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I’ve never really thought of myself as a guide. Let me start off by saying that. I can catch fish, sure, but I have never really thought of myself as an elite fisherman. Little did I know, that was not the most important part of being a guide. This summer, I journeyed to learn that very lesson! 

In the fall of 2016 I was asked to help assemble and run a pro-staff team for my local dealer, Ozark Mountain Trading Company, in Ozark Missouri (they also have 3 other locations in Arkansas). I was to gather a few guys to represent the top brands that the shop carried and I would represent the very best, Jackson kayak, which I already represented by being a member of their regional fishing team. On my search for the best local guys in the sport, I was introduced to a –soon to be- great friend, Ryan Walker. Ryan and I hit it off almost immediately after watching how he handled himself on social media and how good of a communicator he was, I pitched the idea to him to represent one of the top manufactures in the business, which he almost immediately accepted. Ryan had started a page on Facebook, called Ozarks Smallmouth Alliance, which pretty much exploded in popularity locally with the slogan/mantra “Free. The. Fighter..!”. This is the part where guiding comes into the story.

Ryan asked for some help to run the OSA page and added me as an admin. I quickly noticed that he received one or two messages a week, or so it seemed, asking if he guided. Ryan was a pro fly fishing guide and had guided for a living in some of the most legendary locations known to the sport for the past 20 years, so naturally, he always would reply and would get a little business out of the deal on occasions. One day Ryan called and asked if I wanted to assist him on a guided trip with two middle aged ladies who had never fished or kayaked before. I responded with a resounding, YES, without even putting much thought into it. 

The trip was a success! After a 30 minute instruction on casting and paddling…..and another 30 minutes of re-tying lures, the two ladies proceeded to catch around 70-80 smallmouth between the two of them. I knew right then that this was something that I needed to do. I enjoyed it. I loved the teaching aspect. I loved sharing a stretch of water with someone who most likely would not have gotten to it without me showing them the way. I was hooked just like the fish that were caught that day. But was there a real market for it? 

Incredibly, we have seen several guided trips rolling in this summer, including a deal that we worked out for multiple guide trips with Whitetails Unlimited. We have also experienced return customers! I even guided a trip of 13 people (not recommended). The demand for a different kind of adventure is there. What this is telling me is that the sport is growing. With the growth of the sport also comes a growing curiosity among people who are observing from outside of the sport. Guided kayak fishing trips are not as far fetched as they would gave been 5 years ago. I can’t wait to see where this business goes, and where it takes me! Its becoming an adventure similar to the Missouri streams that I love so much. Around every corner, there is another beautiful surprise, waiting tackled. Another fight, another catch, another adventure and another lesson learned.