Survey Results: Who is the Greatest Surfcaster of All Time?


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)

24 on “Survey Results: Who is the Greatest Surfcaster of All Time?

  1. Jim Odowd

    Tony Stetzko could read the surf like no one else. He could put you on fish within 100 ft of a seemingly featureless beach

  2. John Skinner

    Very entertaining. I could name so many better than me.

  3. Kib Bramhall

    Jerry Sylvester. (Author of Salt Water Fishing Is Easy, 1956)

  4. Lefty

    No mention of Frank Daignault? He was epic. A prolific “beach man” for decades.

  5. David potoczny

    Shut up and fish I don’t know who the best surf casters but just shut up and fish

  6. David potoczny

    I don’t know who the best surf caster is just shut up and fish.

  7. John Downer

    Seriously, guys…there is no finer surfcaster anywhere on the South Shore than Bernie “Bass.!” While some of the others listed will write books about the way it was, but share nothing with you when you see them on the beach, Bernie writes no books, but will treat everyone he meets like they are his fishing buddy, teaching all he knows to anyone who wants to learn…regardless of whether he is on a Guide with them, or, not…THAT makes him the GREATEST SURFCASTER OF ALL TIME!

  8. Rick Barron

    You can’t fight city hall. It’s for the good of us all and the fish and our descendants and future.

  9. Robert

    The best surf fishermen plied the beaches of Cape Cod from Chatham to Provincetown in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s and NEVER wrote about themselves and their methods. Many were market fisherman. Some became legendary but only because others recognized their skills. NOT because they boasted about their skills.

  10. Richard Mullen

    The greatest surf fisherman, is that guy down the beach away from the crowd, showing his kid how to release his fish, and letting him know why!

  11. Demitri Panagopoulos

    Maybe not the greatest “surfcaster” but as for the best overall striped bass fisherman IMHO, is Billy the Greek Legakis. Hope he’s still alive because fishing with him is on my bucket list ?

  12. Daniel Kincaid

    S. Cameron Wright,
    The Southern Surfcaster has to be a favorite ~

  13. Frank Zima

    Frank Daignault, Al Benson, Jason Colby. Each could verify the other…

  14. Lorne Peterson

    I believe Gene (Popeye) Reynolds is the greatest all time surfcaster! He has caught more fish and has done more for surfcasters then anyone out there.

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