Thursday, January 26, 2012

St Croix 15' Avid Review

Well I think I have already explained the perks of the GBO demo program to everyone via the Riverkeeper Frogwater post. The other item of interest I had gotten on loan to demo was St Croix's latest offering...the AVID series.  In particular the AVID/AVS150MLM3. St Croix's 3 piece 15' offering to the Centrepinning world.

The specs of this rod are as follows:
*length - 15'
*configuration - 3 piece
*power - medlight
*action - moderate
*blank construction - SCIII Graphite IPC Technology
*rating 6-10lb 1/4 to 5/8 oz
*guides - Fuji® Alconite® Concept Guide System with black frames.
*handle - St Croix Sliding Rings
*manufactured in USA

First off... going in I have to say I had been a fan of the big sticks for a while. For a few years I began to exclusively fish a 15' Frontier. In fact I loved that rod so much that I bought a spare blank to spin up my own personal tie. Life interjected and things seemed to change so I never got around to it. It's on the list though just need to find the time and inspiration. So... I was willing and eager to accept an offer to fish the AVID. My initial impressions of the rod were positive. The glossy slate grey blank offers up a very refined look. The Black Fuji Concept guides add stealth to the presentation and the blue-grey guide wraps add just a enough colour to complement the blank while keeping the package clean and mean. I like the Fuji Concepts and had used them on my 13' Rainshadow 1562IST build a few years back. They are very sharp looking guides and have been bullet proof for me. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the sliding ring handle configuration but I do understand it's purpose on factory rods. It does provide some flexibility for the end user to land on their personal reel placement location.
I have a factory Loomis GL3 that I cherish with slide rings and have contemplated many times stripping the handle and doing it up with a fixed reel seat but just can't bring myself to tamper with something that already works. The St Croix offering is the works and works good. The added rubberized cork accents at the top and butt of the handle add some elegance to the arrangement but more note worthy about the butt addition is the fact that it will provide some wear protection for the armpit tuckers...and trust me...mid day with this bad boy and you will be tucking it under your arm. I had a 13' St Croix Wild River that had worn a flat spot on the inside of the butt section from rubbing on my wading jacket underarm over the years. I miss that rod...a true noodle.
I didn't put the rod together until we made the cabin last Friday night. When I did I had my 15' Frontier beside her for an accurate benchmark comparison keeping in mind that I have a custom tie with a reduced guide count configuration. The first thing I noted was the blank butt diameter was larger on the St Croix.
I followed the taper of each through to the first and second joints and the St Croix diameter remained larger. This explained why the overall weight seemed greater. Now I am operating off of assumption as I technically didn't weigh both. I tried but we don't seem to have a digital kitchen scale at the cottage. (yeah I was surprised too!) Also there are fewer guides on my custom so that would lend to it feeling lighter as well but I'm still thinking its heavier. Another point of note... I question why so many guides? There are 14 guides on this blank adding to the overall weight. I'm sure that they could have reduced it down to 12 without compromising the action thus shedding some weight. I paired the rod up with the Frogwater as I was dying to fish it. Would probably been better to pair it up with a heavier float reel to afford some attempt at balancing out the rod better. Nonetheless I'm sure it would still remain tip heavy. Finally the morning rolled around and I got to put her through the paces. The thing I love about 15' sticks are their ability to effortlessly cast a mile. With minimal effort I was reaching the center lines of the river without being waist deep in the flow. Another point of note is the ease of line control. When fishing big flows line control is unparalleled with a 15' rod. This particular morning was under a severe cold snap so the plethora of guides were adding to the inherent problems of fishing below freezing...icy guides!  The rod length definitely aids in line retrieval as one can pick up a "mile" of line and flick spin retrieve quite efficiently. This outing didn't offer the opportunity to put a bend in the blank but there was always the next day. Sunday morning found me on the river again. The temps were more favourable but there was a moderate and increasing downriver wind.
This quickly brought to light an unfavourable characteristic of the larger taper and lengh of this stick. The wind picked it up like a flag pole and added to the stresses it was putting on my shoulder already. Now there needs to be some form of understanding when fishing an affordable 15' float rod offering. The first is that there will always be some facsimile of stress on ones shoulder. There has to be...The ability to perfectly balance these rods out is slim to none without loading up the butt section with an anchor for a reel which essentially moves the problem. Some times we gotta step up and be men...Right! I'm just sayin...Go to the Gym! But when the wind is rocking and you are swinging a large taper stick it can be frustrating to futile. Point of note...I fished the Niagara one day with Norland. We made the hike down and it became quickly apparent that the wind was tunnelling through the gorge. It became even more so apparent when my Frontier had a bend in it and my float and line were flailing in the wind parallel to the surface of the water about 5 feet above it. Needless to say...that was not a fun outing. Finally my float dropped and the rod loaded up nicely. I will admit that the bend in a large stick will put a smile on your face. The lengh does offer up some forgiveness as well. I was cautious not to test the overall power of this stick on the first fish as I greatly needed the photo op. As luck would have it the fish won that round but there were 5 other opportunities that afforded me the ability to put the blank through the paces and some critters on the bank.

The following are my findings... likes and dislikes of this blank.

-visually appealing...clean attractive finish and sweet lines
-Fuji concepts in black...very stealth
-15' length
-3 piece design...breaks down nicely for transport
-action...nice semi parabolic bend
-power...inherent power of the big stick.  There when you need it.
-price...msrp $300

-butt diameter and overall taper
-number of guides
-overall weight
-tip heavy
-wind sock
-sliding rings

Final Thoughts:
I'll have to admit I was a little disappointed with this blank from the weight and taper perspective.  St Croix had the opportunity to take some readily available feedback from the Centrepinning community and really challenge themselves to put out a fair priced production blank that afforded some progression in this regard.  It doesn't take a genius to figure out what everyone really wants in a big stick and it doesn't take much effort to drum up that feedback.  Also to me it was a marginal step backwards from previous 15' offerings to the steelheading community.  Now having said this...the blank fishes well.  It is heavy and picks up the wind very easy but it certainly is nice with a critter on the other end.  It wouldn't be fair to compare this stick to say a GLX as the price point difference doesn't even warrant the effort.  In summary if you are looking for an affordable "brand new" 15' float rod with a lifetime warranty and can handle a minor workout over the course of your day this stick is for you.  If you are already suffering from shoulder issues or are just plain soft stay away.  This stick is for men!

You can read more about St Croix and their AVID series of rods via their website


JBR said...

"going in I have to say I had been a fan of the big sticks for a while."

And YOU make fun of my red line... LOL

Greg Lum said...

Erie Outfitters had a couple of those rods and I thought it was too heavy better suited for bigger and faster water. Great write up Brian!

Harv said...

Good review buddy! I am not a fan of the 15' rod as I don't think the 18" is really worth the extra weight - there are so many quality 13'6" rods on the market that are light and powerful. I sold my 15' Frontier last month as I had no desire to fish it ever again. Having said that I would like to give the 15' GLX a go just to see.....

lambton said...

JB, beat Norland to the punch. I knew I was gonna get some heat for this post. lol!

Thanks for the kudos' boys. Can't wait to float the GLX tomorrow. That is one report I am really looking forward to doing the field work on. Thanks again to the Harv's for the hospitality. Not too many peeps out there that will flip you a brand new $600+ stick for a spin and say we need it back in the spring.

Harv said...

No problem buddy! it is the least I could do in return for you giving me that key to the bunk house you are fixing up for me!!! Good luck tomorrow - looking forward to the write up!

Trotsky said...

You are an AVID lover of buggery