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Jan 23rd, 2013
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My Visit to the St. Croix Fishing Rod Factory #14464690 09/01/22 12:26 AM
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 1,559
Holding The Line Offline OP
Extreme Angler
OP Offline
Extreme Angler
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 1,559

I have now fished on Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes for over 30 years. Sixteen of those years have been as a professional fishing guide.

Although I have been blessed to stay as busy as I care to be, there is always a bit of a break in the action as school goes back in session at the end of each summer.

Here in Texas, that is in mid-August. In other parts of the nation, that event may take place as late as the week following Labor Day. Regardless, priorities shift and, for the first time since spring break, I have some opportunities to take some down time without giving up a lot of business.

This month, right after our local schools went back in session, my wife and I traveled to Wisconsin. Our trip had multiple purposes, one of which was to visit with the people of the Mepps fishing lure manufacturing facility in Antigo, Wisconsin, which I detailed in a previous article.

One other purpose of our visit was to put some faces with the names of the people at the St. Croix fishing rod manufacturing company located in Park Falls, Wisconsin.

[Linked Image]

PHOTO CAPTION: From left, Central Texas fishing guide Bob Maindelle, St. Croix rod company Angler Engagement Coordinator Savannah Stenlund, and St. Croix plant tour guide Ken Boness stop for a photo in the St. Croix factory retail store, where each plant tour begins and ends.

St. Croix has been around a long time. I remember as an Army brat moving around the country (and outside of it), being stationed in central New Jersey for a spell. I became friends with a boy my own age in my fifth-grade year. His name was Pat Wahler. Like me, Pat enjoyed the outdoors, especially fishing, plus he had a pet raccoon named Rocky, for which we both developed a real fondness.

In the spring, when trout season opened, Pat and his dad, Roger, would always invite me to go to fish a stretch of the Raritan River near Long Valley, New Jersey. This was ultralight fishing with 4- or 6-pound test line, whippy rods, tiny spinning reels and single salmon eggs weighted just enough to get the eggs near bottom. Our quarry was stocked rainbow trout, with an occasional brown trout mixed in.

I remember well Pat’s favorite rod, a white-painted St. Croix with gold wraps on the guides. That rod was so flexible that he could grasp the tip and bend it so as to make it touch the butt, forming an upside-down tear-drop shape. That was more than 40 years ago. Like I said, St. Croix has been around a long time — since 1948, to be exact.

As I began my guide service and began to piece together a clientele, St. Croix graciously accepted me into their professional guide’s program, providing a discount on a specified number of rods each year.

Each rod I have obtained through that program indicates the date it was crafted and that it was produced just for my guide service — nicely personalized.

When the opportunity to kill a few birds with one stone arose in the form of this trip to Wisconsin, and with a visit to St. Croix being one of those birds, I was all in.

Our visit consisted of three parts — a plant tour of about 90 minutes, a stop in the factory retail store and a visit with Savannah Stenlund, St. Croix’s person in charge of their angler engagement efforts.

We scheduled our tour several weeks in advance. With safety glasses and close-toed shoes donned, and cameras put away, we entered into the fishing rod production facility.

Our tour guide was a St. Croix retiree by the name of Ken Boness, now working in a part-time status solely as a tour guide.

Our tour began in the factory retail store where a display of select, unique St. Croix rods from the past were on display.

We moved on and were shown the large rolls of fabric-like carbon fiber which serves as the foundation for St. Croix’s rods, as well as the long, steel mandrils, which themselves look like fishing rods, to which the carbon fiber is adhered and then wrapped around to give the carbon fiber it initial shape and proper taper.

We then saw where heat is applied by hand to the carbon fiber after it is brought in precise alignment with the mandril. The resin in the carbon fiber causes it to fully adhere to the mandril with sufficient holding power to stay put while the mandril is wrapped with numerous wraps of the carbon fiber.

Each step along the way, as a process is completed, a quality check takes place so that any errors can be caught as early in the process as possible. The sooner a mistake is noted, the less costly it becomes.

