PARK FALLS, Wisc. – Springtime is here. No matter where one plies the briny trade of surf and inshore fishing, late April, May and early June will likely offer some of the year’s best action. Whatever your quarry, be prepared, because it’s time to stick it to them with St. Croix Saltwater Rods.
“It’s amazing how the action suddenly comes alive this time of year,” says Alex Smay, Northeast Account Manager for St. Croix Rod, whose vocation keeps him in constant communication with those on the front lines of saltwater fishing’s daily evolutions. “In southern waters, big tarpon, redfish and snook action is about to explode, while striper action is seriously building along the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic coasts, where gorilla blues should also be arriving shortly. And the back-bay action with the bass is already off to an especially great start.”
Both boating anglers and surf rats need look no further than New Jersey’s Raritan Bay to see just how strong a striper run can be. The bass show up here both hungry and ready to spawn, filtering in from waters a bit offshore and farther south before entering the Hudson River estuary where their annual big dance takes place. Whether you call them linesiders, rockfish or stripers, they’re stacking up right now in all the familiar locations – holding in the larger bays, pushing into the creeks, and patrolling channel edges in open water. Similar striper action builds in the Cape May area, Delaware Bay, the expansive Chesapeake Estuary and along the Southern New England coast. Only a decade ago, most anglers expected to catch their biggest stripers during the fall migration, but recent years have seen some of the biggest cows trailing the bunker schools in May and June.
Meanwhile, to the south, redfish and snook are also on a tear. It’s happening right now in tidal and estuary systems throughout the Carolinas and in Georgia, Florida, and Gulf Coast marshes from Tampa Bay straight across to Corpus Christi. Big tarpon are on the move, too, from the Florida Keys and along the Lee Island Coast to Boca Grande. Toss in some great-eating grouper, snapper, cobia and sheepshead in near-shore waters and you’ll never go hungry during the spring run.
“With so many options, you’ll want to cover all the bases when it comes to tackle selection,” suggests Smay. “That includes having the Best Rods on Earth® in your arsenal so you’ll never be under-gunned or out-performed. That’s where St. Croix’s Mojo Inshore and Mojo Surf series really shine. These rods give anglers the upper hand in any inshore- or surf-fishing opportunity they’ll encounter; St. Croix made sure of it by working extensively with its regional pro staff to design these rods.
“Expanded and redesigned for 2021, the St. Croix Mojo Inshore Series of spinning and casting rods offers significantly increased performance and versatility while maintaining affordable Mojo pricing,” explains Smay. “There’s simply no other lineup at this price point in the saltwater inshore market with such a combination of power, durability and sensitivity. Upgrades include lighter, premium-quality SCIII carbon blanks enhanced via Integrated Poly Curve® (IPC®) mandrel technology to eliminate all transition points from butt to tip, Sea Guide Hero high-grade guides, plus a comfortable contoured handle and Fuji reel seat. The light, medium-light, and medium power models now sport full cork handles while medium-heavy, heavy and extra-heavy power rods feature unique, full-length cork and EVA combination handles. Finished in striking shade of Deep Aquamarine, the expanded series offers incredible versatility, including 27 total rods with 19 spinning and 8 conventional models.”
Beach practitioners looking to reap the rewards of the springtime runs will be well served to check out St. Croix’s Mojo Surf Series of one- and-two-piece spinning and casting rods, as well as its recently refreshed Triumph Surf Series of one- and two-piece spinning (5), and four-piece travel spinning (2) rods.
Smay notes the multi-piece models feature offset ferrules set deep in the blank for one-piece performance. An emphasis on moderate-fast action choices means all of these rods are designed to overpower big fish while not beating up anglers. The Mojo Surf Series includes 10 spinning selections and four casting models, while Triumph Surf offers seven spinning choices. All are crafted from premium SCII carbon.
“The Mojo Surf series is designed so you can fish for an entire day or night while minimizing casting fatigue. They cast exceptionally well and feature specialized weight-saving surf guides with zirconium rings and black frames designed specifically to handle braided lines,” explains Smay. “Their more moderate actions are forgiving on the hook set, yet powerful and responsive enough to work a big pencil popper or metal-lipped swimmer with ease.”
“I just love the Mojo Surf series,” says St. Croix pro-staffer, Matt Broderick. “I spend a lot of time working back-bay structure and baitfish pinch points for schoolies, slot-sized stripers and an occasional 20- to 30-pounder or big bluefish, and there are several choices in this lineup that help me get the job done right. These rods cast great, are sensitive enough to detect light taps on late-night tides and have enough power to turn a really big fish when I hang one. They are also lightweight, so I have no trouble fishing them through an entire tide when necessary. I focus my efforts on Long Island and New Jersey waters, but these rods will serve anglers well anywhere along the striper coast.”
Broderick’s go-to choice for spring surf fishing is an 8-foot, medium power, moderate-fast action Mojo Surf (MSS80MMF) spinning rod rated for ¾ to 3-ounce lures, but he will bump up to a 9-foot, medium power, moderate-fast (MSS90MMF2) stick that handles ¾ to 4-ounce lures if bigger bass arrive on the scene. The 9-foot model, he notes, handles mid-sized plugs and swimbaits with ease and does a great job working pencil poppers. He’ll match these rods to a 3000 or 3500 series reel spooled with 17- or 20-pound Power Pro line.
