"You have to have the best fishermen in the entire world."
I hear this often from clients as well as other guides. What prompts such statements is the way most of my people show up at the dock. Most have their rod and all wading gear in hand, already suited up and ready to get in the water. This sends the message that they have paid attention to my e-mail request and are well prepared and excited about the day ahead.
Ignore my request and show up unprepared and you can find yourself heading back home. Sure it will cost me $600 to lose the day's charter and maybe a future client but, I want to weed out the anglers that don't respect me or my way of thinking. I actually had a group show up totally unprepared after numerous emails and calls, and then they told me some guy at the restaurant said they didn't need all that gear and drifting was better than wading anyway. C'mon man!
All of this leads me to tell you how fortunate I have been to acquire such a high level of angling clientele. It is a tribute to the fishermen that have supported me and my lure chunking quest all these years with the attitude that they wanted me to teach them everything I knew and for me to do well in the process! My regular clients know they're a part of the Watkins fishing family and how much they are appreciated. This is so totally off the charts in today's self-entitlement world…and don't get me started on folks that want everything NOW!
I refrain from using words or phrases that would make you believe I am something more than I am when it comes to reasons behind my good fortune. To say I am blessed is an understatement. I acknowledge that The Man Upstairs has provided the physical stamina to survive coastal elements for thirty-four plus seasons. He has also provided the absolute best clients of any guide in the business today. Of course I am a bit bias when it comes to my diehard wading, lure chunking, go anytime and anywhere clients. With this said let me relate to you what I think have been a few simple keys to the success of the relationships I have built with this small but loyal group.
First, there are those in the fishing world that totally do not like nor agree with my simplistic approach to fishing nor the confident attitude with which I approach each day. In my younger years I was quick to dispel all other approaches but my own, thinking honestly that it was "my way or the highway." Luckily for me I have matured and now realize that there are at least a few other methods that work as effectively as the way I believe it should be done. For those that visited my boat and hated the little guy with the big mouth I apologize for the attitude and appreciate not being jerked out of my wading shoes and thrown overboard.
My beliefs, visualizations and the confidence I so freely display are part of my game. It's not the way one walks back to the huddle but the way one breaks out that sends the message and sets the tone for the next play. I want my clients to be competitive in every way and this starts with me. Competing makes you better, it's not the winning or losing, it's the competition that drives us to become better. Winning or losing is the result of hard work or a lack of it! I honestly believe that confidence and visualizing success, is truly the key to success in everything we do. Show me someone that imitates instead of initiates and I'll show you someone second in the thinking part of the game. I have been so lucky over my career to cultivate a clientele of competitive anglers that believe in me and my approach. It is such a huge advantage to the start of each day having clients on board that truly believe in you.
We obviously kid about my fellow guides and often laugh about all of our little habits. I can hear and visualize McBride as I sit here and write this article. It brings a good smile to my face and a longing to return to Port Mansfield. To be able to disagree but still respect is a difficult trait to fine tune; I'm still working on it. The best client to me is the guy or gal that wants me to teach them my way of fishing. They want the knowledge that I have acquired over the past 40 years along the middle and lower Texas Coast and I love giving it to them. They buy the brand of boats and motors I use many times, purchase the rods I suggest, equip them with a reel of my liking, fill the reel with my favorite brand of braid, gear up from head to toe in the clothing and protective wear I recommend and then purchase the lures I say work best for the areas we are to be fishing in. These clients continue to be the driving force behind me each and every day. They are also a dream come true for the local economy.
I believe my records would reflect that less than 15% of the angling community is truly driven to reach the level of the 10% that catch the 90% of the fish. Wanting to become a member of this elite group and actually doing whatever is necessary to achieve the goal are two totally different mindsets. Without dedication to learn the skills, angling success is very low.
Now I realize that this attitude and dedication are not required to love fishing. My grandfather loved to fish as much as any man and did not care what percentage bracket he was in. Armed with a cane pole, line and quill cork he would head out into the lake. The catalpa worm was our favorite bait and I liked picking them off the trees around the garden. Watching him lift the long pole over his head as the quill cork disappeared into the depths of Lake O' The Pines is still a favorite memory. No way he cared about when, why, where, or how. He also did not care how many fish he caught or what Ol' Man Finley caught, as long as it was enough for supper. The numbers did not equate to how successful the day was for him nor me as I could not give you a single number of fish that we ever caught in all my years of fishing with him. My point is if you want to learn and become the best you can be, that's great. If not, enjoy the challenge and serenity that fishing provides.
I have always wanted to know more. The late Tom Nix labeled me the teaching guide and it stuck. I also go back to something my dad suggested to me a few days prior to his death. We both needed to say some unsaid things. He needed me to know he loved me and wanted me to do well. He knew I felt like a disappointment to him as a college student and athlete. I needed him to believe that I could be the best at something. This attitude has driven me to continue to want to be the best that I can be.
Let me close with two thoughts. Do I have the best job in the world? You bet I do and I have my clients to thank for that. They are one of the reasons I continue to want to be on the water as much as I do. Finally - I have to include this as it is classic - A show of confidence is not cockiness. There's a difference.
I had a guy tell me at a fishing tournament years ago that I had better bring my A-Game in the morning. Before I could answer, Jay Ray looked over his shoulder and said it's the only game he has! You gotta love it when your son, without hesitation, echoes your precise thoughts.
May your fishing always be catching. -Guide Jay Watkins