Photo: Definitely not that guy.
On Sunday, I polled our Instagram followers: Who is the greatest surfcaster of all time?
It’s a bad question. It’s too broad, there are too many different variables, and there are too many possible answers. And I learned, yet again, that when you ask silly questions, you get silly answers.
Bob the Garbage Man, a surfcaster so clandestine that no one had heard of him before last fall, recieved the most individual votes. Long Island surfcaster, author, and YouTuber John Skinner was a close second. Behind him in third were the people voting for themselves.
The answers to my poorly posed question made me wonder, what would even make a surfcaster “great”?
Greatness is subjective. To some, being a great surfcaster might be the one who catches the biggest fish (although Al McReynolds, the man who caught the largest ever striped bass from the surf, didn’t receive a single vote).
Tony Stetzko made the top 5, though, and he’s best known for catching a 73-pound striper in the early 1980s. But Tony consistently caught big stripers. Tony had multiple 50-plus-pounders, and was a surfcasting guide for years, and also put clients onto large fish.
Consistency, I would think is a big part of greatness, in any pursuit. But consistently catching big fish could be determined more by the location where you do most of your fishing than skill or knowledge.
Being able to understand what is happening below the water, and why it’s happening is a big dividing line between the good surfcasters and the great. And the ability to then share that information in a way that other fishermen can understand puts that fisherman on another level. That’s why I’m not surprised John Skinner had so many votes. His YouTube Channel is very educational, as he breaks down the technique and the locations, explaining what the fish are doing and why they are there. “Crazy” Alberto Knie, who ranked in the top 5, also does this at his seminars. I’ve fished with Alberto a number of times, and can attest to his ability to read the conditions and anticipate what the fish will be doing. It seems uncanny, but it speaks to keen observation and countless hours of experience in the surf.
When surveying the masses, notoriety also factors into who is deemed “great.” On Instagram, it wasn’t a surprise that there would be a couple votes cast for fishermen with large followings, like Elliot Sudal. There were several popular YouTubers who received a vote or two apiece, but innovative surfcasters from days of yore, like Al Bentsen, received nary a vote.
In truth, there isn’t a single Greatest Surfcaster of All Time. There’s dozens, maybe hundreds, each best in their own niche. One of the best I’ve met was Doctor Tom Adams in Ocean City, New Jersey. On a stretch of shoreline not known for big stripers, Doc caught them. He had many stories about big fish, but he had many more about the mischief he got into while pursuing them. I remembered Doc when I read the answer that I thought best answered my bad question: “The greatest surfcaster of all time is the one who’s having the most fun.”
Other Answers Included:
Jeff the Janitor
“Your Mom” (2 votes)
Lunch Break Eddy Stahowiak (2 votes)