Pick up any St. Croix fishing rod and you’ll quickly realize it’s something special. Lightweight and balanced, perfectly aligned and beautifully finished, these rods just feel right in the hands. From the second you lay the grip across your palm and feel the insignificant weight balance across your fingertips – before you even cast them – they seem full of potential and uniquely crafted to provide advantages on the water.
Then you cast them. You see the accuracy; feel the lure transmit feedback to your hand throughout the retrieve; experience the intense immediacy of the strike; sense the smooth delivery of power during the hookset and the satisfying state of control throughout the fight. That’s when the advantages of a St. Croix rod become real.
But what is it that actually sets St. Croix rods apart from the competition? Some might point out the company has been handcrafting fishing rods in Park Falls, Wisconsin, USA for 72 years. Others may identify with ownership by the same family for the past 43 years. Long-time St. Croix anglers would undoubtedly also bring up the company’s passion for taking care of its customers. Most, however, would simply tell you it’s the rods themselves, noting their consistently great performance, super sensitivity, exceptional action, power and durability.
“When you get down to it, these rods really are special,” says Jason Brunner, Director of Operations at the St. Croix manufacturing facility in Park Falls, WI. “Sure, they look good and feel great, but there’s also a tremendous amount of science and pride built into every one. From selecting the finest materials and components, to special design considerations that allow each blank to shine at a specific task, and applying novel manufacturing technologies to further enhance performance, we’ll stop at nothing to build the sticks our customers, field reps and elite team of field testers tell us they need. It really is an involved process, but we’ve gained a lot of experience at it over the years, which is yet another reason our rods have such reliably high levels of performance.”
According to Brunner, St. Croix’s rod-building process begins with a commitment to seek out and use the most advanced materials on the planet to bring out the best qualities in every distinct model. It’s here that St. Croix flexes its engineering muscle by operating the most advanced R&D department in the industry. “Investing in emerging composite materials and innovating the latest manufacturing processes, we have created many of the industry’s biggest performance breakthroughs and continue to explore new ways to make fishing better,” Brunner says. “Lighter, stronger and more responsive rods all begin with these advancements.”
Consider the carbon that serves as the primary building block for their rod blanks. St. Croix currently has six from which to choose, and all are exclusive to the St. Croix label. The company’s SC carbon materials (SC stands for St. Croix), levels II through VI, each feature an increasing modulus (stiffness of the graphite fibers) and variable strain rate (how far carbon fibers stretch before failing), allowing St. Croix to fine-tune each rod to fully match exacting design specifications and pricing considerations.
St. Croix’s SCII Premium carbon material features mid-modulus graphite fiber with a higher strain rate than fibers commonly used by other rod manufacturers. An outstanding choice for anglers who appreciate high performance without the high cost, you’ll find these materials in the Triumph, Premier, Bass X, Eyecon, Panfish and Trout series, as well as some Mojo series rods.
SCIII Advanced carbon material features high-modulus, high-strain carbon fibers and is designed for serious anglers who demand performance and value. It’s used to produce sensitive, lightweight rods with great durability like those found in the Mojo Bass, Mojo Musky, Avid, and Avid X rod series.
SCIV Exceptional carbon material steps up the St. Croix performance even more and is ideal for anglers who insist on fishing only with top-grade rods. This high-modulus, high-strain carbon material is used to craft Legend Surf and Legend Tournament Series Bass, Walleye, Musky and Inshore rods.
For the most performance-minded angler, SCV Extraordinary carbon is St. Croix’s finest blank material, producing the lightest, most sensitive and strongest rods in the St. Croix stable. SCV features high-modulus and high-strain carbon fibers with additional carbon-matte scrim. The material is employed in the Legend Elite and Legend X rod series, as well as the all-new Legend Xtreme and Legend Xtreme Inshore series. St, Croix’s final carbon material – SCVI Exotic – is too stiff to be used as a primary rod-building material, but the super-high modulus, high-strain carbon fiber is employed to complement other carbon materials – usually in a rod’s lower section – to provide additional power with minimal weight.
In addition to St. Croix’s carbon blank materials, the company also employs super-premium 100% linear S-glass in rods that require moderate actions or forgiving tips, such as those used in crankbait or trolling applications. This material is stronger and lighter than ordinary E-glass, and delivers the full benefits of linear fiberglass such as strength and forgiveness, plus elevated feedback, increased strength, action, reduced weight and heightened manufacturing quality as compared to other glass rods. This material is exemplified in Legend Glass, one of St. Croix’s most popular and innovative rod series, as well as Mojo Bass Glass, and blended with SCII carbon in Eyecon Trolling and Mojo Musky Trolling rods.
