While St. Croix rods aren’t exactly a household name in Australia, I believe they soon will be based off the model I just reviewed. Juro Fishing Australia has just taken over distribution of this very fine rod company and is doing it right with a big range that’s been hand-selected to suit Australian species and techniques. St. Croix is one the biggest rod companies in America thanks to its innovation, great designs and outstanding craftsmanship.
St. Croix began in Park Falls, Wisconsin, in 1948, when two anglers, Gordon Schluter and Bob Nordskog, set out to redefine the art of rod building. What started as a modest venture has since evolved into one of the America’s biggest rod companies, and St. Croix has consistently pushed the boundaries of innovation.
But what truly sets St. Croix apart is its dedication to the diverse needs of anglers. Whether you’re chasing perch up a Gippsland river, casting for trout in crystal-clear streams or battling the brutes of the open ocean, St. Croix offers a rod tailored to your specific angling needs.
The Rod We Needed
When Hooked Up’s esteemed editor Kosta Linardos handed me the St Croix Avid Panfish to review, I didn’t know what to expect but he hinted that he thought I’d like it. We spent a large chunk of Melbourne’s windy winter up in Gippsland chasing big estuary perch in snags and throughout these many days fishing, through long car rides and long phone calls at home, we discussed in great detail tackle, line, leader, reels and rods. We always do this, it’s part of the job when you review fishing gear, but the particular style of fishing we wanted had us noting a glaring hole in the market for rods that were sensitive enough to cast lightly weighted soft plastics but had the muscle to extract big angry perch from thick structure. We both got dusted multiple times throughout these trips and tested many rods. Some rods had the muscle and could cast distance but lacked accuracy and ergonomics, some had the distance and accuracy but lacked the muscle, and some had all three but suffered in their action when it came to lure retrieval.
Kosta had spoken to Juro’s sales manager Rick Massie, a competition bream angler, and had mentioned the kind of rod he was looking for. With St. Croix’s rich history on the American bass scene, Rick didn’t think it would be too hard to find a model that had the attributes we were looking for. I grabbed the rod and headed straight for Bemm River to test it on the same big perch we had been chasing through winter.
The Avid Panfish
Measuring at a precise 6ft 9in, and a highly versatile rating of 4-12lb, the Avid Panfish is the perfect balance for kayak and boat anglers. Its length is tailored to provide you with unparalleled versatility. It’s short enough for precise and effortless casting from a kayak, ensuring that you can reach those elusive spots with pinpoint accuracy. Simultaneously, it’s long enough to provide impressive casting distance when you’re out on a boat, allowing you to cover extensive areas effectively. The ergonomic design of the butt section ensures not only a secure grip but also lasting comfort along your forearm, ensuring you can fish for hours on end without fatigue.
Whether you’re pursuing the challenge of structure fishing for bream and estuary perch or aiming to land hefty flathead, elusive bass, or cunning snapper using oversized plastics and spinnerbaits, this rod proved its mettle. While it may not be tailored for casting small hard-bodies, it shines when handling single-hooked lures such as jig heads or small spinner baits, demonstrating its remarkable adaptability.
The Avid Panfish Rod features a medium-heavy action and a recommended line rating of 4-12 lbs, but its true potential goes well beyond these specifications. This rod has the versatility to comfortably handle line weights ranging from 4-16 lbs with unwavering poise. When subjected to load, it exhibits a surprisingly softer action, granting you the flexibility to cast lightweight 1/16th ounce jigheads or substantial 1/2 ounce jigheads with equal ease. The sensitive tip, a hallmark of St Croix’s craftsmanship, ensures that even the most delicately pinned hooks remain securely lodged in the fish’s mouth, reducing the chances of missed opportunities and pulled hooks. Yet it has a heap of muscle in the rear to extract big fish from structure.
These exceptional qualities stem from the company’s dedication to crafting their own blanks within their own factory, boasting an impressive 70-year legacy in rod building. It shows a commitment to research and development, coupled with valuable insights from knowledgeable anglers. Unlike generic blanks sourced from Chinese factories and hastily adorned with guides, these rods are a far cry from being simply marketed as excellent bream or bass rods. Although originally tailored for Panfish, they possess distinctive attributes that seamlessly cater to our specific angling needs.
One unique feature of the Avid series is St. Croix’s tear-drop-shaped guides, a stainless guide and ring that combine thinness with rigidity, and a well-thought-out guide train. They are light, highly durable and provide excellent casting and line management. While I’ve always been cautious of rods that don’t have Fuji guides or a proven technology such as Daiwa’s AGS guides, I found these stainless guides to have outstanding performance and a great addition for rods that will be predominantly used in saltwater.
Despite its resolute ability to dominate in the most challenging of situations, it retains a light action and impressive sensitivity, giving you the finesse required for those nuanced and strategic encounters with fish.
Many estuary anglers are looking for a rod that possesses these attributes of finesse, light lure casting distance and the strength to extract fish under heavy drag pressures but few exist. The Miller Brawler and the Samurai Infinite are two that get mentioned as having these attributes; I have used both and I find the Avid a superior and far more versatile rod. I will happily use this rod for bream, perch, flathead and snapper. At 6ft 9in, with premium cork handles, the unique guides, a true rating of 4-12lb and a beautifully versatile action, it’s a truly unique rod.
St. Croix takes pride in the aesthetics of its rods, and the Avid Panfish Rod is no exception. The rod features an impeccably placed hook keeper that doesn’t get in the way of your hands and fingers and keeps your lure out of harm’s way when stowed. The cork grip, aside from being visually appealing, enhances your sensitivity to bites and offers a comfortable grip that feels like an extension of your hand. It’s a fishing rod that not only performs exceptionally but also exudes a sense of craftsmanship and artistry.
The St. Croix Avid Panfish 4-12 is a unique model that I believe many anglers will appreciate. Its unparalleled versatility, ergonomic design and aesthetic appeal make it a great addition to your fleet or an alternative to multiple rods. Whether you target bass, perch, jacks, snapper, flathead or bream, this rod is more than just a wise choice; it’s a versatile powerhouse that can do the job of three rods. With a recommended price of $520, it isn’t cheap but it’s well priced when compared with other rods of a similar calibre and there aren’t many that are like this particular rod. One of the best features of buying a St Croix is the 15 year warranty, regardless of how you break it, for a $50 cost, including freight anywhere in Australia, you get a brand new replacement rod. I’ll be buying this review model and I can’t wait to see what else St. Croix has in its range.