Anglers fished in record numbers in 2020. New anglers, die-hards, and reactivated anglers returning to the sport flocked to local lakes, rivers, streams and oceans, eager to recreate in one of the few ways possible at the time.
Welcome to 2021 and a full return to unbridled angling independence. What once was off-limits is now in-demand. With loosening travel restrictions, anglers are leaving their backyard waters and once again taking to the roads and skies in search of world-class angling experiences.
But how will anglers make that intimate fishing connection once they arrive at their destination? With what will they trust their many months of pent-up anticipation for that very first cast or initial surge from a bucket-list species? Increasingly, it’s with one of several travel-rod options from St. Croix, the great, American company that’s made it it’s mission to provide anglers with the Best Rods on Earth® for nearly 75 years.
Existing to give all anglers the upper hand, St. Croix is celebrating the return of angling travel with brand new multi-piece Avid Trek, Triumph Travel, and Triumph Surf Travel Series rods, beautifully handcrafted and embodied with St. Croix technology and performance, designed to make it easy for traveling anglers to have their best experiences on the water.
“Anglers who fish far-away destinations want a rod that breaks down, but doesn’t compromise performance,” says Dan Johnston, St. Croix National Accounts Manager. “St. Croix makes a host of multi-piece rods whose primary purpose is to fish like they were any of our single piece rods.”
Of course, that’s always been the knock on multi-piece rods – they fish like several different rods, disjointed but somehow connected into one. That couldn’t be further from the truth for any of the rods in the St. Croix travel lineup. “Traditionally, that’s meant poorly fitting ferrules and clunky tips,” says Johnston. Ferrules on a multipiece rod are the crucial connection points, which is why St. Croix reinforces theirs for maximum performance, strength, and durability. Johnston continues, “In two, three, or four-piece rods, to make them fish as a single blank, we focus on that fit through the total control we have in our materials and manufacturing process.”
St. Croix also achieves one-piece performance in its multi-piece rods by constantly listening to the best anglers on Earth. Justin Carter of Charleston, South Carolina, an accomplished tournament angler and St. Croix pro is one of those anglers. From fishing his three-piece Avid Trek travel rods through long stints on saltwater marshes or on big runs nearshore, he’s putting more pressure on a multipiece rod than most guys will on single blanks. “We put that Avid Trek to the test with 20-pound reds, then 30-pound jack crevalle, back-to-back,” he says. “I’ll fish ‘em just the same as I will any one piece St. Croix rod without ever looking back,” says Carter.
“Our angler-centric approach means we obsess over what guys like Justin are doing in the middle of nowhere,” Johnston says. “How they get there, how they fish our rods, and how they return are all part of the process in helping us build the ultimate travel setups.”
Johnston has some tips for those anglers just starting to appreciate the flexibility and feel of St. Croix’s travel-rod lineup, starting with assembly. “It’s crucial to have a good fit and no looseness. To achieve that goal, don’t align your rod guides perfectly, then seat them. Instead, slightly mis-align, seat, then twist to align. That locks them in,” says Johnston. But the exact opposite is true when taking travel rods apart. “You never want to flex or twist at the ferrule,” says Johnston. “That compromises the straightness in the blank, which we never want to do.”
For stuck ferrules, use another trick Johnston has employed with great success over the years. “Sit down with the rod underneath your knees and grasp the sections outside your knees firmly with your thumbs touching. Use the force of your legs against your wrists and you’ll be surprised how many jammed rods you can free,” says Johnston. Stuck ferrules are usually the result of debris getting into them and locking them up. For that reason, Johnston always checks both parts of the ferrules before seating. “Just run your fingers over them to make sure no sand or other grit will get pushed down in there. That small check will save a lot of issues down the road,” says Johnston.
