Posted By: GFF Staff
ST. CROIX ROD: Steps Up to the Surf - 04/12/18 07:11 PM
Alberto Knie and a beautiful cow striper.
St. Croix Steps Up
The surf fishing challenge is answered by The Best Rods on Earth
From shorts and t-shirts, to waders and insulated jackets, to a neoprene wet suit, “Crazy” Alberto
Knie’s surf fishing wardrobe varies dramatically depending on where he’s standing. His is a diverse
palette of briny addiction, but consistent across the board is his insistence upon unwavering
reliability in his tackle.
Dependable line, the most enticing lures, his Tactical Anglers Power Clip — details are many; but for
this seasoned surfcaster, it all starts with the rod. Every aspect of his game matters and Knie invests
countless hours in preparation, maintenance and strategic study. However, all is for naught if he’s
unable to present a bait with accuracy and fight a fish with authority.
A diehard fan and devoted advocate of St. Croix’s renowned quality and commitment, Knie favors
the top-shelf Legend Surf series, but also recognizes the importance of providing anglers a range
of options to fit the skill, experience and budget of anyone seeking to explore the sport for which
his heart beats. Through its Triumph Surf, Mojo Surf and Avid Surf lines, St. Croix offers a tiered
menu of rod choices, each infused with the core principles Knie values.
Crazy Alberto battles as the aquatic beast puts Avid Surf to the test. Avid is doubled
down as the reel screams.
“Why St. Croix? Hands down, it’s all about quality, innovation and service,” he said. “They are
literally the best rods on earth and the company stands behind its products. Throughout 50 years
of fishing, I’ve watched who is really committed to innovation and customer service and St. Croix
does care greatly about their customers.”
This matters greatly to Knie because pursuing trophy fish from Southeast Florida, through the
Mid-Atlantic and up to his signature stomping grounds along the rugged Northeast coast; the often
harsh scenarios he encounters demand not only the most technologically advanced rods but also
the peace of mind that St. Croix’s quality commitment delivers.
“The more you elevate yourself to high-performance, you’ll want to go to the St. Croix Legend
Surf series for extreme surf fishing,” Knie says. “However, as you’re learning the art of surf
fishing, St. Croix provides several levels of rod series that advance with an angler’s increasing
In other words, you don’t have to burn your budget to obtain a high-quality surf rod that’ll
equip you well for the battles you’ll face. In fact, many start with St. Croix’s Triumph Surf,
an entry-level series that Knie describes as moderate action spinning rods with plenty of fish-
fighting power. With lengths of 7 to 10 1/2 feet and a $120-$190 price range, the Triumph Surf
allows anyone a comfortable introduction into a family of rods that will undoubtedly draw you
deeper into the lineup as your performance needs increase.
Alberto Knie with Bullzilla, caught on St. Croix’s Legend Surf.
Next in line is Mojo Surf. This series offers 14 spinning and casting rods ranging in power
from medium-lite to heavy that feature actions that are moderate or moderate fast. Lengths
range from 7 to 12 feet, with prices ranging $150-$290. Advancing further, the Avid Surf
series ($240-$400) provides even faster rods — spinning and conventional — with a definitive
step up in quality and performance.
The right rod is best determined by an angler’s fishing needs, but once you dial in the
appropriate choice, surf fishing’s broad spectrum of opportunity pulls us deeper into the
learning curve. With that, let’s look at where Knie suggests testing that incomparable St.
FLORIDA’S EAST COAST
Between the tourism-driven seaside towns awash with novelty shops and rooted in the hospitality
industry, several highly specific shore-based fishing features exist throughout the Sunshine
State’s Atlantic edge. Hardcore surf fishing here is more of an underground movement; a mere
shadow of the mainstream popularity boasted in coastal states to the north. Nevertheless, Knie
urges anglers to explore the amazing opportunities to engage powerhouse surf species like his
favorite — the snook.
From late spring through late summer, spawning season brings some of the largest linesiders from
the backwaters out to the beaches. The surf snook opportunity revives in the fall when the annual
mullet run sends an irresistible buffet through coastal shallows.