“That 8-footer has a little softer feel than some of the bigger surf sticks, so I can throw lighter lures for smaller striped bass in back-bay waters but still handle bigger fish thanks to the rod’s parabolic curve,” continues Broderick. “I like to throw a lot of 5-inch Redfins, including jointed-models. They are definitely fish catchers when slow-waked on the surface; they get picky bass to strike. Yo-Zuri Mag Darters and smaller Bomber Long A’s work well this time of year, too. A slow retrieve and an occasional twitch are all that’s needed to hook-up, especially at night.”
Broderick adds that he’ll typically key on baitfish to find the bass during the spring run, and picks bone as his favorite plug and popper color for both day and late-night forays. On the darkest nights, though, he’ll often switch to a blurple pattern. The water can still be pretty cool late into the spring, so focus on the first two hours of warmer, ebbing tides, he advises.”
While Broderick pounds the northeast suds, St. Croix pro-staffer Captain Tom Rowland prefers to be above deck in the Florida Keys, specifically around Duck Key and the Hawk’s Cay Resort where he both guides and hosts the popular Saltwater Experience television show. He’ll tell you straight out that he thinks Florida Keys spring fishing is the best in the world, and that St. Croix’s Mojo Inshore Series should be well represented in your rod rack. It would be tough to argue against either case.
“Late April and May is the time we wait for all year long down here in the Florida Keys,” says Rowland. “Large tarpon that can run 60 to 150 pounds or more are migrating through here right now at a pretty steady pace and will be for the next two months. At the same time, basically everything puts on the feed bag during the spring. Bonefish, permit, snook, shark fishing, bottom fishing; it’s all smoking hot if the weather is good. String together some consistent conditions with temperatures in the mid- to high 80-degree range and southeast winds of five to ten knots, and you can just about guarantee great catches this time of year.”
Rowland does a ton of tarpon fishing during late April and May and believes his collection of St. Croix Mojo Inshore series rods helps bring him plenty of success, as well as peace of mind. Depending on the tides, he’ll head into backcountry waters to throw some flies or work the ocean passes with big Hogies, surface lures and swimbaits. He’ll also use big live baits around bridges.
“A big tarpon is 150 pounds, but anything over 80 or 100 pounds is a full-grown fish and we can see some bruisers topping 200 pounds around here, so you better be prepared with the big guns,” advises Rowland. “St. Croix’s Mojo Inshore 7’, heavy power, fast action (JIS70HF) and 7’11” heavy power, fast action (JIS711HF) spinning sticks both match up really well. The 7-footer is my favorite for most tarpon fishing. It’s got the power I need to get the job done and it’s an easy length to handle. When fishing around bridges and structure, I’ll bump up to the 7’11”. It’s great for casting and retrieving live mullet in strong current, turning big tarpon away from bridge stanchions, and working monsters around the engines.”
For an overall, versatile Florida Keys rod, Rowland adds that the 7’, medium-heavy power, fast action Mojo Inshore is a great choice. “I use that rod 90 percent of the time when I’m not specifically targeting big tarpon. It’s great for targeting bonefish, permit, small tarpon, redfish, snook and just about anything else that swims in these waters. I like the light weight and the guides, and it has the perfect action for the widest variety of fishing. You can use it to throw small jigs, crabs, shrimp, or live bait. Match it to a size 3000 Daiwa Certate spinning reel filled with 10- to 20-pound test Daiwa J-Braid line and you’re golden.”
Rowland says that in addition to the strength, light weight, and sensitivity of the versatile Mojo Inshore Series, he’s also found them to be exceptionally durable. “That’s especially important when you have clients aboard,” he laughs. “Not everyone treats your fishing rod like it’s their own. They get dropped, stepped on and mistreated during the season – sometimes in the course of a single day. I also really like the guides on these rods. The Sea Guide Hero Hi-Grade guides on these rods are tough and big enough for big knots to pass through easily.”
As for Smay, he’s really looking forward to connecting with some big stripers this spring on Mojo Inshore spinning and casting sticks. He’ll throw mid-sized shads and large swimbaits with a 7’11”, heavy power, moderate-fast (JIS711HMF) Mojo Inshore, while working plenty of topwater lures with a 7’9”, extra-heavy power, moderate-fast action Mojo (JIS79XHMF).
“When I first came to St. Croix about three years ago, we noticed that we were selling a lot of our lightweight but powerful musky rods to striper fans in the Northeast,” recalls Smay. “We were really dialed in on the musky selections, so when we had the chance to redesign the Mojo Inshore series, we incorporated some of that technology to build some lightweight saltwater rods that were capable of throwing those big swimshads, metal-lip swimmers and really big surface baits without tiring anglers who cast through an entire tide. That was the genesis of some of these new, heavier rods in this Mojo Inshore Series, and they’ve proven incredibly popular with anglers. I can’t wait to get my line back in the water.”
Designed in Park Falls, Wisconsin, and hand-crafted at St. Croix South in Fresnillo, Mexico, all Mojo Inshore, Mojo Surf, and Triumph Surf Series rods carry a 5-year warranty backed by St. Croix Superstar Service. Mojo Inshore Series rods retail between $160 to $230, Mojo Surf models range from $160 to $300, and Triumph Surf rods retail between $130 and $250.
About St. Croix Rod
Headquartered in Park Falls, Wisconsin, St. Croix has been proudly producing the “Best Rods on Earth” for over 70 years. Combining state-of-the-art manufacturing processes with skilled craftsmanship, St. Croix is the only major producer to still build rods entirely from design through manufacturing. The company remains family-owned and operates duplicate manufacturing facilities in Park Falls and Fresnillo, Mexico. With popular trademarked series such as Legend®, Legend Xtreme®, Avid®, Premier®, Imperial®, Triumph® and Mojo, St. Croix is revered by all types of anglers from around the world.