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4.  St. Croix Imperial 11’ 5-weight   $300.00

St. Croix Imperial switch rod
St. Croix Imperial switch rod

The St. Croix Imperial 11’ 5-weight is another good choice for an angler looking for a great performing rod without the high-end price tag.  The Imperial trout 5-weight switch rod has more of a medium action than a fast action, with a wide, easy-to-hit sweet spot.  Really the only thing holding the Imperial back from an even better finish is its heavier swing weight.  Perhaps one reason these rods feel heavier, is because St. Croix double coats the mid-modulus blanks with flex coat to make them more durable.   

The Imperial blanks are finished with a deep garnet red with matching red thread wraps over Aluminum-oxide stripper guides and hard chrome snake guides.  The up-lock aluminum reel seat isn’t elegant, however we do like the functionality of the two locking rings, which twist well on wide threads, (unlike thinner threads, that can collect sand and debris).  The cork quality is decent, but there is no swell at the top of the cork handle, which looks a little odd.   The grip is also thicker than most, while the tiptop is a little bit smaller than we like.

If you are looking for an affordable, medium-fast 5-weight trout switch rod, the St. Croix Imperial is a great choice.

Casting Notes:

Heavier in hand compared to the H2 and DXF, but still exceptionally smooth.  Wide, easy to hit casting sweet spot.  Very forgiving. The medium action makes this rod fun to cast however I had more difficulty  getting super tight loops.  The Imperial is a fun rod to cast at a great price.