The Tactics: Throwing a selection of bucktails, rubber shads (swimbaits) and plugs like his
Tactical Anglers Sub Darter, Knie said he may find snook anywhere from open beaches, to jetties
to the shadow lines of coastal bridges. Peak action, he said, typically occurs within an hour of
the tide’s turning — incoming or outgoing.
Fishing Tip: While a 7-foot rod will suffice for lighter backbay snook efforts, the versatility
of an 11-foot rod makes this Knie’s choice for his surf fishing efforts.
“Your rod choice has a lot to do with understanding where the fish are positioning, as well as
the size of fish you’re encountering,” Knie said. “You may have a rip or the ocean breakers where
the fish tend to congregate that require a long cast, whereas, on a jetty the fish could be right
under your feet. People often think they can use a 7-footer because those fish are close, but it
has a lot to do with the size of the fish. When I’m targeting ‘snookzilla,’ I want a longer rod
to help me control the fish.”
Enigmatically defined by the trophy redfish action of North Carolina’s famed Outer Banks, open
beach surf casting on desolate stretches of wave-washed sands offers a straight-up tackle-testing
The Tactics: Throughout hotspots from Buxton, to Avon to Cape Hatteras, the term “heaver” refers
to an 11 to 12 foot conventional outfit capable of sending chunks of freshly cut menhaden or mullet
on heavily-weighted fish finder rigs with 8 to12 ounces of lead out to the bull red zone. These
big fish don’t play, so Knie suggests 50-pound braid with 15 to 20 feet of 80-pound shock leader
and a No. 7-10 hook.
Fishing Tip: While the crashing surf gets most of the attention, Knie advises an open-minded approach
that includes attention given to the “soundside” — the Intracoastal waters on the west side of barrier
islands. Pamlico Sound, along with Albemarle and Core Sounds to the north and south respectively, also
holds big redfish in a less demanding scenario that offers a far less pressured opportunity when the
beach bite isn’t happening. Here, Knie drops down to an 8 or 9-foot rod and throws topwater walkers
or poppers in the early morning or sunset hours.
St. Croix Mojo Surf
The land of hardcore surf fishing, this region is best known for its migrations of giant striped bass.
From the rugged, rocky shorelines of world-famous Montauk Point, to beaches and inlets of Shinnecock,
Moriches and Great South Bay, to the Cape Cod Canal, when “cow” stripers follow bunker schools close
to key vantage points, the arm-stretching opportunities are well worth the long hikes.
The Tactics: Knie says the Northeast striper game can stretch from May through early-December, but he
points to the 58-degree water temperature mark as optimum. Early season sees this comfort zone widely
dispersed, but finding the cooler water highways becomes intrinsic to locating the fish later in the
“The night tides and the ‘non-human’ hours on the darkest nights are the optimum times when most of
the bigger fish come out,” Knie said.
Land-based surf casting will yield occasional opportunities, but serious striper seekers wade or swim
out to isolated rocks where their precarious perch provides a front-row seat and, therefore, prime
access to the passing striper parade. Here, a variety of surface to subsurface lures — poppers,
swimmers, etc. — will bring the fury.
Fishing Tip: Noting the region’s primary and secondary theaters of engagement, Knie said rod length
is a key consideration for the savvy surf angler.
“Everyone has this vision of extreme surf fishing in wet suits, but the back bays are very
overlooked and there are a tremendous number of large fish that most people don’t know about,”
he said. “When the weather is super extreme on the coast, you can always go fish the back bays
with light tackle and a 7-foot rod. But if I know the holes close to the inlets where you have
big fish, then I’ll use heavier tackle.”
“I tend to go with an 11-footer for the inlets and the beaches. You can always short cast with an
11-foot rod, but it also allows you to make longer casts. You can finesse it, or you can punch it out.
I would love to carry multiple length rods with me at all times, but when you’re making a 3-mile hike
across boulders in the middle of the night, you don’t have that luxury.”
Knie admits the allure of surf fishing is undeniable. From the moment his feet hit the sand, whether
tucked into wading shoes or heavy-duty water boots with traction cleats, the sea’s infectious charms
pull him ever closer. A powerful force, no doubt, but armed with St. Croix surf rods, Knie and those
who share his passion are ready to pull back.