St. Croix has been handcrafting the Best Rods on Earth® for over 70 years. These four words are much more than a simple marketing slogan; they’re a guiding affirmation that reminds, encourages, and empowers every St. Croix team member to remain angler driven – every day and in all they do. Simply stated, it means St. Croix’s pride and satisfaction as a company is only measured by an angler’s pride and satisfaction with the products it makes.
St. Croix employs nearly 400 people who use their minds and hands to combine the best raw materials and technologies, transforming them into the fishing tools that give anglers the upper hand in any situation. Yes, St. Croix utilizes advanced machines, computers and tooling, and that equipment has continually evolved over the past 70 years, but it has always been guided and executed by skilled human hands, at least 32 sets of which come into contact with your St. Croix rod before it reaches yours. It takes extreme commitment and attention to detail from all of them to deliver the rods St. Croix anglers expect – rods that elevate their fishing experiences.
St. Croix’s National Accounts Manager, Dan Johnston, understands what this means as well as anyone. Not just because he operates from within the confines of the largest rod manufacturer in North America, but because he lives it. As an avid tournament angler, 30+ year fly-casting instructor, and angling innovator in his own right, Johnston lives and preaches the connections between anglers and St. Croix’s measured and deliberate vertical manufacturing strategy.
Your Control Starts with Our Own
In the context of manufacturing, vertical means owning or exercising increased control over the elements within the value chain, which consists of all the businesses and individuals that play a part in the manufacturing process. “From the handles, shims, and advanced coatings, all the way to the mandrels that our carbon fiber blanks are rolled onto, St. Croix builds it in-house,” says Johnston. “That’s a huge difference from most fishing rods that start with a blank made by someone else. We start at the very ground level with the foundation, by designing a specific mandrel for each rod blank we build, then craft everything else around it. The control an angler feels while using one of our rods on the water is a direct result of the total control we exercise in our operations.”
Vertically integrated manufacturing provides significant benefits when it comes to product manufacturing, assembly and supply, including reduced lead times, increased quality, and cost control, to name a few. “Vertical control of our design and each rod’s destiny from raw materials to end-product leads to consistency,” says Johnston. “That consistency is the difference; it’s what anglers on the water everywhere can feel. It’s what gives them the confidence to purchase any model of St. Croix rod – from a $100 Triumph to a $600 Legend Xtreme – because they know at any price they pay, the result is a high-performance product, designed and handcrafted with the same standard of care.”
Johnston says St. Croix exists to give all anglers the upper hand. “That’s why we don’t have an entry-level rod, we just have a starting point.” Total control and consistency afforded by vertical manufacturing means a $100 fishing rod gets the same level of dedication in design and build as a $600 one. “All of them are handcrafted from different blends of materials, components, and technologies,” Johnston continues. “While an angler may feel differences within those parameters, they’ll never see it in our attention to detail, performance or service.”
A Triumph for All Anglers
Vertical control and consistency are on parade in the number-one selling North American fishing rod in the entire industry – St. Croix’s expansive Triumph Series. Durable, sensitive, and powerful Triumph rods are made for savvy anglers seeking the best combination of performance and value. Featuring 61 distinct models covering freshwater, musky, travel, salmon & steelhead, surf, and inshore – the Triumph family of rods blends technology with value to give anglers the precise tools they need to maintain the upper hand at an exceptional price.
“Take the handle on the Triumph for example,” says Johnston. “There’s a urethane shim inside – completely of our own design – that’s hydrophobic, is turned in-house on a CNC lathe, and offers the best shim technology in the industry for a starting point rod. It offers increased fit, resulting in improved sensitivity that’s a hallmark of many of our other models all the way up the line.” Johnston continues: “Or look at the multiple guided lasers we use in Triumph throughout the build process to ensure straightness, guide alignment, and meet our own stringent quality-control standards.” These are highly uncommon traits for a rod in the $100 range, especially so for one designed and built in North America.
Built from premium SCII carbon, Triumph is an outstanding choice for anglers who appreciate high-performance without high cost. SCII is a standard modulus carbon fiber with a higher strain rate than fibers commonly used by other rod manufacturers. It’s St. Croix’s most popular material that is lightweight, durable and sensitive – exactly what anglers expect from a St. Croix rod.
Of course, the ultimate test of any rod’s performance lies in the impressions and opinions of avid anglers. That’s where famed guide and owner of Wild Country Guide Service, Billy Rosner, is eager to weigh in. Billy is a fourth-generation, nationally recognized, full-time fishing guide who knows his way around a rod blank. “I fish for everything in my guide boat,” Rosner says. “We jig vertically, pitch, drag, throw Ned rigs, topwater, crank, live-bait rig, and even throw bucktails and spinnerbaits at monster pike and muskies.” Few rod series could tackle that many multi-species needs, proving that Triumph is as versatile as it is reasonably priced.
“As a guide, I owe it to my customers to put quality in their hands,” says Rosner. “A good rod in their hands like a Triumph offers a custom handle, great sensitivity, and quality that can be felt from the rod tip, through the guides, and ultimately up the blank.” For Rosner, more felt strikes translates to more fish caught and, ultimately, happier clients. It’s that simple. “I learned years ago that I was always handing my customers my own personal St. Croix rods versus the client rods I carried in the boat. It’s just not fair to deny them a rod that can make all the difference in their success that day. Each day is different out there, and I have a variety of skill levels I’m trying to accommodate,” Rosner continues. “Some are incredible sticks and they appreciate the St. Croix quality, while others are brand new to the sport and need a versatile rod that they can afford starting out. That’s a big part of what makes Triumph so incredible.”
