St. Croix's history reads as the straight definition of hard work and determination. In 1948, co-founders Bob and Bill Johnson, both avid fishermen, decided to construct and sell landing nets. Their quality nets (complete with cedar handles, ash hoops, and hand-sewn netting) proved too costly for most sportsmen. A brainstorming session saved the then fledgling company. Perusing a display of cane fishing poles, the brothers decided to modify them to make them portable. They cut the poles into three shorter lengths and fitted them with brass ferrules. A local hardware merchant immediately ordered 500 rods, and the St. Croix Rod Company was born. Brother Doug Johnson and cousin John Olson joined the new venture. It is not clear how they decided upon the company name, but since the St. Croix River bordered their stomping grounds of Minnesota and Wisconsin, it is surmised that this was how the namesake was chosen. Efforts turned to expanding the product line and improving production equipment. Olson, an expert machinist, built much of the equipment that was used for many years. Originally based in Unity, Wisconsin, the busy company soon needed to open a second plant in the nearby community of Loyal. Within the first year the payroll grew from eight employees to 90. A summertime fishing trip in 1953 introduced the St. Croix's owners to the Park Falls area. Once again St. Croix needed room to expand and the Park Falls Area Industrial Development Corporation courted the owners with friendliness and attractive incentives. The company celebrated its grand opening in Park Falls in November of 1954. Over the years, there were a variety of goods manufactured that were essential to the development and success of the company. Solid and tubular rod blanks were sold to other companies such as Zebco and Water King. Private brand rods were created for Orvis, L.L. Bean, Cabela's, South Bend, Cortland and many others. Sundry items such as Department of Natural Resources shocking rods and landing nets, pool cues and marine antennas all contributed to the company's longevity. The Schluter Family Legacy In 1960 a group of businessmen from Park Falls invested in St. Croix. The company was struggling financially and needed more capital to invest in growth. Key to this change was one of the new owners: Mr. Gordon Schluter, proprietor of the local radio station and an astute businessman. The sales program was in a state of regression. To help rebuild sales, Schluter moved his family and took on the responsibility of Western Sales Manager in Boulder, Colorado. By 1965, he was back in his beloved Park Falls as the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer. In 1967, the revitalized company was sold to Schaper Manufacturing of Minneapolis. Schluter stayed on for a year as CEO and then moved his family to New Mexico. Products such as reels imported from Japan and leaders, hooks and lures from Hong Kong were added to the product line. During the early 1970s, sales seemed to increase quickly; however, much of the accumulated volume was due to under pricing to maintain a competitive edge. Low-priced foreign markets and higher costs at home left St. Croix in serious trouble by the mid 1970s. Schaper management decided to close the doors at the end of 1977. Once again, the Park Falls community leaders rallied together. They contacted Gordon Schluter in New Mexico and urged him to see if Schaper would sell the troubled company. Schluter and two partners, Norman and Leonard Hoefferle, ended up buying the company. Schluter noted: "We had put a lot into that company over the years. A lot of heart. Thinking about moving back and driving past a boarded-up building really bothered me." At this time, St. Croix remained the only major manufacturer of rods left in the United States. With Schluter at the helm, the decision was made to discontinue the terminal tackle business and to direct all efforts toward manufacturing quality fishing rods for which the company was best known. In the early 1980s Gordon purchased the ownership interest from the Hoefferles. Son Paul Schluter was hired as St. Croix's first employee sales representative. Paul remarks: "When I started working, things were pretty desperate. During my first week in the field, I realized our product line was outdated and we'd have to make some significant changes. Our rod designs were outdated and we were about five years behind the times in materials. We were late getting into graphite from fiberglass." Their rebirth can be credited to dogged hard work and determination. They began improving the quality of the products and sourcing new components. A large private-label contract with Zebco boosted their efforts. The company's survival is largely credited to Gordon Schluter's dedication, but other family members have become equally wrapped up in the St. Croix legacy. Paul recalls, "Getting the Zebco contract helped rescue the company but a lot of hard work went into it. I remember in spring of 1984 we were close to missing a delivery date with them so we rented a U-Haul truck and drove 24 hours straight to Tulsa to get one of their first shipments delivered on time." Paul's brother, Jeff, joined the family business in 1984 as a St. Croix factory sales representative in the upper Midwest. Jeff was met with a sense of nostalgia about St. Croix rods, but little interest from retail store buyers. Equipped with the newly redesigned Premier series rod (originally introduced in 1964 as a tubular fiberglass rod, it was re-introduced in 1984 as a graphite rod), the gifted salesman increased sales 15 times over between 1984 and 1990. He was promoted to Vice President of Sales and Marketing and continues to focus on advertising and working closely with the design team in the development of new products. Brother David Schluter joined St. Croix in 1992. He completely redesigned the shop and restructured the management information systems. He was also integral in implementing an incentive program that rewarded employees for their efforts to help accomplish company goals. David is now Vice President of Manufacturing. Sister Pam Schluter Smylie is not involved in the daily operations of the company, but is essential when it comes to organizing special events. She initiated the efforts to commemorate the company's 50th anniversary in 1998. In January of 1990 the four younger Schluters bought the company from Gordon. They continue to honor his deep sense of commitment and dedication to deliver top-quality products for fishing enthusiasts. Today, St. Croix is recognized throughout the world as a pioneer in the development of high performance fishing rods.
