Best of the Best

UPDATE 7/1: We are still compiling out Top 50 Charter Captains list - check back early next week for the results!

The interest generated by our list of the Top 50 Sport-Fishing Boats of All Time has spawned further discussions among SWS staff and friends about similar lists. What would your list of the best casting lures look like? How about the best spinning reels, conventional reels, fly tackle or whatever? Once you head down the slippery slope of labeling things as "best," the sky's the limit.

Still, it’s a lot of fun discussing such matters with knowledgeable people, and folks from different parts of the world have distinctly different thoughts about all matters fishing related. That’s one of the things that makes fishing such a great sport: the tremendous regional variation inherent in the game. Tennis and golf are played essentially the same way no matter where you play, but fishing in different parts of the world can entail drastically different techniques, even when you’re targeting the same species.

These lively, ongoing debates not only involve gear, they inevitably come around to people as well. Who’s the best flats guide? Who’s the best light-tackle angler, the best offshore captain, the best fly fisherman? Rating the skills of people gets dicey, but it’s still fun, since we are all competitive beings and comparisons with one another come naturally, if not always comfortably.

With all this in mind, we decided to put together a list of the best ­charter captains in the saltwater-fishing ­business. How’s that for a wide-open category? Rather than narrow it down into subcategories, we felt it would be more interesting to open the gates wide and see what emerges, and we want your help assembling this list.

Here’s what we need: We want you, our readers, to nominate these captains from your own experience. Those of us associated with SWS know a lot of professional skippers, but we couldn’t possibly know as many as you do collectively, and we’re sure there are many aces out there who we’ve not yet met.

We want to meet them now, so here's how it will work: Email your nominations for the best charter captains to and put "Top Captains" in the subject line. Please send us the name of the captain you wish to nominate and a brief bio explaining why he or she deserves recognition.

The criteria for such a nomination rests with you, but obviously consummate proficiency at his or her chosen specialty would be a big plus, as would a leadership role in the world of conservation. Tell us in 100 words or less why this person should be considered one of the best in the game. Also, please include contact information for the captain, if you have it (phone number, email, website, etc.), so we can contact him or her if he or she is chosen.

We will assemble a panel of judges from within the SWS staff and our contributors, and pare down the field to the top 50 skippers. These professionals can be flats guides, blue-water trollers, inshore charter operators — it doesn’t matter. If you think they’ve distinguished themselves, tell us about them.

Be aware that this isn’t a popularity contest. Don’t bother nominating your buddy just for fun. We expect the bar to be set high in this exercise, so please choose accordingly. Note that the final list will not be a ranking; we will name these pros in alphabetical order. Whoever is No. 1 on the list will not be considered “better” than the person who falls at No. 50.

It should be a lot of fun and stimulate a great deal of interesting debate; we await your thoughts on the subject. We will tabulate the results and post them on no later than July 1. We hope you enjoy participating in this as well, and we also hope to learn about some talented professionals we have not yet run across, as discovery is one of the best aspects of our sport.