With an estimated 8-10 million new and reactivated anglers coming to the sport within the past year, Rosner has certainly noticed what a quality fishing rod can do for a first timer. “I just can’t stress enough that when just starting out, you need equipment that gives you the best possible chance of having a good experience. Success breeds more success and keeps anglers coming back for more. St. Croix rods – and Triumph, specifically – are the perfect vehicle to get new anglers confident in doing more fishing,” Rosner concludes.
Released earlier this year, St. Croix’s new Victory Series helped St. Croix team members, its anglers, and the entire fishing industry win during a time when victories were hard to come by. St. Croix’s mission was to deliver the best technique-specific bass rods on the market between $180 and $250, do it with an all-new material, and handcraft them start to finish on U.S. soil in Park Falls, Wisconsin.
Again, vertical manufacturing means the company doesn’t rely on anyone else’s rod blank designs or manufacturing; it is free to innovate and consistently deliver rods with unique combinations of technologies, materials, performance and value that improve the angling experience. The new Victory Series exemplifies that level of creativity and performance with a bass-centric rod series that will help hard-core bass anglers rack up more wins, however they may be defined.
Victory rods are crafted with an all-new material known as SCIII+, a hybrid of St. Croix’s advanced SCIII carbon and exotic SCVI carbon. “In itself, SCIII is an exceptional material for building fishing rods,” says St. Croix Product Manager, Ryan Teach. “It’s a high-modulus high-strain carbon fiber that produces sensitive and lightweight rods with excellent durability, and can be found in our Avid, latest-generation Mojo Bass, Mojo Musky and other popular St. Croix rod series. SCVI is a super high-modulus high-strain carbon fiber that’s too stiff to be used as a primary material but can be efficiently combined in selective amounts and strategic locations with other materials – SCIII in this case – to add power while reducing overall weight. These new technique-specific bass rods truly have it all, at a price that’s accessible for a wide variety of anglers.”
The specific construction of each technique-specific Victory rod is painstakingly distinct and customized to excel in its intended use. “The exact amount and location of SCVI material is optimized on each rod in the series,” says Teach. “Each one is different and unique. For the angler, that means each rod has the right power exactly where it’s needed, with a correctly balanced tip that supports the desired technique while minimizing rod torque. And it isn’t just the blanks that are unique,” Teach continues. “Handles, guide spacing, and even hook-keeper designs are customized and optimized on each of these rods.”
Johnston describes SCIII+ as the fishiest rod material he’s ever laid hands on. “It delivers baits the right way, keeps fish pinned, allows use of multiple kinds of line – it’s just an amazing material,” he states. “Depending on the rod’s purpose, we’ve blended in SCVI in different proportions, throughout different parts of the rod to make it excel. The drop-shot rod, for example, is reinforced where it needs it and blended back where it doesn’t. The same is true for the swim bait rod, and all throughout the lineup.
“Again, what’s incredible to me,” says Johnston,” is the way we use the same processes, equipment, and handcrafted techniques to create rods like the Triumph and Victory, just the same as we would on Legend X or Legend Xtreme. From the way carbon fiber is patterned, cut, and laid out before rolling up on the mandrel to create the blank, through the way componentry is added, and on to how the rod is finished; you just don’t see that level of dedication on lower price point rods without our vertical manufacturing process.”
Anglers everywhere – tournament pro Chad Grigsby, for one – are offering resounding praise and excitement over Victory Series rods. Grigsby, who fishes the MLF Big 5, says victory comes in his line of work from being the best angler during any given week. “I have to put together the best patterns that extract the biggest fish or I won’t be consistent enough to have longevity,” he offers. “I’m proud of my 19 years on tour, and grateful to St. Croix because Victory rods give me what I need to help keep me there.”
Grigsby praises every rod in the Victory Series but has special affinity for the 7’3” and 7’4” models, calling them, “the most versatile sticks from a bass perspective you could ever own. If someone is looking for a high-quality high-performance rod at a reasonable price, I think the Victory 7’3” heavy power, extra-fast action Victory is truly the best way to go,” Grigsby says. “It’s just such a versatile stick I can reach for on a variety of water bodies and several situations all season. You get a rod that you can fish so many different techniques, from flipping and pitching to casting a spinnerbait. This rod can do it all.”
Grigsby says he’s continually amazed by how St. Croix can keep coming up with better ways to make a rod. “That’s just what they do; it’s their commitment to us as anglers and their legacy to our sport and industry. Victory is the latest example of that, and the fact that they’re all made start to finish in the USA? I’m probably most proud of that.”
Victory to a tournament angler like Grigsby usually means being on a podium at the end of a long tournament, hoisting hardware, and celebrating a week well-fished. But winning also means using their knowledge, skills, and available tools to innovate and push the envelope on the water. “It’s just like this rod series,” Grigsby says. “St. Croix makes some incredible fishing rods, but it takes a special brand to go to work each day, looking to best what is already widely considered as the best. That’s the same challenge we face as tournament anglers.”