Gear Review: Saltwater “Templates”

by Robert Morselli

There are times when a rod or reel manufacturer aims to turn out a “template” product. These are items that are designed and built to serve a grand function, devoid of gimmickry or cosmetic adornment. They are the products that get the job done, without leaving an angler wanting.

I recently tested two products, one recent release, one that has been sold for 5 years and I thought both items fit the mold. They are one rod and one reel that make the case for unadorned, no-nonsense gear that boasts superior, streamlined design and unfaltering performance.

Bauer SST Fly Reel

The newly released Bauer SST fly reel is a stunner out of the box. How often do reel manufacturers save/shave off precious grams by porting beneath the reel seat? A narrow profile frame design is coupled with a large arbor for high rate retrieval. Arbor porting is asymmetrical, yet the reel still feels perfectly balanced. The fully sealed carbon fiber “zero-backlash” clutch system boasts massive stopping power (unlike polymers, carbon isn’t affected by temperature changes, which makes all the difference when that freight train takes the fly), and unlike cork, its performance is not dependent on lubrication. It’s also more durable than some roller-clutch bearings commonly used in other reels.

The oversized and innovative star drag knob is the largest I’ve ever seen on any reel – it adjusts the drag pressure with smooth precision and is both ergonomic and intuitive – your fingers know where to go in an instant. A “fumbly” drag knob will easily negate all of a reel’s other good qualities.

Precision machined to tolerances down to 1/1000th of an inch from 100% aerospace bar stock aluminum and stainless steel for maximum strength and corrosion resistance.

The Bauer SST is an heirloom product: should you obtain one, there’s a solid chance you’ll be handing it down to your son/daughter – or grandchild.

No maintenance required. Streamlined design means it rinses off in a snap.  Lifetime warranty.  Highly recommended.

St. Croix Saltwater Legend Elite

I was recently asked which were my three favorite fly rods. One was made between 2003 and 2006, another existed between 2012 and 2015, and the last one, which debuted in 2013, is still available. It’s the St. Croix saltwater Legend Elite (corresponding fresh water series also exists). I describe this rod as a template because it combines everything that a performance salt water product should: the anodize is extra hard, the cork grip is ever so slightly oversized – which goes a long way in reducing fatigue, and the guides are corrosion resistant and somewhere between regular and oversized. The tip top guide forms a generous loop. These are all things that are required in a salt water environment. Any rod that enhances comfort and reduces the possibility of line hang ups is partly responsible for extra fish.

Blanks often have significant weight variations throughout their length, it is these pronounced variations that destroy what would otherwise be a smooth casting blank. Also, guide spacing (a science in itself) can be a culprit in making an ideal blank feel awkward. The 8-weight St. Croix that I tested nailed down both formulas to perfection. The blank is a textbook example for anyone who is considering designing and rolling their own salt water blanks: the rod has an amped-up upper third (common in many recent builds), and features an ideal butt-to-tip balance that imbues power, but without going overboard (which is a common deficiency in many recent builds). The end result is a rod that excels at the saltwater game, but will also fare well in the medium range. Power is nothing without control, this rod provides anglers with a generous amount of both.

Final note: the St. Croix salt water Legend Elite fly rod is a premium fly rod, at a sub-premium price.  Also highly recommended.

Salt water series available in weights 6 through 12, fresh water series covers weights 3 through 10.

Robert Morselli is the research director for the internationally syndicated television show “How It’s Made.”