Field Test: St. Croix Avid Series Surf
The first indicator that the St. Croix Avid is not an ordinary rod is the color of the blank; the luminous candy apple red metallic finish sticks out like a shooting star among a sea of black blanks. And the “wow” moments do not stop there. I should know, since I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time practically living with the 10-foot spinning version for the last two months. Like many of you who first and foremost consider yourselves a surf rat, I’ve been wary of two-piece surf rods. Nightmares of top/bottom seismic shifts while in the throes of a cast, or worse, the blank doing the jitterbug just as a cow inhales the plug, had been enough to keep me in the one-piece-rod-carrying category. But the two-piece rods of today are not your grandfather’s monstrosities. In fact, it is quite the contrary as modern blank development technology is skewed toward two-piece rods.
The Avid 10-foot features a 70/30 top/bottom blank distribution so when the ferrules snick into place just above the foregrip, it feels solid as an all-in-one. As soon as I pressed the top and bottom pieces together, I eyeballed the rod and from butt to tip it smacked of quality. One you get past the finish, you notice the St. Croix emblem and lettering are arranged tastily and the black Fuji K-Series guides just plain look right. The feel of the rod was feather-light and as I shook it, the blank was obviously fast-very fast-but the question that had yet to be answered was how it was going to perform in the field!
I would discover in short order that the St. Croix Avid was more than just a pretty face. My opening salvo took place at the Winthrop side of Boston Harbor; about 100 yards out there was a blitz along with a few boats giving chase. Casting distance was of the essence, so I snapped on a 1.25-ounce pencil popper and was able to reach those fish with no problem. While the mid-20-inch fish did not provide a test for the Avid, what I did notice was now comfortable the cork tape rod handle felt along with the Fuji DPS reel seat. It seemed as if I could cast this rod all day long. And even though the blank has fast action, when I needed to feather a cast toward closer fish, I was able to drop it gently in the chosen direction, which is in stark contrast to the “splat effect” which I’ve been accustomed to with other extra-fast blanks.
The 10-foot Avid spin blank is rated for lures between 1 and 4 ounces and it handles that spectrum as specified. Most of the baits that I throw fall in the 1- to 2-ounce bracket, and it is extremely comfortable throwing those. But I have pitched everything from 4-inch Storm Shads to 7 ¼-inch Sebile Stick Shadds and it handles it all effortlessly.
The ultimate concern I had with such a light blank was from the start how it would handle the heat of a big fish with bad intentions. It took until November 8th for me to find this out. At the end of an 80-yard cast with a 1-ounce jighead/Gulp! Jerk Shad, a 30-pound-class striper struck. I was in a perilous place to say the least–with a buoy 20 yards to the left of where I stood, rip-rap 30 yards to the right of where the fish struck, and sharp-edged ledge just beyond my feet, I could not afford to give this fish much quarter. Fortunately, the first run was out of harm’s way, and once I recovered line I began to buckle down on the fish and was amazed at how deftly the rod moved that determined bass. Now I was faced with the buoy and the ledge and could ill afford to give anything to this fish, even though I knew it would throw another run my way. So I cupped the spool, stretched the 40-pound Super Slick Power Pro for what it was worth, and steered the reluctant striper away and above both hazards and into the waiting hands of my friend Rick Holbrook. “Man,” Rick said, “That rod has guts!”
The only problem is I find myself uncontrollably taken to wiping the rod down between outings. George Harrison once wrote that iconic ode to his guitar obsession, “While my guitar gently weeps.” While I’m no guitar-man, thanks to the Avid I think I know how he felt.