“All of our primary rod building materials are exclusive to St. Croix,” notes Brunner. “We work strategically with our suppliers and tell them exactly what we want. There may be some rod manufacturers out there using certain aspects of the same materials, but no one has them in the same combinations or configurations.”
Choosing materials with focus and using only the best is a great start, but St. Croix then refines them further using proprietary technologies developed through its suppliers, design team and manufacturing experts over the years. These technological breakthroughs increase performance and quantifiable factors like sensitivity, durability and strength across the company’s entire lineup.
“We have several high-tech technologies and manufacturing processes we can use or combine to bring out the best qualities in any rod blank we manufacture,” continues Brunner. “In fact, through the years, we’ve developed a program that can factor in many of our variables and give us a solid indication of how any rod we plan to design will perform over a variety of qualities before we even build it. We’ve learned and charted over the years exactly what it takes to make anything from an ultra-light to a medium or extra-heavy rod power. We can assign rod action specifics from extra-fast to slow, determine the exact weight of the rod, factor in the effects of specific individual components, increase the durability and adjust the price point appropriately, all before building our first samples. All this information is provided to the manufacturing team to take the guesswork out of the rod-building process. The result is that, from the very first protype of any new design, we are generally close enough to the desired performance that many projects only require a few small modifications to reach perfection.” The cutting-edge technologies employed at St. Croix are mostly know by their abbreviations, but each spent years in research and development before coming to fruition. Among the most important are IPC®, ART, FRS, and TET.
Developed exclusively by St. Croix, Integrated Poly Curve® (IPC®) tooling is used to eliminate all transitional points in the rod blank, resulting in smoother actions, increased strength and greater sensitivity in a rod that bends from tip to butt with a parabolic curve.
Advanced Reinforcing Technology™ (ART™) uses an exotic carbon fiber material that adds a magnitude (10X) of strength with virtually no increase in blank diameter or weight. It significantly improves the hoop strength of the blank by preventing it from deforming or “ovaling” under severe loads, such as a those experienced during a powerful hook set or when lifting a heavy fish. ART is also a critical part of St. Croix’s slim-profile ferrule design.
St. Croix’s FRS (Fortified Resin System) combines a fortified super resin with new computer-operated curing ovens that provide improved temperature and time management through all stages of the critical curing cycle. FRS prevents micro-buckling by keeping the carbon fibers in proper alignment. Blanks manufactured using this advanced manufacturing protocol consistently test 33% stronger than those built with standard resins and curing methods.
Taper Enhancement Technology (TET) is a process perfected by St. Croix that begins with precision-cut, curved blank patterns made possible by a state-of-the-art computerized pattern cutting machine. When combined with IPC-mandrels, these unique patterns create blanks with better actions and improved sensitivity. This pattern design and cutting technology is a dramatic departure from traditional straight-line patterns cut by hand.
St. Croix’s key to producing the ultimate fishing rod lies in combining its proprietary materials with its exclusive technologies. For example, teaming high-modulus high-strain SCIII carbon with IPC® technology creates a rod with exceptional strength, smooth power and increased sensitivity, such as those exceptional performers in the popular Avid Surf, Avid, Avid X and Mojo Bass series. Comparably, using SCIV in combination with IPC, ART and FRS elevates Legend Tournament series rods to a level of performance on par with their name.
Simply put, St. Croix sets itself apart from the competition with an R&D Department and manufacturing facilities that are the most advanced in the business. But in the end, everything still must be put together exactly right. For that, St. Croix relies on the prowess and dedication of its skilled and passionate manufacturing team… and a lot of lasers.
“We use lasers in almost every aspect of the manufacturing process these days to ensure all blanks are cut to the exact size and that our components are perfectly placed, spaced and aligned,” explains Brunner. “We even have lasers we use strictly for placing our labels. Adding them into the process is just another step that makes sense when you need your product to come out perfectly every single time.”
As you can see by now, there’s some serious science that goes into building the ideal fishing rod – at least those wearing the St. Croix name. Still, for all the great materials, components, manufacturing breakthroughs and technological wizardry, in the end nothing works unless the entire team is on board.
“We work hard to educate, inform and give our employees everything they need to succeed on a daily basis,” Brunner reports. “We’re all incredibly proud of the work we do, here, the superior product we turn out, and the way we go about our jobs every day. It’s the spirit and dedication of the entire St. Croix crew that, in the end, really separates our rods from all the others. It takes great materials, cutting edge technology and dedicated, happy people to make the Best Rods on Earth® for our passionate anglers, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
And that’s what truly sets St. Croix apart.