Celebrating 75 Years of Service to Anglers
June 13, 2023
St. Croix Rod is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2023. We’re proud of our 75 years in business and the control we command over our rod-manufacturing process – handcrafting the Best Rods on Earth® right here in North America. We’re proud that we’ve been owned by the same family for the last 46 of those years. Most of all, though, we’re grateful to you – our anglers – for the trust and confidence you’ve placed in us to add value to your precious time and experiences on the water.
A Look at How We Got Here
Founded by brothers Bob and Bill Johnson in 1948, St. Croix originally made and sold landing nets. The Johnson’s soon learned how to make cane fishing poles more portable by cutting them into three pieces and joining them back together with brass ferrules. St. Croix Rod has made fishing rods in the tiny Northwoods community of Park Falls, Wisconsin, continuously since that time.
When St. Croix experienced financial difficulties in 1960, Gordon Schluter – a Park Falls businessman and community leader – invested in the company and became CEO. He revitalized the company, which was subsequently sold in 1965.
Schluter then moved to New Mexico to pursue other business opportunities. In his absence, low-priced foreign markets and higher domestic costs pushed the company he’d worked so hard to fix towards bankruptcy in just a decade. At a time when he could have settled into a comfortable retirement, Schluter moved back to Park Falls, reengaged with St. Croix, and eventually purchased the company, hiring his sons Paul, Jeff, and David, who – along with their father – saved the company once again.
Gordon would eventually get his retirement in the 1990’s and transfer ownership of the company to his three sons and daughter, Pam Smylie. The four siblings have owned St. Croix ever since, shaping and leading the iconic, American fishing brand that millions of anglers have come to trust and rely upon today. Paul, Jeff, David, and Pam have also since retired, stepping back from the day-to-day operations of St. Croix Rod, but continuing to exercise leadership on the company’s board of directors, along with Pam’s husband, chairman of the board, John Smylie.
Always Moving Forward
Today, St. Croix is run by CEO, Scott Forristall, a former executive for two top fly-fishing companies. He is assisted by vice presidents, Jason Brunner, Alex Ogurek, Paul Rybak, Steve Self, and Jesse Simpkins. St. Croix owns and operates the two most technologically advanced fishing rod factories in the world, one in Park Falls, Wisconsin, and a duplicate facility in Fresnillo, Mexico. The materials, equipment, procedures, and passions are the same at each factory. The only difference is the 32 sets of hands that craft each and every St. Croix rod before it reaches yours. St. Croix currently offers over 800 different fishing rods, each one meticulously engineered and painstakingly handcrafted by passionate St. Croix team members to give you – our anglers – the upper hand on the water.
“Anniversaries are fun to celebrate, and we’re certainly proud of our 75 years in business,” says Forristall, “but the future will always remain most important. We move forward each and every day here at St. Croix. We take the best moments of discovery, learn from the rest, and move on to tomorrow where the materials, technologies and processes may change but the goal remains the same: keeping anglers at the center of everything we do, and handcrafting the Best Rods on Earth that improve the angling experience.”