St Croix Avid AC80HF Swimbait Rod
Author: Rob Belloni
The St. Croix Avid series are a high modulus "SCIII"graphite blank that come wrapped with the popular Fuji Alconite Concept Guide System and Fuji exposed blank reelseat. The rods are a light grey color, and like many of the rods we use for big swimbaits, they are labeled as a Salmon/Steelhead rod. The AC80HF is rated for 1-6oz lures and 12-30lb test (more on this in a minute).
Sleek was the first adjective that popped into my head when I pulled this rod out of the bag. It's a rod with a smooth feel that balances nicely in your hand. The tip action is very fast, and the blank is quite thin and light for an 8 footer. The handle and reel seat also feel very thin, more like what you would see on a standard 7 foot bass rod.
I put a 300 size reel on the rod with 25lb test first and made a few casts but it just didn't feel like the rod was heavy enough for that setup. So I switched out to a Curado with 20lb test and that felt much better. I tied up a 5" swimbait on a 3/4oz leadhead and made a few more casts. A dream! I wanted to keep the rod right then and there for my small swimbait fishing in fresh and salt water. It's got awesome feel on the retrieve, and the casting is smooth with no bounce in the rod. With the fast tip action, you can really whip the cast out there.
This rod could be a great rod for a guy who wants to throw baits like 5" Big Hammers, 7" Monster Jack, Rago Rat/Mouse, or any similarly sized bait. It also tosses a super spook and works big crankbaits like a champ. I love a long rod for cranking big cranks, and this rod is killer in that application. If you get tired throwing all day, this is a good rod choice to reduce fatigue because it has the necessary length and smooth casting, coupled with an overall whisker light feel.
So the cons are that the rod rating is just bogus in my opinion. If you rigged a 6oz lure on 30lb test with this rod, the rod would be tacoed during the cast. Even 25lb test with a typical 9" rubber swimbait would overmatch this rod.
The rod also lacks the backbone you need to really muscle fish out of cover. There's so much tip flex that you'd be at a disadvantage trying to move a large bass on the hookset. And the butt section, while rigid, doesn't have the meat you need to really move something double digit. It's not that it's a bad rod, it's just not a heavy duty swimbait rod.
The price, while not exorbitant, is definitely up here. Retailing for around $180 puts it in the upper middle class of swimbait rods. What you get for the price is the quality construction and overall light weight of the rod.