At St. Croix – So Many Choices, So Little Time!
My (most) favorite fishing rod is from when I was just a youngster. I still have it, there is not even a manufacturer name on it. This fishing rod was made of early woven fiberglass in the late 1950s, it included a cork handle with two sliding aluminum rings that held my Spin-Joy open face fishing reel in place. I bought the rod after getting the reel, the rod cost me $1.95.
At 10 years old, I didn’t know a thing about open face fishing reels, but the old gentleman – his name was Mr. Paul, sure did. He was the owner and proprietor at the United Surplus and Outdoor Store on Broadway in Buffalo, New York. He sold me.
He asked me how I fished. The little I knew, I answered, “What do ‘ya mean?” I was taught to fish very effectively with very simple tackle by my dad, who taught me early that patience was the key. I was taught to take home what I caught too, dad had lived through the depression and nothing was wasted when your time was the cost of the experience. Catch and release only started after the angler army became so good at fishing with the help of technology. All good.
Dad taught me his knots and showed me how to fish with a hook, worm, sinker and sometimes, with a bobber. I mentioned to Mr. Paul that the bobber was hard to cast because the weight of everything was so much lighter. Back in those days, there was not much about lures and what all of us kids back then called “all that fancy stuff.”
My interest in fishing was peaked each month when I read the fishing column in Boy’s Life magazine, it was written by Homer Circle. I learned how to ask questions about fishing gear from that monthly column that I had read since I was a big 8-years old. Questions like bb-shot, long shank hooks, bass sinkers, cat gut line, quill bobbers and much more.
My reel was advertised as a premium, 2-bushing, open-face, spinning reel and it cost $2.95. So I needed a rod that Homer Circle had said was different from the fishing “poles” that most people were using at that time. It had bigger guides and they were on the other side of the rod too, he wrote, whatever that meant. I couldn’t understand why these would be different at the time.
The reel was loaded with 10-pound test Dacron line because my dad and I didn’t know anything about monofilament yet, it had not been invented yet. There was cat-gut line out there that was clear and looked like light blue colored plastic string made by a small company called Berkley – I still have the spool it came on. We bought some a year later.
The Dacron we had did cast a light sinker far enough to take our 2-inch crab into the deep pool of a local creek near my house. That hole was full of wild smallmouth bass in the middle of summer. They weren’t big, but they sure fought hard, jumping, thrashing the water up, and often, getting off. They were a challenge to catch all the way to shore. I loved not losing to a fish. The battle for dominance was on!
That rod Mr. Paul sold me just felt right. Maybe it was a confidence concept at eight years old that helped me to love that rod so much. Number one, it was all mine – my own fishing rod, and it cast way farther than my dad’s Branson casting rods that were solid metal. I felt an advantage that way, if you know what I mean.
After a while, I could thread a needle with my cast and it became second nature to cast at a specific part of the pool and in other parts of the creek. That rod made me a fisherman! That rod was “right for me” because at the time with what I was fishing with, it did the job perfectly and I was, of course, quite forgiving about anything that rod did not do right.
That’s what good fishing rods do when you first pick them up, they feel right. When that happens and your virtual mind can see you working your lure or bait to success, you just know that is the right rod for you. Part of that virtual mind thing is an experience thing, the other part of it is a “private confidence wish” way before discovering the fish-catching proof on the water.
When you buy a fishing rod that imparts confidence, you know what happens – you catch more fish. For me, that was 60 years ago. I’ve searched for fishing rods that impart that special “air of confidence” ever since. Then just about a month ago, I was fortunate enough to be fishing in Wisconsin with several fellow outdoor communicator folks and we were invited to be among the first of groups to tour the St. Croix Fishing Rod Company. Man, I was flipping through hoops in my mind about this. I had flashbacks of articles by Homer Circle from when I was so young.
I had been building my own fishing rods for a few decades just to have the best rods for the money – which I never had that much of, but even then, my homemade custom rods were still a bit pricey. I knew all about rod wrapping, double-wrapping, splining, rod guide weighting, single foot or double, guide placement, balance for sensitivity or power, AA corks, special rod seats and way more than I ever want to admit that I guess at these days.
Located in the nearby town of Park Falls, WUI the St. Croix tour really opened my eyes and provided an education on custom rod building that is performed in a factory by over 200 dedicated workers. Truthfully, I didn’t actually think that anyone would ever be allowed to tour the one USA Company that is so famous for making what pro anglers and non-pro anglers all seem to say are the finest fishing rods on earth. The St. Croix fishing rods are that famous.
While I have about 40 fishing rods, I only have one St. Croix, a panfish rod, because it was the only rod I could really afford at the time. The St. Croix rods have been typically fairly high cost when compared to many foreign made fishing rod products, but after this special tour –not on a deserted isle with Gilligan and Maryann and the crew, I understand why the St. Croix rod products cost a bit more. They are perfect is every way and there are hundreds of models to suit your needs to gain that “air of confidence” that you need before you say to yourself, “I need this rod.” The bottom line after this tour? Worth every penny!
St. Croix rods are not simple. Each model is custom-designed and includes high technology process control with trained eyes and the hands of skilled workers that showed such focus that I thought we were in a Space and Defense Plant with traceable materials and processing. Such were the process controls that we witnessed. Many other companies may never consider the details we reviewed.
To see for yourself, the St. Croix fishing rod factory tours now are offered daily, Monday through Friday, June 1st through September 30th, and then Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from October 1st through April 30th. St. Croix is closed on major holidays. Regular tours lasts approximately 90 minutes. It’s easy to book a visit at http://stcroixrods.com/resources/factory-tour-details, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-826-7042.
The folks at St. Croix have said it before: Not only will you be taking a walk through rod-crafting history, you’ll also get a glimpse of the future of fishing.
FOOTNOTE – St. Croix Rod/Reel SALE:
Looking for an incredible St. Croix value at an unheard of sale price? Squeeze the trigger on a new St. Croix Triumph X and St. Croix will pair it with a matched Daiwa reel on the house. Not many chances to get a St. Croix rod with a rel for $100, but you can for a limited time. Premium-quality SCII graphite. Outstanding strength, sensitivity and hook-setting power. Hard aluminum-oxide guides with black frames. Split-grip/premium EVA handle. Fuji DPS or ECS reel seat with black hood(s). 5-year warranty backed by St. Croix Superstar Service. Your choices are many too! A 2015 Daiwa Laguna 2000-5BI spinning reel, $40.00 retail value, will be paired with St. Croix TXS50ULM, TXS60LF, TXS66MLF and TXS66MLF2 rods, while a 2015 Daiwa Laguna 2500-5BI spinning reel, $40.00 retail value, will be paired with TXS66MF, TXS66MF2, TXS68MXF, TXS70MF and TXS70MF2 rods. Daiwa reels will possess standard warranty provided by Daiwa. Check out this link: http://stcroixrods.com/shop/freshwater/triumph-x-spinning-rod-combo/.