Cherokee teen making splash as fishing guide
Recent Grove High School graduate Haydn Williams removes a crappie from his hook on Aug. 15 on Grand Lake near Grove. The teenager started his own fishing guide service in May. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Haydn Williams, 18, fishes for crappie on Aug. 15 near a dock on Grand Lake. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Haydn Williams shows off a pair of crappie he caught on Aug. 15 on Grand Lake. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
GROVE – Upon graduating from high school in May, Haydn Williams’ first order of business was to start a business on the familiar waters of the Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.
The 18-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen, who grew up in nearby Grove, runs Williams Guide Service, specializing in crappie, white bass and catfish.
“This is what I want to do,” he said. “I just wanted to guide since I grew up on the lake. It just kind of all fell into place.”
Just months into his venture, Williams has seen steady work operating primarily out of Shangri-La Resort west of Grove.
“I’ve been busier than I thought I was going to be,” he said, noting that one guided trip in particular netted his seven clients 130 white bass. “My normal day is a five-hour trip. I’ve had some weeks where it’s been two a day every day.”
A thirst for fishing is in Williams’ blood. His father, Jeff Williams, was also a full-time guide on Grand Lake by the time he was 18.
“He guided for a long time, like 25 years,” Haydn said. “He stopped guiding about the time I was 7 years old. Now he has a tackle company, sells fishing products and stuff.”
Jeff, a catfish expert and brand-building entrepreneur, is associated with companies such as Team Catfish and Fle-Fly.
“All the stuff I’m fishing with today, like this rod and reel, the line, the hooks, all this is his that he made,” Haydn said. “He sells his stuff nationwide.”
Lake life for the Williams family dates back decades, the teenager said.
“My great-grandpa, they bought a lake house right over here whenever my grandpa was like 7 years old,” he said. “My grandpa grew up here, my dad and his brother grew up here and now my brother (Owen) and I are growing up here.”
While Grand is one of the country’s top bass fishing lakes, Haydn said he would rather guide than become a professional tournament angler.
“One of the main reasons I wanted to guide was I kind of like going after different fish sometimes, not just the same fish all the time,” he said. “With those tournaments, it’s just bass, bass, bass.”
His guided fishing trips begin as early as 6 a.m.
“I like to get done about noon,” he said. “If you don’t have an evening trip, you’ve got the rest of the day to just go find more fish or just do whatever you want. There are a lot of days where I clean fish, drop my clients off and go back out to find fish and have fun.”
He said his customers typically fall into one of two categories.
“You’ve got people who live around the lake that are serious about fishing,” he said. “They just want to go out with somebody else and see how they do it. Then you’ve got people that come in for kind of a vacation. I take a lot of moms and dads with their kids. Sometimes (the parents) won’t even fish at all. They just want to see their kids catch fish.”
In addition to traditional rod and reel angling, Haydn partakes in bowfishing – a method that employs specialized archery equipment to nab and retrieve fish.
Rates for his guided trips are $325 for the first two people. Children 12 and under are free, he said.
“But if they’re over 12, each person after two would be $100,” he added.
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