As a professional angler, my tackle is my tool set. At the core of those tools are the rods…and there is a bunch of them. There are rods ranging from ultra-light to extra-heavy power, fly and conventional, for nearly any angling situation. They are different colors, different styles, and different designs overall, but do you know what they all have in common? They are all St Croix rods. Yep, for the last decade St Croix has produced every rod I’ve had the pleasure to call my own…and yes I consider myself very lucky.
I was fishing St Croix rods long before I met the pro-staff manager at the Bassmaster Classic Expo in February of 2006 at Florida’s Lake Toho. But after discussing my guide business and my desire to introduce clients to the performance of St Croix rods, we sparked up an official promotional relationship, and ten years later that affiliation continues to grow to our mutual benefit. I consider myself and my company lucky on this point, too.
My educational background in aerospace engineering helps me understand the technology behind rod building. A lifetime of purposeful angling helps me understand rod performance in the field. But to truly understand a product line of any sort, one must know the company on a personal level; to feel the culture, and see first hand what day-to-day life looks like for those developing and bringing products to the market. Well, after 10 years as a pro and media staffer, I finally went to visit St Croix Rod in Park Falls, Wisconsin, where they have been making rods for over 65 years. I’m sure glad I finally went!
What did I learn? I learned that “family-owned company” means something to consumers and employees alike. As we walked through the factory stopping at each manufacturing station, I immediately noticed that the employees were proud of what they did. They we each eager to show off their part of the rod building process, they were smiling yet diligent, and each obviously took ownership of their position. For the record, several employees were quick to tell their own fish stories; that was very comforting considering the product they produce!
I also learned that the family part of family-owned is truly the heart of the company; each member has a major role in St Croix Rod and has for a very long time. Several other high level folks have been with St Croix Rod for decades and may as well be family; it is a very tight knit group. They’re gracious folks taking pride in their company and history, the industry they compete in, and the very concept of fishing as a lifestyle. That they truly enjoy producing great tackle went without saying…it was obvious.
Most importantly, I learned that no corners are cut, no concepts left un-investigated, and no excuses are made; when it comes to producing the best rods that can be produced, St Croix is committed. Walking the factory, we looked very closely at each step in the manufacturing process, the tooling behind it, the materials, the components, and even the little things that aren’t really so little, like the paint jobs and rod markings that ensure pride of ownership. In all cases, attention to detail and an eye on the big prize of a very high quality product is clear.
I’ve always known that St Croix fishing rods perform at a very high level. That starts with company leaders and trickles down to employees performing at the same level and with the same goal in mind. My rods may be tools, but they are tools produced with pride and with great materials by folks that love to fish themselves. They are tools that, after my visit, I will take even more pride in using. I will think of the guy running the blank sanding station and his 50+ inch musky-of-a-lifetime story, of the guide winder girl that stopped me to show off some of the custom wrap jobs she had done on her own time (and they were beautifully done with great color combinations and wrapping skill), and the up-stairs room loaded with St Croix Rod history and lore. And I will think of the North Woods of Wisconsin that is home to, and that forge the lifestyles of, the people behind the rods. It’s a very long way from China, if you know what I mean…