Image Credit: Joel Vandekrol

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St. Croix Announces Exclusive Partnership With MITO Material Solutions

Graphene is a single-atom-thick honeycomb layer of carbon that is harder than diamond yet more elastic than rubber, tougher than steel yet lighter than aluminum. Graphene is currently the strongest and stiffest material known to man. It’s 200 times stronger than steel, stronger than diamond, and 30 times stronger than Kevlar.

Graphene has been around since 2003, when it was discovered by scientists at the University of Manchester in the UK. It’s been extremely well researched in the 20 years since and is being used in commercial applications ranging from tennis rackets, snow skis, and golf-club shafts to racing cars. It’s also used in electronics, super conductors, textiles, desalination equipment, and even paint.

Until now, “graphene” fly rods available on the market contained a small percentage of graphene nano material contained within the resin of carbon-fiber prepreg. It’s this prepreg material that’s rolled onto a mandrel and cured to create a fly-rod blank. Prepreg with graphene-infused resin is available from a handful of suppliers and has allowed some manufacturers to build fly rods that are reportedly lighter and stronger.

St. Croix Rod, however, has found a better way to use graphene in fishing rods and owns the exclusive rights to do so via a strategic partnership with the progressive Indianapolis-based company, MITO Material Solutions.

“MITO solves industrial challenges with micro-sized solutions with the goal of making high-performance materials available to anyone,” said Haley Marie Keith, MITO co-founder and CEO. “MITO doesn’t make graphene; we functionalize graphene so manufacturers can incorporate the material and its significant benefits into their products themselves — without relying on third-party suppliers or drastically changing manufacturing processes.”

Keith explains that such functionalization involves adding other elements to the graphene to improve its solubility, enhance its strength, or improve its bonding to a host matrix material. The resulting additive makes graphene easier to use while maximizing its beneficial properties and allows companies within the sports and recreation, transportation, automotive, infrastructure, and other industries to design and manufacture products and components with improved performance, endurance, strength, flexibility, and/or sustainability.

St. Croix Rod is leveraging MITO’s technology by applying its functionalized graphene product to its prepreg rod-building materials in house.

“The functionalized MITO graphene product we’re using comes pre-dispersed in a solvent that we can accurately apply to any of our rod-building materials,” said Jason Brunner, St. Croix vice president of research and development. “The MITO product is fiber-agnostic, meaning it’s compatible with any carbon or glass material we want to use. That’s important because many of our rod blank designs contain multiple materials. More importantly, though, MITO’s formula ensures that the graphene concentrations within the solvent are homogenous, meaning the graphene material is very evenly dispersed — much more so than the commercially available resins which contain graphene. This is critical because there’s a very fine line between too much or too little graphene. In order to achieve the intended benefits, we are applying a total weight loading of actual graphene material at accuracies within .01 percent. The functionalized graphene product we’re receiving from MITO Material Solutions is the only thing making this possible.

“As a company that exists solely to create better angling experiences, we’re constantly exploring new materials, new technologies, and new relationships that help us build rods that create new and expanding angler benefits. I met Haley at CAMX (Composites and Advanced Materials Expo) a couple years ago, and the more we talked about the unique work MITO was doing with graphene, the more intrigued and impressed I became. Their Hybrid Functionalized Graphene is made in America and it’s the only such product that’s verified by the Graphene Council, which regulates the graphene industry. At the end of the day, MITO offers the ideal graphene product that meshes perfectly with our manufacturing processes and allows us to maximize graphene’s angler benefits in our fly-rod designs.”

So, what are those angler benefits?

“St. Croix fly rods are specialized tools, with distinct lengths, powers, actions, and combinations of materials and technologies conceived to maximize performance in specific applications,” said Tom Larimer, St. Croix fly fishing brand manager. “But when we can control where and how graphene is applied in the layup — as the MITO product allows us to do — we can dramatically improve the performance of any specific rod. Generally, we’re talking about making certain sections of a rod blank stiffer and stronger while using less material, which also makes the rod lighter. This can be harnessed to improve performance in many ways.”

Larimer said graphene’s dampening properties translate to a variety of key performance enhancements.

“Dampening means how quickly a rod recovers — or becomes straight — after it’s flexed,” said Larimer. “We’re seeing dramatically quicker recovery times using MITO graphene, which allows casters to generate higher line speeds while increasing the stability of their loops. Our graphene-enhanced fly rods also control and reduce twist. The increased torsional rigidity helps to keep the rod’s energy moving in a single plane, which results in increased accuracy.”

Finally, graphene also improves a rod’s overall strength-to-weight ratio.

“Our testing has shown significant increases in hoop strength and overall durability in rods using MITO’s functionalized graphene,” said Larimer.

Overall, Larimer and Brunner claim anglers casting St. Croix’s graphene-enhanced fly rods will notice fast and powerful actions that deliver exceptional feel and accuracy.

“We can describe what MITO’s technology allows us to accomplish from design and manufacturing standpoints,” said Larimer. “But at the end of the day, what an angler is able to feel, notice, and experience while fishing one of our rods is all that matters. Power with precision is the best way I can describe it.”

Anglers can experience the benefits of MITO graphene technology for themselves beginning Nov. 1 with the availability of St. Croix’s all-new EVOS and EVOS SALT premium, high-performance fly rod series.

EVOS challenges the status quo of traditional fly-rod design and sets the bar for multi-technique performance. Conceived and delivered for anglers who make life decisions based on hatch charts, gage heights, and migration timing, EVOS consists of 14 fast-action four-piece models ranging from line sizes No. 4 through No. 8.

Similarly, EVOS SALT optimizes angler ability by delivering critical control in any saltwater environment — whether driving a hero cast into a relentless headwind or delicately delivering a surgical strike in impossibly calm conditions. EVOS SALT is available in seven fast/salt-action four-piece models, covering critical No. 6 through No. 12 line sizes.

Retail prices are $975 and $1,025, respectively. Both premium series are designed and handcrafted in Park Falls, Wisconsin, and are backed by a 15-year warranty.

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