Meet Our Machinery
September 15, 2020
Employee Profile: Alex Smay, St. Croix Rod Northeast Account Manager
Many anglers would love to work in the fishing industry. Life’s inevitable ups and downs aside, aligning one’s passions with their vocation is a fundamental formula for happiness. A big part of making the Best Rods on Earth® comes down to having the best – and dare we say happiest? – people on Earth.
Indeed, the St. Croix Team is known for being full of first-class people who are approachable, knowledgeable, passionate – and, yes – happy. One such individual is Northeast Regional Account Manager, Alex Smay, now in his third year with the company.
Smay has a strong background in sales and marketing, which grew from a marketing management degree he earned from Grove City College. “Upon graduation, I worked in internet marketing sales right out of school. I then transferred to Kinsey’s Outdoors, an outdoors retailer and distributor based in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania,” says Smay, who started with Kinsey’s as a Customer Service Manager before becoming Sales and Marketing Manager, then hit his stride as Marketing Manager. Smay jumped into his current role as Regional Account Manager with St. Croix in December of 2017.
“Dealing with so many reps in my past experience at Kinsey’s, I had a lot of insights into what a rep job looks like – both the good and the bad,” Smay relates. “As a rep for St. Croix, I get to work directly for the company as an employee, which is pretty unique. While other rep groups might have to work on promoting five, six, or seven different brands, I get to focus on and promote one premier brand. I really love just being dedicated to one great company. Not only that, but we have a really great group of people on the Sales Team – both externally and internally that I get to work with,” comments Smay.
Although his job duties are varied, his main responsibilities are sales in the diverse territory of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Ohio.
“So really, any rod we make – all 800 plus – I can sell in my territory; everything from trout and panfish to salmon and steelhead to heavy offshore stuff,” says Smay. “Every single rod in the catalog I can sell, which is a lot different than most territories. Most territories are bass-heavy, walleye-heavy, or heavy on something else. Walleye, bass, musky, trout, panfish, inshore, offshore, everything we make; I have dealers that sell those rods. That’s pretty cool. And not only am I dealing with small mom and pop stores, I also have the opportunity to work with some of our biggest retail partners like Tackle Direct, FishUSA, and Dick’s Sporting Goods.”
There’s a lot of dynamic work involved, but Smay wouldn’t want it any other way. “There’s great variety in what I do because of the territory I cover and the accounts I serve, and it always keeps things interesting.”
Because of St. Croix’s angler-focused company philosophy, Smay also gets involved with product development and new-rod design, something he greatly enjoys, but never thought would be in his wheelhouse.
“That’s been a lot of fun for me,” he says. “I get to serve as a conduit for bringing information to the production team. We’re building rods specifically for anglers in the field that live up to our mission of ‘Giving Anglers the Upper Hand.’ So, I’m in this role where I gather the information from the field and take it to our team so we really get the products dialed in. We’ve got a lot of passionate and knowledgeable anglers and dealers out here who keep us focused on having the right rods for the territory.”
Most recently, Smay was involved in the development of St. Croix’s new Mojo Inshore Series, which includes specific features and models that support the specific ways coastal anglers in his territory like to fish. “We designed some of them specifically for stripers and tuna, for example. Split handles have been replaced by full cork on light, medium-light, and medium power models by angler request. Medium-heavy, heavy and extra-heavy power rods have been upgraded with unique, full-length cork and EVA combination handles. This provides protection to stowed rods as the more durable EVA is positioned where the rod is most likely to contact the holder. The combo handle also allows anglers to enjoy the soft touch of the EVA in the upper part of the grip while retaining that familiar cork grip feel toward the bottom. These hybrid-handled Mojo Inshore rod models also feature an Alps non-marring rubber gimble which inhibits rods – especially those carrying larger, heavier reels from banging around in the rocket launcher or holder during rough rides to and from the fishing grounds. The new series has been extremely well received and actually won ‘Best New Saltwater Rod’ in the highly competitive ICAST 2020 New Product Showcase,” Smay says proudly. “It’s great to win awards, but what the awards mean is what’s important to us – that St. Croix is building the rods anglers need and want.”
A lifelong angler and hunter, Smay’s passions are diverse, including everything from archery to winter rabbit hunting to fly and saltwater fishing.
“Before I started working for St. Croix, my primary fishing passion was trout on the fly. I spent the majority of my angling time doing that, specifically chasing big trout with streamers,” Smay reports. “I’d be fishing streams six or seven feet wide and catching 18- to 22-inch wild brown trout. There’s a really great untapped fishing potential in Pennsylvania if you ever want to get off the beaten path a little bit. But since I started working for St. Croix, I’ve found myself in New York and New Jersey quite a bit doing a good amount of saltwater fishing. I was blown away by the intensity of the New York and New Jersey anglers. They’re a different breed. I know a lot of serious fishermen in Pennsylvania – bass fishermen and trout fishermen – but these guys are different. They have so much opportunity to fish – nine to ten months out of the year – and they’re on the water almost every day of the week. It’s interesting because they’ve made us better as a company. I’m not talking just about pro staff, but these anglers in general. They’re using our equipment so heavily because the seasons are so long and they’re so passionate about it that it causes us to make sure we have rods that live up to their demands.”
Being exposed to those fisheries more heavily, Smay recently caught his first tuna. “I went out with some guys and had the opportunity to learn a lot. It’s something I never had the chance to do before working for St. Croix.” Smay also has a passion for striper fishing, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he missed out on much of the height of the striper season that takes place in March, April, and May. He’s especially looking forward to fall striper opportunities. “Typically, when the day is done I find myself on the beach or a boat chasing stripers if I can,” he says.
Smay is enthusiastic and appreciative about the experiences working at St. Croix have provided.
“Working for St. Croix is awesome. It’s been a real joy and I love it. The staff includes some of the most knowledgeable rod builders and brightest engineers in the entire industry; it’s really fun to watch everything they go through to come out with truly innovative new designs,” says Smay, who also appreciates the fact that St. Croix is family owned. “That’s huge. Being able to talk to directly to the owners and witness their passion is really motivating. I knew I was going to love what I do, but it’s more than I could have ever imagined. That passion is there and visible in the entire team,” he adds. “Whether it’s someone putting rods in sleeves at the end of production, or the sales team, marketing team, or the designers, everyone is so passionate about the brand because they know what it represents – our promise to anglers. We all push each other to innovate and be even better. There’s nobody that sits on the sidelines. It’s a great team of people and makes every day at work a blast.”