St Croix Rods angling, which is another word for fishing, is the art of catching fish, whether fishing for saltwater, ice, fly or freshwater species. It involves enticing a fish into biting or striking the bait or lure. Most people go fishing with a rod, a reel, line, a hook, a sinker, and bait or a lure. People fish for sport, or for food or both. According to historians, fishing started back about 2000 B.C. when Egyptians used a rod and line or a net to capture their aqueous prey. The Chinese back at that time used silk line, a hook made out of a needle, a bamboo rod, and cooked rice for bait. The Greeks, Assyrians, and others fished in ancient times also. Fishing tackle has taking major "jumps" from old style to new style over the years. Rods have remained short for a long time. They were usually only a few feet in ancient times, but these days there are rods that are fifty feet long which are used for fishing "matches" or tournaments in Europe. Ancient rods were usually made of bamboo. Rods before the eighteenth century were sometimes made of lace wood or greenheart. In the nineteenth century new techniques for bamboo rods, like strips glued together or hexagonal, were made. It wasn't until the twentieth century when fiberglass and graphite rods were made. Fishing reels have also made much advancement over the years. The first basic reel had a wooden spool with a metal ring attached that the fisherman put his finger through. Then reels with multiplying gears came on the scene, which became the prototype of bait casting reels in the 1800's. In 1896 William Shakespeare made a reel with a levelwind which evenly spun line onto the reel. Now there are bait casters with digital cast control systems and spinning reels with sixteen bearings. These are just a couple of the advancements of reels. The lure is one of most important tools in fishing and has made many changes in the way we fish. There are six basic kinds of lures: spinner type lures, plugs, jigs, soft plastics, spoons, and flies. Spinner type lures have a shaft, split rings, a hook, a blade, a clevis, and a weight. They work in both clear and dirty water. The flash from the blade is the most attractive part, and indeed will make many fish from bluegills to muskies hit this lure. There are four different kinds of spinner type lures: standard spinners, weight forward spinners, spinner baits, and buzz baits. A standard spinner will catch almost all types of game fish and ranges in size from one inch to about eight inches. A weight forward spinner is mostly for trolling or drifting for smallmouths, walleyes, and pike. A spinnerbait, which is used for bass, pike, and muskies, has a bent shaft and one- to four-blades. A buzzbait looks a lot like a spinnerbait, but it is reeled on the surface while the blade spins and makes noise and commotion on the top of the water. It catches the same species as a spinnerbait will. Plugs are usually made to look like baitfish, but others are made to look like bugs, crayfish, and frogs. There are nine different types: stickbaits, propbaits, crawlers, chuggers, crankbaits, minnow plugs, vibrating crainkbaits, trolling plugs, and jerkbaits. These lures can be used for all species of game fish under most conditions and come in a wide variety of shapes and colors. Stickbaits, propbaits, crawlers, and chuggers are all topwater baits and are mostly used for bass. Jerkbaits are sometimes larger and used for pike and muskies. They dive when given a powerful jerk, then rise back to the surface. A minnow bait is usually a stick of either plastic or balsa that is shaped like a minnow. Some of them contain rattles and some suspend in the water column when stopped. Crankbaits are probably the most popular and versatile lures on the market and catch many species of fish, however most people consider them a bass lure. They range in size from one inch to about twelve inches. Vibrating crankbaits consist of a shad shaped chamber and several rattles which will also attract most gamefish. Trolling plugs are used for trolling in a boat and usually have a big, flattened forehead that gives the lure a wide wobble. They are usually not cast because they are too light. They work for many species from walleye to muskies. When most people think of jigs, they think of a jighead with either soft plastic, live bait, or hair. However there are three other different types of jigs: jigging spoons, vibrating blades, and tail spins. The standard jig, which is a jighead with some type of trailer on it, is effective when the fish are in a neutral or negative feeding mood because it can be fished slowly. They are also effective for active if you swim the standard jig with live bait or plastics. Jigging spoons are used mostly when ice fishing for pike, walleye, and panfish, which are usually tipped with a minnow. Vibrating blades can be trolled or cast, and consist of a metal blade with a chamber that holds rattles, much like a rattling plug. They work for most predator species and can be used with many techniques. The blade has a tight wiggle that shakes the rattles. Tailspins consist of a blade, a hook, and a weight which is usually the body. They can be reeled at a steady pace or jigged while the blade spins on the shaft. Most people use them for