Park Falls, WI - Seeing a line out the back of a boat near Long Island is commonplace. Fleets of 30-some-foot charters troll and rig the mid-Atlantic for stripers, sea bass and weakfish daily. But catching a glimpse of line off the transom of a 950-foot container ship? You blink a few times, rub your eyes, and wonder if the sun and surf are playing tricks on you. But once you've realized it's not a mirage, but instead an 8,000-ton vessel indeed sporting outriggers, you tip your ball cap and text your fishing buddies.
You likely saw Captain Wes Winters and his merry men. A now retired Westhampton, New York commercial maritime pilot, Captain Winters often treated his crew to bluewater trolling while moving freight athwart the Seven Seas. He tells stories of container-ship-caught mahi-mahi being "fixed up" in the galley and sailfish hooked off the coast of Miami.
But when asked about his greatest fishing moment, Grandpa Winters immediately turns to his granddaughter's ongoing quest to establish and smash International Game Fish Association (IGFA) records.
In Winters' eyes, 10-year-old Julia Grace Ketner is quite the catch. Ketner was four years old when she found a picture of a girl holding a plaque in grandpa's IGFA quarterly publication. She turned to her mentor and said, "I can do that." And so began a now decade-long and -lasting commitment to setting and besting IGFA records.
Under the tutelage of Grandpa Winters, Ketner has literally been putting on clinics. To date, she owns 24 approved IGFA world records - ten of which were caught on St. Croix rods. She also has 28 pending world records - 25 of those on St. Croix rods. In addition to this impressive resume of 'Small Fry' category successes, are three female line-class records.
Although young Ketner's records are cast wide, from saltwater to freshwater, she has clear favorites; the fishing phenom names mahi-mahi, white marlin and locally-grown pickerel as her top species to tangle with.
What drives Ketner besides her documented achievements? "It's fun. It's exciting to fight a big fish," she says with a glow. That's a feeling that obviously doesn't discriminate against age or dull with graying. And to the Captain's delight, she also chases fins to "fish with Grandpa and spend time together." That, in fact, is the essence of it all.
St. Croix Rod first became aware of the motivated lassie at an IGFA function where V.P. of Product Management and part-owner Dave Schluter met Grandpa Winters and Ketner. The rodsmith was so enamored by the girl and her pursuit that he fashioned Ketner a custom Avid Pearl embossed with her name. She fishes the Pearl proudly and sets records with it to this day.
Notwithstanding Ketner's beyond-her-years competitive spirit, she does have a normal-kid side. The 6th grader giggles at Sponge Bob Square Pants and loves playing with her sister, Abby.
By the way, 8-year-old Abby already owns one IGFA record and has another pending.
Like granddaughters, like grandpa.
About St. Croix Rod
St. Croix Rod is a family-owned and managed manufacturer of high-performance fishing rods headquartered in Park Falls, Wisconsin with a 65-year heritage of USA manufacturing. Utilizing proprietary technologies, St. Croix controls every step of the rod-making process, from conception and design to manufacturing and inspection, in two company-owned facilities. The company offers a complete line of premium, American-made fly, spinning and casting rods under their Legend Elite®, Legend® Xtreme, Legend Tournament®, Avid Series®, Premier®, Wild River®, Tidemaster®, Imperial® and other trademarks through a global distribution network of full-service fishing tackle dealers. The company's mid-priced Triumph®, Mojo Bass/Musky/Inshore/Surf, Eyecon® and Rio Santo series rods are designed and engineered in Park Falls, Wisconsin and built in a new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Fresnillo, Mexico. Founded in 1948 to manufacture jointed bamboo fishing poles for a Minneapolis hardware store chain, St. Croix has grown to become the largest manufacturer of fishing rods in North America.