Troy Lindner: Global Angling Adventurer
Few anglers get around more than St. Croix and FLW tournament bass pro, Troy Lindner. The angling-travel specialist is quick to point out that St. Croix’s newest travel models combine the multi-piece construction necessary for travel with next-level St. Croix performance. “The sensitivity and strength of these multi-piece rods are the best on the market,” he states. “I’ve tried out many different companies’ multi-piece and collapsible travel rods; nothing compares to St. Croix Triumph Travel for overall value and Avid Trek for performance,” reports Lindner. “The more sections a rod has, you would usually lose sensitivity. But you can fish the new Avid Trek series side by side against a one-piece and not know it’s a three-piece rod, and the Triumph rods offer similar performance at an incredible value. I’ve taken Triumph Travel rods with me on numerous trips around the world to Canada, China, Japan, Thailand, Netherlands, France, Austria and Switzerland. I‘ve never broken one of these rods in transit or fishing, and they perform flawlessly.”
Lindner is one of a number of “lone wolf” anglers on the St. Croix staff, emboldened by the performance of these multi-piece rods that literally fuel his ability to fish independently, away from the crowd. “I’m in it for the adventure, pure and simple,” says Lindner. “I constantly strive to fish new countries, different places, and spots I’ve never laid eyes on.” When traveling down the road, Lindner often sees small out-of-the way places and wonders if they’ve ever seen a lure. “It might only be for five or ten minutes, but I always throw lures in these places. Maybe even only a cast or two. Other places I hit are too good not to come back to, and they become part of a routine anytime I pass them,” says Lindner. That kind of random spot-hopping requires a rod that both packs small and packs a punch.
“Regionally, I’ll fish for anything. Often that’s carp, largies, smallies, or trout, but I’m usually game for anything,” says Lindner. The same is true when he’s jet-setting around the world. “I’ll find a cheap ticket to somewhere I’ve never been before, then challenge myself to find the best fishing I can when there,” Lindner continues. Like on a recent trip to Shanghai, when he lived out of a backpack and literally took the rods with him wherever he went. “Whether I’m in mainland China, or on a Canadian fly-in trip, these rods allow me to be ready to fish wherever I go.”
In the past, bulk and poor performance were both barriers to entry in travel angling, but with Avid Trek and Triumph travel, both are vastly improved. “In a single carry-on, I can fit 4 travel rods, reels, and light tackle,” Lindner continues. “Once I get there, I have the confidence that these pocket-sized combinations will perform the same as any of the St. Croix one-piece rods I use in tournaments. In fact, there have been many times I’ve used my travel rods in tournaments. Even when money is on the line, I’ve got confidence that they’ll perform like any other rod I own that bears the St. Croix name.”
Lindner feels that an arsenal of two or three travel rods will cover most angling travel situations. For mountain troutin’, that’s typically a two-piece rod from the St. Croix Trout series. “I like the two-piecers for hiking up in the mountains with a pack. They strap nicely to the sides and are just perfect for those tiny streams,” says Lindner. “They’ll even cast a wooly bugger. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands around a couple of the new three-piece Trout Pack models St. Croix recently announced that will be available later this year. For Midwest-and-beyond bassin’, Lindner regularly relies on a pair of Triumph Travel 6’6” medium and medium-light power spinning rods, along with a Triumph Travel 6’6” medium-heavy power, fast action casting rod. “I love that rod. I can throw cranks, lipless and standard, along with swimbaits and most other larger stuff. It’s hard to beat a beefy rod that still packs up tiny,” says Lindner.
Shorter rods in the 6’ to 6’6” range are perfect for shoreline spots with overhanging cover that require tight casts. Lindner also points out that they’re great for kayaking. “St. Croix has so many rods, you can get really specific in terms of dialing in length, power, and action across multiple models. But these are great multi-purpose rods in a kayak because of their length,” says Lindner. “I like them for vertical presentations and also the shorter butt lengths when sitting in a kayak. Not to mention, when netting a fish, the shorter rod keeps you from having to reach and destabilize the craft.”
