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A Christmas Message and What's Coming 2024

It's that time again when I give you my well wishes and recap the year on both the fishing and personal fronts. Being a specially eventful year though I couldn't fit all I wanted to say in a paragraph on the news page as usual, and instead here we are on a roomier blog post. Let me first light up a mediocre cigar which is all I got left now that the good sticks are gone, and let's begin another journey of nonsensical blabbering about a year that had some business as usual, business as not-at-all usual, as well as many comebacks.

2023 Christmas Message -

Boof! Feels like smoking a dead raccoon! At any rate, the usual stuff in 2023 included such familiar tasks as continually updating the tackle scams' list and keeping you to date with the latest happenings in the tackle world, be it on the News page or, when needed, detailed Blog posts. The more unusual event was a thorough upgrade of this site's capacity, security, and speed. With the increasing volume of traffic the site would occasionally load slowly, particularly in the days following the publication of a new article, and some uncommon devices/browsers had compatibility issues and were giving warnings or failing to connect. I kept you aware of the progression and gave you heads up about possible disruption, and thankfully it was completed with minimal issues except for one major outage which I'm now officially apologising for....

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Was still learning the new settings and apparently clicked the wrong buttons, something I intend not to let happen again. It's all history now though, and since the upgrade I've only received a handful of complaints about speed all of which I believe were on the user's side, not mine. The process was not fun, but I sure hope the fun will be all yours as you enjoy instant loading and secure connection no matter what gadget you're using.

The comebacks though were nothing but fun. In 2023 I returned to ICAST for the first time in 5 years, and covered it in an article that ended up being the biggest non-review to be published on this site. In another comeback the Penn Battle 3 was reviewed and scored high enough to earn an advanced placement on my Top Picks, marking the first time in over a decade that a Penn reel won my full satisfaction. This was only one of several indications that the brand as a whole is making its own return to its position as one of the better brands out there, but that's a subject for another time.

Another comeback this year was your messages returning to, and in all likelihood exceeding, pre-pandemic levels. I'm yet to do the official rough count since the year still has a couple of weeks left, but judging by daily averages I am predicting it will be a record year. This is important because regular traffic means that people are just looking, but messages indicate that they are actively engaged and looking for gear options. I guess by now most of those who stopped or reduced their fishing during these tough years are back on the water, and there aren't many things that could make me happier.

Speaking of your messages, you lot cracked me up big time with your messages consoling or playfully teasing me when Naomi Watts got married earlier this year. I was under the impression that the vast majority of people who come here are one-time visitors who found a search engine link to a review they were seeking, but apparently a good chunk are actually regular readers who've been here long enough to catch on to the running theme of my lifelong quest to exchange vows with the fluffy ball of savage hotness that is Ms. Watts. I appreciate the sympathetic messages, but those who took the piss let me tell you that the joke is on you because I'm convinced that she's madly in love with me and that she only got married to make me jealous and force me to make a move, and while I can't really do that in case she continues to play coy and has me arrested and hit with a restraining order, I'll just spam the world with my messages of adoration until the public speaks up and tells her to stop playing games and be mine. Messages like this one, on a "create your own ship emblem" kids' activity wall in a maritime museum that I took my little nephews to....

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.... Or this one, this time on the "motivational board" at the entrance of my gym!!

2023 Christmas Message -

Jokes aside, walking into the gym this year marked one of the most important comebacks for me; after years of struggling with a major rotator cuff injury I finally got the greenlight to go back to full physical activity without restraints of any sort other than thorough warm-ups and stretching. Once though I'm all warmed up and stretched I can once again do this....  

First bit is biceps curls, strict-forming the entire machine minus one plate only because the rubber on that final plate is so worn off its hole no longer lines up with the pin hole. When it works though I do the whole thing and even place an extra dumbbell on top when the floor manager is not looking. The second bit is back pulls, doing the entire machine with one hand and not much effort.

Why am I showing you this? Well, as I repeatedly lamented this site is a bigger concentration of wiener than a Bavarian meat processing plant with hardly a handful of female visitors a year if at all, so I'm definitely not showing off. Rather since we're chilling and talking random stuff I thought it's a good chance to highlight my physical capabilities in visuals that your mind would recall when you consider my tackle advice. Sounds unrelated, but let me tell you how it actually is; over the years many of you would seek a reel recommendation for a big game trip, I'd send you my best answer, but then I'd hear back that you want a reel with a gazillion kilograms of maximum drag because some braggadocious captain or a tackle shop dude told you that he fishes (insert a crazy number) of drag and could use even more to stop those fish. Most of you never met me and probably imagine that someone who has engineering degrees is on the smaller-build geeky side, but in reality I'm one of the most physically able people you'll ever meet outside of freaky steroid users. So next time one of those highly excitable people tell you that they fish obscene numbers of drag just ask them "do you often struggle to find a gym whose equipment can challenge you and have to build your own gigantic dumbbell in order to do proper one-hand back rows in your garage?"....

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.... and if they answer "no" then ignore whatever they claimed about drag and take my word when I tell you that standing up I struggle to hold onto 22-25kg (48-55lbs) of drag for any useful length of time and that realistically you won't be able to handle more than 16-17kg (35-37lbs) unless you're strapped to a fighting chair or someone is holding onto you like a baby koala onto his mum. By the way, that monstrous 84kg (185lbs) dumbbell is named "Zena", for no other reason than everything around me needs to be a female with a sexy name. I believe you've already met my digital scales "Janny" and "Katjia" in multiple reviews, haven't you?

