Waking the dead - A Tale of Two Metaloids
Having done this for 20 years now I thought that I've seen pretty much everything, yet the industry keeps finding new ways to surprise me and force me to write strange stuff. Today I'll be talking about an act of necromancy!!
Nope, don't mean it in the classic sense of resurrecting the dead through medieval magic, although I don't mind trying that one day with Ms. Jayne Mansfield to see if she was up for some recreational "plugging" of the sort that doesn't involve casting plugs or any fishing at all. I mean it here in the sense of Okuma necromancing the dead Metaloid spinner
For those who are new to spinning reels, late 2015 Okuma announced a new reel that promised some incredible features for a mere $190-$200. Full metal construction, full carbon drag both top and bottom of the spool, huge stabilisation disc beneath the spool, and most important of all a pinion and drive gear made of stainless steel
Here it is from Okuma's promotional material. It had a forged 304 stainless steel drive gear (I corrected a typo), which is virtually the same as in the flagship Makaira. Actually I even learned that the drive gear of the Metaloid was forged in Taiwan right next to that of the Makaira then sent to Okuma's Chinese factory to be assembled into the Metaloid. Basically we were about to get a $200 reel that had inside it the strongest drive gear ever put in a spinning reel.
The Metaloid project moved so much forward that sales videos were posted officially by Okuma in USA and around the world.
The reel was even put on Okuma's official sites....
..... in the USA
.....and in Europe
It was put up for pre-ordering on major tackle sites, outdoors chains, and trade sites. These listings are gone now except for a few, such as this Amazon page.
Actual reels were even given out to tackle shops to promote them in videos, and sites listed arrival dates that were mere days away.
Then out of the blue I got a tip that the reel was scrapped and that it was not going to be released! I posted a news flash announcing the sad news in 2017, and shortly afterwards the reel got deleted from Okuma's websites and all but a few shops. P.R. statements aside, the real reason behind its cancellation was that it became clear that selling such a reel for $200 only would not have been financially feasible. Forging a piece of red hot high grade stainless steel into a gear consumes energy, requires costly manual labour, and wears out the machinery.
These are screenshots from the TV series "How it's made" documenting the making of the Makaira spinning reel, showing some of what it takes to create the drive gear that would have gone into the Metaloid as well. Actually the Makaira itself is facing the same conundrum at the moment, which is why the 10000 size has been delayed and the bigger ones are coming out unusually slowly. A perfect case of something being "too well made for its own good", but that's a different story for another time. Back to the Metaloid, two years ago the whole thing died and that was that. Or was it?
Recently this happened; a "Mataloid" was announced for the South African market, which looked identical to the defunct original except that this one has a round metal handle knob. Compared to the original it comes in the same sizes (55S, 65S, and 90S), the weight has slightly increased due to the metal knob, it has an extra bearing which is inside the new knob as well, and the drag numbers are inflated to unreasonable figures for reels this size, especially that the drag construction has not changed from the original. The prices are from 1570 rand to 1840 rand, which is about $109 US to $128 US at today's exchange rates.
How could a reel that was not viable at $200 be profitable at $128 two years later, you ask? Easy; they ditched the original forged stainless steel drive gear and the machined stainless steel pinion and instead this Metaloid comes with entry level cast zinc drive gear and machined brass pinion. That in itself is not an issue for me. Okuma produces this gearing combination to good standards and they work well in other Okuma models, plus at this price the new Metaloid stands uniquely as the cheapest mainstream reel that has a full carbon-fibre drag on top and bottom of the spool. Penn Spinfisher V used to have that but it's been discontinued and the replacement VI has a basic top stack, and the Azores series has a felt/carbon drag combination, not a full carbon one.
This "Metaloid" therefore has a potential and I might even import one from South Africa to give it a go, but my main concern is the inescapable possibility of confusing and misleading anglers. Why call a significantly different reel the same name as the original? The original Metaloid was heavily promoted in 2015, 2016, and part of 2017, its features becoming very well known, and I fear it's now inevitable that fishermen would buy it thinking that it has the same construction as the original. I mean look at this page from Okuma's 2017 catalogue
It's obvious that the whole promotional campaign for that original defunct Metaloid cantered around the gearing, whether it's the huge image of the gear or the fact that the first two lines in the specifications were a description of the drive gear and the pinion. I'm searching my memory but can't come up with a similar case where a reel was promoted then scrapped, only for it to reappear bearing the same name but with downgraded internals. I don't believe it happened in the fishing industry before, but it happened elsewhere.....
Yep, you bury it, then it comes back quite different!!
Jokes aside, this whole blog entry has two purposes; the first is to look out for my fellow fishos and make sure that when they buy this reel they are aware it's not the same as the originally planned one, and the second is to urge Okuma to change the name even if by adding "2" to it in order to avoid any confusion that might hurt the company's credibility. In my book Okuma maintains a better reputation for straightforwardness than most other mainstream brands, they make some lovely reels including my current favourite super-spinner, and the last thing they need is controversy and drama if people buy this Metaloid then feel cheated. Calling it "Metaloid II" would maintain the desired connection to the original, yet the "II" bit would indicate that a difference exists and encourage fishermen to research it. Sounds pretty fair, right?
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March, 14th, 2019