This may have been stated but get out to the shops, clubs, a friends house whatever and cast as many different brands as possible and see what you like not what we like. We all have our own casting style and some rods are better suited to it. We all could go on and on about what brands and models we like but we are not you. Most of the rod manufactures are putting out some great rods for well under 400 bucks. Look the companies warranty over pretty good some like St. Croix have been going down hill for a time and I would never recommend them but again that is just my 2cents worth..
So, you're going to bash St. Croix on every thread now? Give it a rest.