St. Croix Rod Employee Spotlight
May 14, 2019
Find a musky enthusiast with an engineering degree fresh out of college and ask if he’d like to help design the best fishing rods on earth. What do you think the answer might be?
“Awesome!” says Gavin Falk from Phillips, WI. Three years ago he already had a field service position lined-up after graduating from University of Wisconsin-Platteville when his father mentioned a job opportunity at St. Croix rods that he had seen in a local paper. “I said, ‘What the heck’,” recalls Gavin, now in his third year with the company. “I applied right away and was very fortunate to receive the position. I’ve been learning and growing here ever since.”
Starting as a project engineer at St. Croix’s Park Falls, WI facility, Gavin underwent a crash course in professional rod manufacturing. He spent time initially acquiring knowledge about all the different components that go into St. Croix’s cutting edge fishing sticks. He worked on the floor implementing process improvement projects and learning all the work force labor jobs as well as the procedures that corresponded with bringing together a high-quality product. It was a lot to absorb at first, he admitted, but digging right in proved to be a smart choice as evidenced by Gavin’s recent promotion to engineering supervisor.
“This really is an amazing place to work,” says Gavin. “Things change daily so it’s always interesting. These days I’m leading product team meetings and I have two engineering assistants under my direction. We’re in charge of producing all the rod samples for each year, as well as creating prototypes to be tested for future development, plus any other rod testing that needs to be done. We build anywhere from 200-500 prototypes for testing each year.”
Always striving to improve the manufacturing processes, Gavin works especially hard at decreasing prototype turnaround time. That, he explains, eventually leads to creating smoother floor processes that decrease manufacturing lead times. To help improve quality control, he tweaks component designs using a 3D printer, creating variations of smaller parts to see which will be easy to manufacture, functional, and still able to take a beating out on the water.
Does Gavin have a favorite St. Croix rod? You bet: The Premier Musky Rod, #PM90XHF. “It’s the premier rubber rod for musky fishing,” he says proudly. “It’s a 9-foot rod rated for up to 16 ounces. I’m especially proud of this one because I had a hand in the testing and overall handle design. The rod is special to me because it allows anglers to fish longer due to an unmatched comfort configured in the handle.” In addition to the Premier Musky Rod, Gavin has been working on a Mojo Musky redesign.
Gavin fishes about three times per week throughout the season and uses this time to relate specific techniques to new possible rod designs. There’s no doubt he can fish a rod as well as build one. In addition to the Premier series, he favors the Legend series for bass and walleye. His current fishing goal is to break the 50” musky barrier, preferably using a rod he’s helped design.
As for working at St. Croix, Gavin really enjoys the team atmosphere. “When I started here, I worked a lot with Dave Schluter, our VP of Manufacturing,” he reveals. “He taught me about designing the componentry, the handles and the guide trains - so the learning all comes right from the top. I’m always appreciative of that. Every week my team talks with Jeff Schluter, VP of Brand Management, too, about cosmetics, various paints, details, handle textures, and all things related to marketing. There’s plenty we need to cover to get it all right and keep improving. It’s really like putting together a great, big puzzle. When you finally get all the pieces to fit just right, everyone goes home with a really good feeling.”