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A Triumphant St. Croix Insurance Policy

Joe Cornwall Reviews the St. Croix TRS66MLF-4 Spinning Rod


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There are times, times that may come more often than you'd like to admit, when fly fishing is a losing proposition.  When the fish are blasting bait 100 feet out and there's a 20 mile an hour wind blowing right in your face, a 6-weight fly rod may as well be a walking stick.  Neither one will let you present to the fish!  One of the best insurance policies you can carry is a quality spinning rod and a small selection of appropriate artificials.  Being in the game, especially if you've bet your vacation time and most of your discretionary funds on it, beats watching from the sidelines every time!


St. Croix is a company that excels when it comes to providing choices.  They manufacture, quite literally, hundreds of different models of fishing rods from the finest of ultralight fly rods to the most extreme of surf casting rods.  In 2007, at the Fly Fishing Retailer Trade Show, St. Croix premiered the Triumph series, a low-cost, high-quality design intended to provide new anglers with a solid choice at an entry level budget.  It's also a rod that makes an outstanding insurance policy for the fly fisherman for exactly the same reason.  For just a few dollars you can have a quality rod that packs up to a manageable size.  Add a decent spinning reel, like the Mitchell 300X I used for this review and you can walk away with rod, reel, line and a nice selection of lures for about what you'd pay for an entry level fly rod alone!


The Triumph TRS66MLF-4 joins three siblings in the Triumph Travel Spinning Series.  Rods range from the 5'6" ultralight TRS56ULF-4 to the serious 6'6"TRS66MF-4.  The rod reviewed here, the second most powerful rod in the series, is rated by St. Croix for 4 to 10 pound-test lines and 1/8 to 1/2 ounce loads.  The rod itself weighs in at a solid 4.7 ounces and features SCII graphite, hard aluminum-oxide guides, a Fuji® DPS reel seat and two coats of Flex Coat slow-cure finish.  The rod has a 5-year warranty and is manufactured in China.  MSRP is $100.


I rigged the Triumph with the Mitchell reel, loaded it with 8lb test Bass Pro XPS fluorocarbon line and headed to the Ohio River.  The Triumph doesn't come in a rod tube.  Instead it's packaged in a roll-up matt with pockets to hold the pieces.  The matt is stiff and tough, maybe not as much as a tube but I certainly had no concerns about this package bouncing around in the back of my loaded Jeep.  The rod's design is tip-over-butt ferruling, each female ferrule featuring a re-enforcing wrap.  There are no alignment dots and that's a real shame; for want of a few spots of white paint this rod could have been a real charmer to set up.  It only took a second longer to align everything once the reel was mounted, but rods like this should always have alignment assistance, in my opinion.  The fit and finish of the rod is good, with black wraps accented by a thin silver band.  The epoxy finish is clear and glossy, if somewhat heavy.  Overall this rod looks like a piece of gear that should sell for a lot more than its asking price.


My first reaction to the Triumph was one of pleasant surprise.  I really don't expect rods in this price point to perform to the standards for which the Triumph was obviously designed.  Described as a fast action with medium-light power, I'd intended to use this as my all-around freshwater back-up with emphasis on smallmouth bass fishing when high water conditions made fly fishing a losing proposition.  The rod certainly has a fast action, with a strong butt and most of the flex coming in the top quarter of the blank.  But there's no way I'd consider this rod as a medium-light power.


If you take the ratings for 4 to 10 pound test lines literally, you'll find the St. Croix is overkill.  It's a similar reaction to what you'd get if you found a 17-year-old boy on the 8th grade baseball team.  It's a big stick in a bundle of small twigs... The rod is great, but the ratings are off.  Instead of medium-light and 4lb test, I suggest this is a rod that's at home with a minimum of 6lb test (even my 8 felt light) but has the guts to really handle anything up to 12lb test.  10lb XPS is perfect. Rated for a 1/8 ounce to 1/2 ounce lures, I found this rod only began to deliver a sense of casting feel once I'd loaded it with a minimum of 1/4 ounce.  In fact, it was at its crushing best firing 5/8 ounce Acme Kastmasters into the wash of the first gate at the Meldahl dam, where I took her for her premiere outing!  This is a strong, serious spinning rod!  I'd rate the rod medium to medium heavy in action and appropriate for 1/4 to as much as 3/4 ounce loads.


The St. Croix Triumph, as tested here, is probably more stick than I'd want for fishing smallmouth in creeks.  It's a nice choice for largemouth bass in larger lakes and can really hold it's own as a light inshore rod. With its small footprint and surprising power, there's no way I'm heading to Florida without stashing this one in my suitcase!  I don't see any reason why it won't make a smashing choice for jacks, blues, ladyfish and snappers off the beach.  It's a fine rod for light-lining stripers of both the fresh and saltwater variety.  Matched with 10lb test line, a reel with a competent drag and a handful of aerodynamic lures, any fish inside the 125 foot radius of the impact zone is in trouble.  A four-piece configuration, this rod is tough, good looking and very competent.  I don't honestly know what more you could ask from $100, this is the rod you need in the trunk of the car or at the bottom of the suitcase for the "just in case" times.  The Triumph is a triumphant value!

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