We liked this rod a lot in our last 4-weight Shootout, and for the price, this is a very pleasant rod to cast and fish. I like the action, which is medium fast. This rod has good power in the butt and mid sections and a softer tip, much like the action on some of our top rated rods.
It is refreshing to see such a nice rod, at such a low price that is made here in the US, in Park Falls, Wisconsin.
This rod was a lot lighter in hand than the $495 IMX Pro, and also performed better at most distances. It performed better than any of the sub $300 rods, including the Orvis Clearwater. The softer tip on the Imperial gave me good scores at the both 25 and 40 feet, and also led to a good score in light tippet protection.
The blank is a pleasing burgundy that sparkles in the sunlight. There are matching burgundy wraps on the guides, and the epoxy coatings were very well done. The cork handle is a western style grip with a comfortable swell in the middle and a nice taper forward. A flare on the bottom end of the grip accommodates the uplocking seat. The quality of the cork was surprisingly good for a less expensive rod. A black anodized double uplocking skeleton seat is used with an unusual x-pattern design and a laminated wood insert. The rings on the seat were fairly large and easy to tighten, giving a secure lock up.
The guide set up starts with a hook keeper, then one relatively small SiC stripper, followed with good sized black hard chrome snake guides that are nice thin diameter wire.
The perfect line: SA Amplitude Smooth Infinity in WF-4-F
George’s casting notes:
Performance at 25 feet: 18.8 points out of 20
Feels good in my hand, and I’m able to cast well off the tip. The softer tip is giving me a good amount of feel and the accuracy was better than the Zone or Nimbus.
Performance at 40 feet: 19.0 points out of 20
I’m getting nicely controlled loops and good presentations. Accuracy is pretty good, heads up matching the Zone and NRX LP.
Performance at 60 feet: 8.5 points out of 10
Out long the overall softness of the rod is a handicap. Equals the DXF but rods like the Recon and Sky were much better.
Last time we did a 4-weight Shootout, the St. Croix Imperial was our pick for the best mid-priced rod. It was so good in fact, that we liked it better than the St. Croix’s more expensive Legend Elite. Unfortunately this year we weren’t able to get a Legend Elite in time, but I suspect the upgraded Imperial would have outscored it again, mostly due to its nice soft tip.
This year, when compared head to head with the Hardy Shadow however, the Imperial was much heavier in hand and not nearly as lively. I’m guessing the difference is the higher modulus and lighter 220 Sintrix graphite used by the Shadow. I like the deflection and the medium fast action of the Imperial very much.
That being said, if you want the best inexpensive USA made 4-weight, the smooth casting Imperial is it.
New paint job – this time the blank is more of a metallic burnt sienna. Reel seat also receives some upgrades with new metal; a laminated wood spacer and double uplocking rings that seem to work better. Nice grip shape and quality of cork for the money. Interesting “double bar” hook keeper. A nice fast, soft tip.
Performance at 25 feet: 18.3 points out of 20
On the heavier side, but very smooth. Not bad!
Performance at 40 feet: 18.9 points out of 20
Now we’re talking! A nice blend of power and feel. I’m easily getting nice tight loops. Still smooth, but a little heavier in hand than others.
Performance at 60 feet: 7.8 points out of 10
Still solid, but the more powerful rods were able to edge it out.
Logan’s Comments: 46.5 out of 50
The updated St. Croix Imperial was one of my picks for the best mid-priced rod in the shootout. Between this rod and the Hardy Shadow you really can’t go wrong. The Imperial has a soft tip, but still has the guts to handle the 40-foot distance easily and with excellent accuracy. I liked the updates that St. Croix has made to the Imperial.
Performance at 25 feet: 19.5 out of 20
25 feet was the St. Croix Imperial’s sweet spot. I was both accurate and delicate on almost every cast.
Performance at 40 feet: 19 out of 20
The Imperial was performing beautifully at 40 feet. I was impressed with its accuracy despite its softer tip.
Performance at 60 feet: 8 out of 10
At 60 feet the Imperial wasn’t quite as good as it was in close, but it could still get the job done.
I think the St. Croix Imperial is another great 4wt rod in that affordable mid-price range. While a little less responsive than some of the higher ranked 4wts; the Imperial was still very accurate in close and at mid distances with enough punch to hit 60 feet easily. This is exactly what I’m looking for in a 4-weight rod. Not a showstopper in the looks department, but the quality and craftsmanship were good.
Performance at 25 feet: 18.5/20
The fast action and soft tip found on the Imperial allowed my leader to turn over quickly and accurately. This rod was very good in close where precision counts.
Performance at 40 feet: 18.5/20
Good power and accuracy at this distance. I felt confident this rod could put my line and fly where I wanted it to go, even with a moderate breeze.
Performance at 60 feet: 8.5/10
Had the punch to keep my line moving and my loops tight, right out to 60’.
The Imperial has a fairly stiff butt and mid section, but a nice soft tip. This helped to produce delicate presentations, especially at the two shorter distances. Overall not a bad rod, but lacks the smoothness and feel I was getting with the best rods.
Performance at 25 feet: 17 out of 20
The softer tip made for a pretty good performance in close, but I felt it was not as smooth as it could have been.
Performance at 40 feet: 17.5 out of 20
The stiff butt and mid gave this rod enough power to handle mid distances easily, and the soft tip helps with maintaining a light presentation. Overall I felt that 40 feet was the best distance for this rod, but it still felt a little clunky compared to the DXF or Recon.
Performance at 60 feet: 7 out of 10
Casting at longer distances is no problem for this rod, however, it still lacked a certain smoothness and finesse I found with the better rods.