Crazy Alberto Knie: Always on the Hunt
Enter an angler known for solving the big-fish puzzle, often during non-human hours when no one else is around. St. Croix pro and multispecies big-fish expert, Alberto Knie, partakes in extreme fishing to hunt trophy fish throughout the US. We caught up with him in Jacksonville, Florida, mere hours before a planned 200-mile trek to seek out snook in shallow-water mangroves on foot. “I prefer to fish middle-of-nowhere spots,” says Knie, who also visits the more popular ones, often under cover of darkness. “I’ll go when they’re quiet and the fish are undisturbed and happy… when they get back into their natural patterns.”
Hoofing it through sand and muck, up small cliffs and down steep embankments certainly puts stress on equipment. “All the performance in the world won’t do much for me if I get there and my rod is broken,” says Knie. “To be able to have both performance and durability with the flexibility of pack-down multi-piece travel rods, for me, isn’t just a luxury; it’s a necessity.” In testing the Triumph Travel series rods, Knie purposely hooked up on large saltwater fish then put some drag to them. “I felt like I needed to test these products in extreme conditions because that’s the way I fish,” he says. “What might be good for some anglers, isn’t good enough for me, so I put that level of testing into any of the products I may decide to use.”
That includes the Triumph Surf travel rods, which Knie personally tested as well. “No matter where I go, on a fly-in or drive-in, from Costa Rica and Panama to the Florida coast all the way up to New England, surf-casting is a big part of what I do,” says Knie. “I need rods that perform in the most-demanding surfcasting conditions, all the way up to 10’ long. I didn’t know that it could be done with a multi-piece rod.”
From bull reds to monster stripers, Knie put together the ferrules and slapped reels on the Triumph Travel rods to test them. Huge snook and tarpon were also on his list of targets. “Usually the ferrule will compromise performance on multi-piece rods, but not Triumph Travel and Triumph Surf Travel rods. They are light but also durable. Blindfold me and I’d never know these were multi-piece travel rod,” says Knie. That’s no insignificant statement, but it’s a sentiment that seems to be repeated by numerous guides, captains, and pros who put these St. Croix travel rods to work.
“It’s always a tall order to innovate and outperform something that was already the best,” says Knie. “That’s why St. Croix smartly seeks out anglers like me, as well as guides, captains, and even world-record holders in developing their rods. I couldn’t be prouder to contribute. To do it all in a platform that packs down, saves space, and allows independent anglers like me to do what I do without any sacrifice to performance is truly groundbreaking. I’m used to hopping on jetties, climbing spillways, and sliding down steep sand breaks. To do all that after taking a three-hour flight up the coast means I have to do it with a travel rod, as anything 7’ or more can be prohibitively expensive to fly with. To be able to save space, travel dollars, and not compromise an ounce of performance means everything to me.”
Expand Your Own Angling Horizons
With so many new anglers coming to the sport during the recent Covid-19 pandemic and beyond, St. Croix’s Avid Trek and Triumph Travel series rods couldn’t be better placed in the market. “We know people want to get out, and are traveling more to fish these days,” says Johnston. “To those new to anglers who may not be totally familiar with who we are at St. Croix and what we do, I’d want them to understand that St. Croix exists solely for anglers, and that anglers drive everything we do. We can give anglers the upper hand and help them have better fishing experiences on the water because of this. We know the trends and desires because we are solely focused on them, and we control every aspect of how any St. Croix rod is designed and handcrafted from start to finish; we don’t rely on anyone else.”
Welcome to 2021, and here’s to a complete return to angling independence – yours especially. Whether that’s exploring the road less traveled on a hike through the mountains, packing in a few pike and walleye rods for the Canadian fly-in of a lifetime, probing the surf of some remote shore, or preparing for any angling opportunity by keeping a rod or two in the trunk of your car, know that St. Croix has you covered. Our Avid Trek, Triumph Travel, and Triumph Surf travel rods deliver heightened St. Croix performance with multi-piece convenience so you can practice your passion… anywhere and anytime.