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But I digress. Back to my recovery, it wasn't just about working out. I could once more sleep on whichever side I want without waking up in pain, I'm able to lift and toss my hand luggage in the overhead on planes without maneuvering the weight to the good shoulder, and more importantly I could do this for the first time in years....

The video is highly trimmed not to show too much and spoil a future review, but this is me casting freely and putting everything I got into the swing. For a long time I had to limit my range and cap the force used, and even this did not spare me occasional pain and setbacks leading to long sessions of scolding by my doctor followed by me leaving her office avoiding eye contact like a pupil who's just got caned by the headmaster. Now that I was 100% again, it simply felt glorious to stand in my usual spot, same rods and lures, but this time the water entry splash is considerably farther. I never ever want to go through that again. It was rough.

Those aforementioned future reviews that I'm trying not to spoil are certainly what you're here for. I don't suppose you clicked to hear me moaning about a torn shoulder or how the woman who will one day bear me 14 children is now exchanging saliva with another dude. So, the Covid backlog is now down to 3 reels, two are not going anywhere soon but one is nearing the end of its production life therefore I need to push it through before it's discontinued or it would be a tragedy considering its importance and what it laid the ground for. This is thus a 100% guaranteed review in 2024.

Another one that's 90% guaranteed is a recent release that I've been fishing for months, but luck has not been on my side so far. Done my part and went floating right on top of fish that are perfectly capable of testing this reel, had three different size/speed combinations of it ready to engage, but fish were just not in a biting mood for the majority of the trip. I didn't come home empty handed but it wasn't nearly enough to even say that I'm half way through what's needed. I'll be dragging them along wherever I go to put some mileage on them when prudent, but the next sure thing is a Spring trip which if goes well should be followed by a review around early summer. I expect this to be a milestone article that has reverberations regardless of whether the evaluation ends up negative or positive. You know how most reviews are pretty standard ones that you read and maybe think "that was interesting" then you move on, but a small number of them have an "epic" feel to them. Well, this review is not going to be of the first type, this I can tell you now. Otherwise I'll also finish up Blog articles that've been in a near finished state for a while only needing to be put together, but I just couldn't find the time to do that. I will in 2024.

A question I often get is why I no longer name the reels I intend to review soon, and I answer that doing so was a learning curve for me, after which I realised that it's not the wisest course of action. Prior to 2016 when I still named upcoming reviews I'd often hear from people that they were planning to buy them but put the purchase on hold until they see the article. This, in addition to putting me under immense pressure to deliver on time since fishos are waiting, also made me question the morality of freezing some sales of a certain reel just because I said I intend to write about it. Something about this felt like interference that wasn't fair to the manufacturer and dealers who stocked it, even if it's just a single purchase that my words caused to be put on hold. That's similar to how I used to splatter my watermark on photos of unreleased reels and leak their upcoming debut well before they're officially announced, which felt exciting and fun as a passionate fisherman but over time I wised up to the negative effect this behaviour has, mainly jeopardising the sales of the current model since I've told the world that it's about to become obsolete. I'm not perfect and I made mistakes, but I try to learn and change direction accordingly.

Being a silly tease though, and while I can't name the subjects of those upcoming reviews, here is a photo of some of them filtered into a heavy snow storm fit for this time of the year!

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I promise you these are not props and indeed are some of the actual reels I'm working on. Of course there are more new reels on order and others that are in different locations, but those will be for 2025 and beyond. The ones in the photo are all candidates for 2024. Put your detective hats on and let's see what you can make of it!

Finally, we've reached the part where I usually leave you with a special piece of music before I sign off for the year. Once more I found myself torn between two finalists, and eventually had just to pick one at random. The other one that wasn't selected is a magnificent snapshot of our times, in which the artistic geniuses reached out into the stars for inspiration and got in touch with their cosmic muses then came up with lyrics that goes "Oh, oh,Uh, uh I'm out of town, thuggin' with my rounds, my coochie pink, my bootyhole brown". Yep, a real song that's widely celebrated as a cultural triumph and a beacon of empowerment, clocking +26 millions views at the time of writing and earning its creators tens of millions of dollars. Well, maybe next year I'll grace your ears with that splendid piece of music history, but for now enjoy the one that I actually picked, keeping in mind that it's a real event that took place on November 26th, not AI or special effects....

As severe as my cynical outlook on everything remains, I found this event to be a genuine effort to lift people's spirits and saw nothing that leads me to believe there is any meaningful monetary gain behind it. The beauty of Christmas music is that it's not only for the faithful. One doesn't need to be a believer in order to celebrate and appreciate the bedrock of a civilisation that gave this world the most valuable and meaningful things it ever had. Unfortunately we're witnessing the collapse of that civilisation at a rate that outpaced my most pessimistic predictions, so let's enjoy every last fleeting glimpse of it before the day comes when we no longer will have a choice and our only option will be to exalt the graphic descriptions of what appears to be severely infected bodily orifices.

I wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful start to 2024, and please be safe at all times. That's all for 2023, and until, quoting Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, we will meet again.


Alan Hawk

December, 9th, 2023