I broke two simply setting the hook, one was an Avid and one a Premiere. I wouldn't buy another St. Croix no matter what. As far as rods, it is like this......some guys will pay 250 to 300 for a G. Loomis rod. They swear it is like nothing they've ever experienced before, it brings their fishing to another level. I don't believe a rod can be so many light years ahead of its competition so I dispute that. No matter, I can't justify the price for the performance. These GL rods may indeed fish better than an Extreme or an Allstar or a St. Croix but not much better to justify the tremendous pricetag. I recently picked up a 7ft Yamamoto G Loomis Med. Flipping rod. It feels good but I don't think it is better than my JM. You are over paying for a name, just like Shimano reels. I pay extra to fish those Stradics. They are great reels but are they 125.00 reels? Likely not. They have good features but I've seen reels with 10bb for 50.00. What is the difference? It comes down to customer service/ return policy and reliability. I've had a Shimano break down on me before twice. The company upgraded the reel and shipped me a new one......these were not Stradics mind you. They were older reels. I have not had any problems with those Stradics.
Wood, it may feel different. The Avid blank is not a huge upgrade like you think. I can buy a Premiere blank for about 25.00 and an Avid blank for a little more. Put lighter components on the rod(which they do)and it will give you a different feel. Woody, I'm not saying you or I am right or wrong, it is based on preferrance. If they work for you, great. I think they suck.
There is no regulation in the industry as far as materials and prices go. That's why you can but a 20.00 IM6 Shimano rod and a 99.99 AllStar IM6. Which is better?? Hell, I'd buy the 20.00 rod anyday over 99.99. You don't know what you are getting. You may think it is HM54, it may be labelled HM54, how do you know what you are fishing with?
The only thing you can be sure of is that it feels better than the previous rod you upgraded from.