Torwick’s Guiding Service is an Austin-based, all-inclusive fishing guide service founded by entrepreneur Tyler Torwick. As a guide who fishes over 300 days a year, Tyler runs the show by focusing on education. His goal is to make each client a better fisherman (or woman) than they were before they stepped on to the boat.
We sat down with Tyler to hear some of his business tips and tricks within the world of bass fishing, and how diving head first into your passions can reap big rewards.
I’m a fishing guide on Lake Travis, Lake Decker, Lake LBJ, and surrounding lakes in Austin proper. I offer all-inclusive fishing trips with clients ranging from families with children to veteran anglers interested in advanced coaching or tournament fishing.
I used to work in real estate as a mortgage originator, so I originated hard money loans selling properties and had a fairly flexible schedule. I started my guide business part-time as a way to make extra money to pay for tournament entry fees, gas, and other costs of owning a boat, which is rather expensive. I advertised my first trip on Craigslist and picked up clients here and there during weekends or after work. I eventually grew tired of the real estate world, and my business started to grow through word-of-mouth, so I quit and decided to guide full-time.
I created my website and started getting reviews and posting more content on social media. It’s now grown to the point where I, fortunately, have more business than I can handle. I sometimes have to refer clients to other local guides now!
The big thing is that I love to fish, so I figured out a way to make money doing something I love to do. And it’s a lot better than sitting in an office!
I’ve always loved fishing; I’ve been fishing since I was a couple years old. I grew up in San Diego doing bass fishing, among a lot of other things like salt water and trout fishing.
The turning point was in college when I joined the Baylor Bass Fishing team. That's when I really got into bass and started fishing competitively. We traveled all across the country for collegiate tournaments, and I became President of the team. I then started fishing more local tournaments, and now I fish 300 days a year.
Social media was the easiest way to start. It’s free and it makes it easy to put yourself out there for a ton of people to see. It definitely started slow with one client here and there, but it’s kind of snowballed, so I now get a ton of business from it.
My website is by far the biggest thing that’s changed. Before it went live, word-of-mouth, fishing forums, and Facebook fishing groups were my biggest sources of clients. Once I created my website, I started figuring out how to rank higher on Google and get reviews, and eventually, I really dove into learning SEO and what content to post.
I was putting up at least one fishing report a week, if not more, plus videos, articles, and tutorials for a year. I was creating as much content as possible to drive traffic to my website or get people to associate my name with fishing on Lake Travis. That’s really been my niche — specifically targeting Lake Travis — just because it’s a popular destination for people to visit. I’m known for that one, although I also do other lakes.
I think it’s mainly the quantity of content. I definitely have ebbs and flows where I’ll post a ton of stuff one week, and then I’m slow the next, but I generally try to focus on consistently posting lots of cool fish pictures and videos. I spend more time on Instagram than anything else, so I’ve been trying to also create more reels there.
When I get people out on the lake who have never caught anything, haven’t had much success, or have very low expectations of freshwater fishing, and then we catch 20-30 fish, it’s pretty satisfying. I’m able to show them the potential, and I can actually see it click when I teach them. I want them to learn what I’m doing so they can do it on their own. It’s also nice to have clients with children and see them having fun and catching fish at a young age.
Fishing is just simply not as good at certain times of the year because it’s too hot or too cold outside. I still have people who book me as a guide and expect the best fishing trip of their life, but some days, no matter how hard I work or how many spots and bait we change, the fish just simply do not want to feed.
It can be tough to explain that there are things out of my control, and we can try a lot of things, but there are many different factors. I don’t want anyone to leave disappointed.
Spring through summer is definitely my busy season, March in particular. I probably book every single slot in March a month in advance. All the weekend slots in spring also book early, so I get a lot of last minute calls that time of year.
There’s a lot of preparation involved with that. For one, I’m making sure my boat is well-maintained so I don’t have any mechanical issues. If the trolling motor or engine breaks, or the trailer goes down, that’s time that I can’t guide. There’s also tackle prep, where I’m making sure I bought enough lures so I won’t run out and scramble to go to the store or order it online, which is a pain.
Then you have slower times. The middle of summer can still be good in the mornings, but I usually don’t have as many afternoon trips because it’s over 100 degrees and most people don’t want to be out in that. The winter, especially when it’s super cold and rainy, is a slow season, too.
When it’s really good, I guide ten trips a week, but then I might do five or six when it’s slow. So, you make a lot of money at certain times of the year, and other times when it’s slow, you kind of expect it to all even out.
I think most people hop in the boat and expect I’ll burn gas, go through fishing lures, and stuff like that. But I also factor in that about six to eight fishing rods will break every year, and my boat averages around five to six thousand a year in depreciation. Most people don’t realize that I also buy commercial livery insurance that covers them if they ever get hurt.
Of course, boats just love to break, so there’s also a lot of maintenance and mechanical care that goes into it.
I love a good deal. When it comes to things that get used up and have to be replaced, I’m very good at finding deals, price matching, using coupons, and doing everything I can to lower my overhead.
