Ten feet?! I was almost shocked when I heard St. Croix Rods would be offering three new 10-foot models in its Legend Tournament series of musky rods. After all, I remember receiving my first 7-footer back around 1990 — while I loved the rod, I wondered if it would be accepted by the musky fishing public. And now plans called for a rod a full three feet longer.
But 9-foot musky rods have become common and some anglers have had custom rod makers extend those same blanks into 10-foot rods, so it really isn’t that foreign of an idea.
For 2018, St. Croix Rods is introducing three one-piece, 10-foot musky rods to its Legend Tournament rod series lineup. The three rods will have medium-heavy-fast (MHF), heavy-fast (HF) and extra-heavy-fast (XHF) designations, rod weights that will cover almost everything you would want to cast. Perhaps only jerkbaits and walk-the-dog topwaters are left out.
Like others in the Legend Tournament lineup, the new rods have nicknames. The LM100MHF is being called the “Slingshot,” the LM100HF the “Blade Master,” and the LM100XHF will be known as the “Stretch Dawg.”
Rich Belanger, St. Croix’s promotions director, explained the introduction. “Since we brought out 9-foot rods several years ago, people have been asking for longer rods. The extra length really is nice for much wider figure-8’s, and also more depth in the 8 for deeper-following fish. The extra length also creates more leverage once you hook up with a fish,” Belanger said.
During a recent fishing trip I had the opportunity to try two of the models, the Slingshot and the Stretch Dawg. A prototype of the Blade Master was not available for me to use that week. Both of the rods I used were capable of incredibly-long casts (especially the Stretch Dawg with a topwater) and giant figure-8’s. Because the reel seat on each new rod is placed farther forward for leverage, the resulting longer butt section felt awkward for the first two or three casts but I soon became accustomed to it.
The Stretch Dawg is a natural addition to the company’s lineup for fishing giant plastic baits like BullDawgs, Medussas and Suzy Suckers. More leverage and strength are needed for such baits, and I sometimes felt the 9-foot offerings in St. Croix’s Legend Elite and Legend Tournament series were not quite enough rod for the biggest of the plastics. Anglers who do a lot of “business” with “rubber” are going to love the Stretch Dawg.
The “bite” on the lake we fished initially involved double-10 bucktails, and I wished I’d had the opportunity to try the Blade Master. However, the Slingshot was more than up to the task. It loaded up and cast the big spinners with ease, but flexed a bit too much for my liking in the figure-8. Of course, I was using it to accomplish a task for which it wasn’t designed and the Blade Master would naturally have been a better choice. With smaller spinners, the Slingshot made the figure-8 with ease.
Before the weather changed from summer-like to downright nasty during the four-day trip, I caught three nice muskies while using the Slingshot — two that hit on short line and one in the figure-8. The rod had more than enough backbone to drive the hooks home in each case, and its greater length exaggerated the waggle I give such baits before entering the figure-8. In fact, the waggle seemed to excite all three fish.
The longer length maintained a deep bend while each fish battled at boatside, keeping the hooks pinned in the corner of their mouths. I vividly recall one fight during which the musky tailwalked around the bow of the boat, the rod flexing with each thrash as I led it to the net.
Ah, the net. When I posted to social media that I had field-tested the 10-footers, some questioned how long is too long for musky rods, especially when netting. Longer rods (even 9-footers) require the angler fighting the fish to make a concerted effort to lead the fish into the net, and the 10-footers make the task a little more complicated. If you stand there and think your netman can do it all — especially with today’s heavy, fish-friendly nets — you’re going to lose fish because they’ll be too far from the boat and difficult for the netter to reach. Even Belanger concedes, “It does require some adjustments when it’s time to land the fish.”
When the musky is ready, use the rod to drag the fish toward the net, and even a step back as the fish enters the hoop is not out of the question. I noticed this with the first musky on the 10-footer, and the subsequent fish were not a problem.
The new 10-foot rods are being built with the same technologies as other rods in the Legend Tournament lineup, and are not the start of a second generation as some have suggested. “The 10’s are built the exact same way the rest of the LT series are built,” Belanger said, “although we are giving the whole series a facelift with some cosmetic changes. New paint, new labels, handle design tweaks and some processing improvements were incorporated in the build process.”
One of the handle design tweaks referenced by Belanger is flat sides to the butt end of the split grip models. Originally I wondered why, but I had my answer when I concluded my first cast with a figure-8 — the flat slide makes for a nice place for your thumb, a minor change that provides leverage for the figure-8.
Do you really need a 10-foot rod to catch muskies? No, but if you desire larger figure-8’s, longer casts and greater lure manipulation, or you want easier casts and better control for big rubber, St. Croix’s new rods will provide them.
For more information, visit www.stcroixrods.com