St. Croix Rod Factory Now Open to the Public

For the first time in its history, St. Croix Rods has opened their Park Falls, Wis. factory to the public for tours, which started in June.

Their slogan, “It’s one thing to go somewhere and see where history is made. It’s quite another to see where the future is made,” really hit it home for me during a Media Day Tour hosted by St. Croix a few weeks ago. This truly was an opportunity to go behind the scenes and see firsthand how handcrafted, high-quality fishing rods are manufactured and to learn the details about the process.

Ken Boness, who recently retired after a 15-year career with St. Croix, was our tour guide.

“You are coming to see a demonstration on how a rod is made,” Boness said proudly. “You are invited into our factory literally to be elbow-to-elbow with our manufacturing staff to learn how we make ‘The Best Rods on Earth.’”

The tour takes about 90 minutes to complete and is limited to just 10 guests per day—with an advance signup required—to allow you to get up close to the staff and machinery that moves a St. Croix rod from an initial raw material composition all the way through to the shipping department.

I was struck by the obvious personal pride that factory staff invested in the manufacturing process. St. Croix rod production is a hands-on process for many of the experts involved. Over 175 people contribute to the production line in some way. There’s Charlie Bolton, who personally sands every single rod blank and smooths it to remove burrs that form as a natural part of the production process in advance of the paint application. Also, there’s JoJo Eitrem, who places each and every rod on an “action-test” whiteboard, measuring to ensure precise tolerances for a “rod bend” are met. And another worker, Betty Brendel, is one who hand-paints individual spring bobber tips that eventually are added to ice fishing rods.

During the tour you’ll meet these and other staffers who share intimate details on how their efforts ensure that every rod is a quality product. Depending on which models need to fill the pipeline, 2,000 to 4,000 rods will flow through the factory a week at the Park Falls facility.

While the tour gives you an intimate feel for how fishing rods are made and helps you better understand the quality of workmanship, you can also enjoy some historical tidbits. The company has accumulated over 25,000 “mandrills,” which you can see stocked at the beginning of the tour. Representing the investment in the millions of dollars, these act as the “mold” that raw materials envelop and eventually are removed after a curing process. And yes, an individual factory staffer is trusted with the removal of each mandrill from the blank.

At the tour’s conclusion, our host Ken Boness produced an antique St. Croix Rod from a collection displayed in the company’s break room. Boness explained how a very lightweight rod like the one he was holding was produced as a “gag gift” for a 1965 New York Outdoor Writer’s Conference—a certain writer was presented with the gift by his peers, with the joke being he wouldn’t require anything heavier due to his penchant for catching only small fish. However, the rod was transported to his favorite upstate trout-fishing waters and he proceeded to have tremendous fun catching fish on the lightweight combo. Soon thereafter, the St. Croix “Imperial 2901-ULF” model was produced and the ultralight fishing rod was born.

For more information…
To experience the tour for yourself, you’ll need to schedule a reservation by emailing FactoryTour@stcroixrods.com or by calling them at 800-826-7042. The tour is ideal for groups of fishing buddies, families and folks on vacation in Wisconsin. Because the tour is limited to just 10 visitors daily, you’re encouraged to make plans early.