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Rod Review

Swimbait Rod Wars Installment #13: St. Croix's Legend Tournament Swimbait Sticks (continued)

Power: This is one area the LTBC79HF lacks for nothing. On one trip to the California Delta with Zander, I switched reels to my Antares DC7 lined with 65lb Suffix Performance braid and tied to the end of the line Black Dog Bait Company's Lunker Punker. I wanted to test out this rod's ability to throw and work this bait given the shorter handle.

The guides, of course are Fuji Alconites with chromed frames.

After a couple of successful casts and retrieves, I handed the rod over to Zander to try out and I stepped down from the helm to ready another rod for the day. I remember hearing the long whine of the Antares DC7 in mid cast, and Zander mumbling something about "this darn left hand retrieve reel" just as I finished tying up the other rig. I reached for my camera to take photographs of the new rig when all heck broke loose.

The no-foregrip design of the 2008 Legend Tournament rods is new for St. Croix.

As I was reaching for my camera, I could see, in my forward vision Zander working the Lunker Punker. We were about fifty feet from a shallow flat, and the Punker was right in the middle of this area as Zander worked it from side to side. As if in slow motion, the water underneath the Punker swirled and turned white. The boat rocked as Zander swept back. The rod went taught and the battle was on! "STRIPER!!" Zander exclaimed!

Cal lays into what later reveals itself to be a snag!

I literally dropped my camera and fumbled to find the net as the drag on Zander's reel - or rather MY reel screamed! This was obviously a good fish! Zander was struggling with the battle even though the LTBC79HF was doing fine, because he was not accustomed to the left hand retrieve. He needed to chase the fish down but the trolling motor was not switched very high and he could not break concentration to bother with adjusting the trolling motor's dial. Instead, I jumped up on the deck next to him, knelt down with my free hand and spun the dial to 100 and held on as Zander stomped on the foot pedal to point the bow in the direction of the fish.

All 2008 Legend Tournament Swimbait sticks also feature split rear grips.

We were spinning back and forth as I jumped from the forward to aft deck and back again trying to get in position to net this monster. As soon as Zander gained leverage on this fish with the LTBC79HF, the fish would change directions and really challenge his ability to fight it properly given the backwards ergonomics he was struggling with. Finally, Zander expressed that he thought the fish was tired and he started winding it to the surface. I reached with the net but missed, brushing the fish on its side and it dove back down seemingly with a second breath!

The specifications on our LTBC79HF

The LTBC79HF arched and brought the fish right back up again. I slid the net under the fish's head, but it was too long to fit into the net! Quickly, I scooped it up from the side and swung her into the middle deck of the boat. High fives all around as the LTBC79HF and Lunker Punker combo had just landed Zander a nearly fifteen pound striper!

Rather than capped off with a winding check, the forward portion of the split rear cork grip is tapered down smoothly to the blank.

I asked Zander how that felt and his simple response was if he had a right hand retrieve reel on that rod, the battle would have been over in half the time. Now what fun would that have been? In other words, the LTBC79HF was more than up for the task.

Similarly, the butt end is tapered up from the blank to a cap made of foam.


Features: As of 2008, all of St. Croix's Legend Tournament rods feature a split rear cork grip, no foregrip design with Fuji Alconite guides and reel seats. The LTBC79HF and LTBC80XHF specifically feature non-exposed blank reel seats that take just a tad more to get your fingers around than do the exposed blank versions.


Nicely paired with a Daiwa Luna 253LA.


Warranty: St. Croix offers a limited lifetime warranty on all their Legend Tournament fishing rods and with that warranty comes three different service plans. The first plan, the Silver Star, is your standard warranty against manufacturer workmanship and materials and is subject to inspection to evaluate applicability against warranty. The second, their Gold Star plan, is a no questions asked repair/replacement plan, and their third is their Gold Star plus Upgrade Plan where in addition to the $50 Gold Star fee, you pay the retail difference in between your existing, broken rod, and the rod to which you'd like to upgrade. In all cases, the owner is responsible for shipping charges, and as always, please check with St. Croix or your local, authorized dealer for more detailed information.



St. Croix LT Swimbait Stick Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality A very finely crafted stick 7.5
Performance Good casting and powerful 7.5
Price Entry level of high end in our Rod Wars 6
Features Good line of components 7
Design (Ergonomics) Great looking design, though a bit tip heavy 6.5
Application The LTBC79HF is a good big bait topwater stick while the LTBC80XHF is better for baits like the Huddleston Deluxe Rainbow simply for its slightly longer handle 7.5

Total Score

Ratings Key: Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = unbelievable!
(For a detailed explanation of the ratings go here)

Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J A finely crafted stick L A tad too unbalanced
J Very good components L Getting up there in price
J Power to spare
J Light


Conclusion: Overall, while I did like these Legend Tournament swimbait sticks, I didn't find them different enough to feel the need for both. If the LTBC79HF had a softer tip à la the Dobyns Rods 795ML then I could understand a clearer need for both these rods in the St. Croix lineup. As it stands, the LTBC79HF is probably the more versatile of the two sticks but because of its shorter handle, traditional big bait throwers are not going to like it for bottom bouncing baits. The LTBC80XHF is just right where it is in terms of power and tip, although another inch to inch and a half on this rod's handle would be nice as well. This rod is slightly better suited than the LTBC79HF for a dedicated stick to throw the big, heavy baits - but only slightly.


Hand over a combo to Zander to check out for a few minutes and look what happens!


The LTBC79HF is definitely the easier of the two to handle simply because of its slightly shorter length, less weight, and slightly lower power curve. Both rods load well when casting any variety of baits within and even slightly over their lure weight specifications and as party to the group of rods we've classified as "Heavy Hitters", both these sticks can handle just about anything you're going to hook into including hard running, fast charging, mean spirited striped bass! For now, it's back out to the water to see how the remaining two sticks in our Rod Wars handle the mounting expectations.










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