After the mandrils are wrapped, they are hung by the thick end and heated in a gas-fired oven for a specified length of time to allow the resins impregnating the carbon fiber to be activated, flow through the fibers completely, and strengthen the newly created blank — the term for a rod without guides yet attached.

Once the baking process is complete, the mandrils are removed and cleaned for reuse while the rod blank heads over to be painted. Once painting is complete, the blank is fitted with a handle which is glued in place.

Next a recipe card is consulted; it dictates the number, style and spacing of the guides to be used on a given model of rod. Marks are then placed on the blank as a visual cue to those attaching the guides to the blanks.

Some attachment of the guides is done by employees at the factory, while some is done by independent contractors in the Park Falls area who come in periodically, pick up about 25 rods, along with the appropriate guides, hook keepers, and thread, then take these to a home work area to wrap them and return them. Ken smiled as he told our tour group that if we own a St. Croix rod, it may well have spent a week or so in someone’s living room there in the heart of Wisconsin.

After the guides are attached, the protective coating used to cement those guides in place is applied at the factory, as are the serial numbered labels which describe the rod’s specifications. Now complete, the rod is sleeved in plastic and is made ready for shipping for retail sale.

Rods which have only cosmetic flaws may be sold as “B-Stock” in the factory store.

In all, St. Croix produces about 3,000 rods each week. About 1,000 of these are produced in Park Falls.

These include St. Croix’s high-end rods like the Avid Series, the Premier Series, and others. The balance are produced at a similar plant using similar processes down in Fresnillo, Mexico. The rods produced there are not as complex, and therefore more can be made over a given span of time.

The second part of our visit was shorter, but sweeter. Savannah Stenlund is a great fit for her role.

Before meeting her in person, a favorable impression was already made as she promptly replied to emails I sent as I tried to put our trip’s logistics in order.

She made time for us in the midst of a busy afternoon at headquarters. Her limited time there must be used efficiently, as she spends much of her time away from there, on the road, visiting with the fishing public at events all over North America.

We got to trade business cards and she brought me up to speed on the latest details for the professional guides’ program.

Before wrapping up our visit we spent some time in the factory retail store. I had narrowed down my choice for the next set of rods I had intended to order through the guide program before leaving Texas — rods specifically chosen for working my MAL Heavy and MAL Dense lures horizontally in deep water using a sawtooth method.

After handling the five different rods I felt might be good candidates, I selected a 7-foot, 3-inch Avid spinning rod with a medium-light action and fast tip to be the next set of six I would order under the 2022 guides’ program.

My wife spent her time trolling in the apparel department. As we shopped, folks came and went buying live bait, asking questions of the staff and bringing in rods for repair.

As we drove away headed for a day of walleye fishing on Green Bay, I remarked to my wife how the price tag on St. Croix’s rods seemed so much more appropriate after seeing how labor-intensive and time-consuming the production process is, and how many hands touch a given rod from start to finish.

I was also surprised to see how much less automation was involved in the production process versus that which I had envisioned before our visit.

Tours like the one we enjoyed are open to the public year ‘round. Two tours are offered each day, one at 9:30 a.m. and another at 12:30 p.m.. St. Croix encourages those interested to make a reservation ahead of time. Walk-in are accommodated on a stand-by basis until the tour groups reach 12 persons in number. See www.stcroixrods.com for more information.

MAL Lures are always ready to ship to you: ORDER HERE

[Linked Image]
Bob Maindelle, 254-368-7411
Holding The Line Guide Service
Stillhouse & Belton
Ask About Trips for Kids

Re: My Visit to the St. Croix Fishing Rod Factory [Re: Holding The Line] #14465412 09/01/22 07:25 PM
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 2,388
Luke57 Online Content
Extreme Angler
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Extreme Angler
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 2,388
St Croix rods are my favorite. I stopped by their booth at the Bass Master Classic at Dickies Arena great people

Save our planet it's the only one with beer
Re: My Visit to the St. Croix Fishing Rod Factory [Re: Holding The Line] #14468991 09/05/22 10:35 PM
Joined: Jul 2010
Posts: 73,407
banker-always fishing Online Content
Super Freak
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Awesome post. thumb

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