I feel like social media is also a habit of mine. I’m good and bad at it, but I try to constantly post things. I probably get eight or ten trips a month just off Instagram alone. It’s essentially free advertising.
My grandpa loves to sail, so I wouldn’t say that I’ve learned all my fishing stuff from him, but he’s been very supportive of me from a young age. I would hang out at the marina fishing around his boat, and in the summer, he’d take me and my brother to Lake Murray and sit there while we’d fish.
My wife, Rachel, is also extremely supportive of my career. I don’t know anybody else whose wife would encourage them to pursue this type of work. Whenever I text her if I can fish a tournament, she always says, “Yeah, of course! You should!” She’s my biggest supporter.
I had a lady catch a pair of underwear. She was throwing a swimbait, and legit caught a pair of boxers.
One night, I was fishing in a Lake Travis Tuesday night tournament with my buddy, Justin. He ended up catching one fish the entire night, but I caught a 20 pound limit and an 8 pounder. We won the tournament and the big bass pot.
My boat also has an incentive program where if you win first place, you get an extra $5,000. I had called my wife earlier to bring me a hat I forgot that’s required to fish in the tournament, so she was there to watch us weigh in. Long story short, we decided to use the money toward our honeymoon.
I had one fishing trip where I almost canceled on the guy because of the weather. My boat was brand new, and he was the first client I ever had in it, so I wasn’t that accustomed yet. It was the middle of February, and the weather was supposed to be like 25 mph winds, 40 degrees, and raining, so really terrible conditions. I called him to explain that maybe we should cancel, but he said he was from Michigan so he was used to it.
So, we got out there, soaked to the bone, and every point on the lower end of the lake had white capped waves. But we’re throwing swim baits and Alabama rigs, and we probably caught 40 fish. Three were over 5 pounds, and we had some 6 pounders. It was the best fishing I had ever seen out there.
Technology makes a huge difference. I have live scope now that lets me watch the fish in real time and see my bait. I can sit there and watch the fish on the screen eating. On the other hand, if I see that they’re not biting, I can start switching baits and try to figure out something to make them bite. In the past, you’d have confidence that fish are down there, but you didn’t have the ability to really see that maybe they’re chasing it, but they’re not hitting it.
As far as off-shore fishing, which is when you’re way off the bank in the middle of the lake, none of that was realistically possible 30-40 years ago before we started getting graphs that gave you high definition sonar returns and mapping. Now you can find all that underwater structure and fish effectively, getting your cast right there on the spots you need to. You can also cover more water quicker because your graph will eliminate areas where there are no fish. So, that is very helpful and definitely gives me a big edge.
I probably would’ve started a website a lot sooner. It was something I kind of put off because I didn’t know very much about it and didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. I was under the impression that I needed to learn to code and have other knowledge about computers.
But I use Wix, and obviously now-a-days there’s so many companies that make it really easy to just drag-and-drop stuff. I also look at my Google Analytics and can see how much website traffic I get, and it’s pretty obvious proof that it works. I think just having a website for people to find information and discover you is very important.
I’d buy a second boat and hire another guide to work for me. Especially at peak times of the year, I get a lot of business that I either turn down or refer to other guides that pay me a fee for each trip I book for them. I’d love to be the one guiding them, or have an employee guiding it for me.
There’s times too when I go out of town and simply don’t answer my phone, so I’d also be interested in hiring a virtual assistant. That way every time I get a call, it’s getting answered. I think the quicker you can answer someone and get back to them on their questions or your availability, the more likely they are to book with you.
My grandpa always says, “Mind your pennies, and your dollars will take care of themselves.” Basically, pay attention to the little things.
For my guide service, I try to save a couple bucks here and there. When I’m buying baits, I shop around to see if I can buy them cheaper somewhere else, and I buy fishing line in bulk because I use a ton. I also buy a lot of stuff in advance online when it’s on sale.
I may only save $5 here and $10 there, but at the end of the year, I end up saving thousands of dollars on consumables like tackle, oil, and other stuff for the boat. I don’t worry about the big-ticket items as much, but paying attention to the little stuff can save you a lot of money as a business owner.
Legitimize what you’re doing. There are a lot of guides out there who are not licensed, don’t have insurance, or only have your standard boat policy that doesn’t cover anything commercial, so it really doesn’t protect them. If someone gets a hook in the eye, hurt in the boat, or God forbid drowns, you can get sued for everything you’ve got. If you actually intend to make a living out of it, you need to make it legit instead of doing things under the table.
Also, just put yourself out there. You should try to put as much content out there as you can, but try not to be repetitive. Everybody makes a video on “How to Tie __ Knot,” or “Top Three Spring Lures,” and it’s all the same. If you can make original and interesting content, people will actually want to watch and learn.
My big thing is coaching and teaching. A lot of guides are very hush hush, so they won’t tell you what bait they use or they’ll blur out the backgrounds of their photos. But, most people who book with me want to learn from me, so I find that being more open with that stuff is sometimes better.
Whether you’ve never touched a rod before or are a veteran on the lake, you can stay up-to-date on Tyler’s latest catch on Instagram @laketravisfishingguide, or visit torwicksguidingservice.com to book a trip today.
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