumped up and left the Bend and a perfect life. Why would I do something like that? I had a chance to go into the fishing business full time IN MEXICO. NOW YOU KNOW THE REST OF THE STORY!!!!!!!
Good luck with your fishing and wear that lifejacket.