bass and panfish. Soft plastics are from the 1860's, but when they first came out they were harder and weren't as lifelike as today's soft plastics. Today there are many, many different kinds, shapes, and colors of soft plastics. Some of the favorites are worms (which were the first to come out on the market), lizards, tubes, flukes, craws, grubs, swim baits, paddle tails, and many others. Soft plastics are banned in some parts of the world because they aren't biodegradable, but now with the new biodegradable baits, that problem is being solved. Many soft plastics are impregnated with scent and have salts to allow the fish to hold on to the bait for a longer period of time. If you're fishing in weeds, either a Carolina rig or a Texas rig would be the best choices. If you're fishing rocks or weed edges, I would use a jig head or a live bait or Aberdeen hook with split shots six to ten inches above the hook if the fish are finicky. Spoons, which wobble or flutter, mimic injured or crippled baitfish and are used for bass, pike, muskies, trout, and salmon. Most of them are either standard or trolling spoons, but there are also weedless spoons which are used for bass in weeds or slop. Trolling spoons are lighter and thinner than standard casting spoons, so they're hard to cast. Trolling spoons need a weight or a diving board to fish with because they would flutter back to the top of the water. Most people use downriggers or dipsy divers. Some spoons have trebles and others have single hooks. The reason for single hooks is that they are less damaging to the fish's mouth. Flies are one of the oldest types of lures, which consist of a hook, hair, and sometimes beads or wire. Flies seam pretty simple, but their harder to make than it looks. Most people use a fly rod, but you can also use spinning equipment with a casting bubble. Casting with a fly rod is also harder than it looks. Fly fishing is harder to learn, but some find it more rewarding "doing it the old way" and some find it more of a challenge or enjoyment. I am not a fly fisherman, so I know more about spinning and baitcasting techniques. Your reel is one of the most important part of any angling situation because you wouldn't be able to retrieve or put much action or cadence to your lure. There are four different types of reels: spinning, baitcasting, spincast, and fly reels. Spinning reels, also called open face reels, are probably the most popular and versatile of all reels, which are mostly used for finesse situations or for panfish. The bigger sizes are used for bigger species or for saltwater but are rarely used for trolling. Lighter line is usually used on spinning reels because heavier line would coil off like a spring which can make a mess at some times. While you spin the handle on a spinning reel, the rotor spins while a gear pushes the spool up and down to wind the line on evenly. Baitcast reels fall into three categories: Round, low profile, and trolling reels. Round reels are basically the standard of baitcasting reels and usually hold a lot of line. They are used mostly for bass, pike, and muskies, but there are smaller sizes for crappie fishing. Low profile baitcasting reels are easier to palm, but sometimes don't hold as much line. They are mostly used for bass fishing. For reducing the amount of backlashes, or "professional overrun", most baitcasters have a cast control and either a magnetic, centrifugal, or digital cast controls. Trolling reels are usually bigger and harder to palm. They used mostly to catch bigger species, but can fish for everything from walleyes with small crankbaits to huge marlin with cut bait. Most of these have a clicker, a levelwind, and usually a simple anti-backlash mechanism. Spincast reels, also called push button reels, are usually easier to use. They are like a spinning reel except the face is closed and the spool is not pushed up and down, so the line is not spooled as evenly on. These reels usually have sticky drags and don't hold out as good as spinning or baitcasting, so I wouldn't recommend fishing for large fish with these reels. Fly reels are one of the simplest made because it is usually used only to hold line, except for the few times a big fish pulls line from the reel. Most have multiplying gears, but some are single action, meaning that each turn of the handle the spool rotates several times. Fishing rods come in all different types, one for every situation you face in fishing. Different types of rods are usually determined in power, action, length, and pieces. Power is basically how "beefy" the rod is. Action is how the bend fluctuates in the rod. For example, a slow action rod has a more even bend up the whole rod and a fast action has a tip that bends faster than the rest of the rod. Many anglers get these two mixed up. Length is a very important consideration when buying a rod. You should ask yourself some questions when determining the length of your rod. Do you need to cast far, or do you need to keep the line off the water as much as possible? Well, then I would buy a long rod. But what if the area you fish is confined and is littered with brush and trees? Then I would opt for a short rod. Ok, now, how about do you need to travel, or do you want a handy "car rod". Then you will want to get a rod that comes in connectable pieces. Most pieced rods are two pieces, but some can even be eight pieces. But you can't forget the categories of rods! Typically there are spinning, bait casting, and fly fishing rods. Spinning rods are of course for spinning reels and bait casting rods are for bait casting reels. The differences are that spinning rods have bigger guides, and bait casting rods have what is called the trigger under the reel seat. There are many more things that I could cover on the art of angling, but it would almost be too much to mention everything there is to it. But hopefully you get the idea of what fishing is all about and maybe you picked up a few tips.