With BWG expanding their product range and deciding to add top quality rods to their line up, the pro-staffers were ecstatic to say the least and once we got wind of which rods they were, our mouths were literally watering. I for one, spent sleepless nights dreaming about what the new Rods would be like. After some serious research, it was clear that these were quality products, and ALX rods being a USA based company priding themselves on building quality rods, with assembly and rod blanks taking place and manufactured in the States. So finally when the rods did arrive and after much anticipation of getting them in hand, I was immediately taken a back with the first impressions as the Rods felt comfortable in my hands and were extremely lightweight, usually a good sign of a quality blank.
Now, down to the business end, and time to see what these babies are made off. Being a totally new product with no previous history to work off, I figured the best way to start comparing these rods was to put them up against some well known local brands which have been tried and tested by many pro anglers on our competitive circuits and are considered to be some of the best rods available today. Two rods in two different price brackets where used as reference targets. Rod A is priced at around R7,500 and Rod B is priced at around R3,700. Rod A and Rod B will be referenced as such through the remainder of this review. So it is safe to say that if the ALX’s deliver when facing such fierce competition, then there is no doubt that their quality and performance will be up to the very high standards which BWG products conform to.
The ALX Zolo Dream stick as it is known is the first up for review and one which I picked as it is rated as a general purpose rod and one which will cover most worming applications. The ALX Zolo rods are assembled using the Hydra NG carbon blanks which comprise of advanced resins and carbon layups, giving the rod its lightweight and crisp sensitivity with plenty of backbone to match. The rods also make use of Pacific bay exposed blank reel seats for added sensitivity with EVA foam split grips with traction grooves for maximum comfort. XLA hook keeper which I quite like as they are very easy to clip onto and mid micro 3D Kigan guides.
Another feature which I liked was that the rods also come with their own unique labelling system to help anglers decipher the different rods and their applications. But in addition, you are also able to determine the year of manufacture of the rods from the serial no located below the first guide.
When comparing the weights of Rod A and Rod B against the ALX rods, again the ALX Zolo did not disappoint, with a weight of only 113g, compared to Rod A weighing 113g and Rod B at 161g. Proving that the hydra carbon blanks are extremely lightweight and right up there with the best.
When looking at the build quality and comparing the three rods side by side, aesthetically the ALX rod is pleasing to the eye and the attention to detail is remarkable as I could find no faults on the build quality. The reel seat locked up tight once the reel was fitted and offered no play or indication of it loosening under tension. The line guides were all meticulously wrapped and coated with resin with no overflow or apparent imperfections and lined up perfectly when looking down the length of the rod blank. What was surprising is that both Rod A and Rod B had slight imperfections on the winding and had gaps between the threads when examined closely, with Rod B being more apparent.
Although the lengths of the 3 rods being compared were slightly different, the ratings on the three rods are very similar and therefore I choose them for as close a comparison as possible. Rod A is 7'1" in length and rated MH with an extra fast taper. Rod B is 6'10" in length and rated heavy with fast taper.
For testing purposes I decided to pair the ALX Zolo with two different reels and line weights. The one reel being a Shimano Calais which weighs 240 grams which is now days considered a heavy reel and the other with an extremely light weight reel being the Abu Garcia Revo MGX which is the lightest reel available at only 154 grams. These were loaded with 12lb and 15lb to test the rods versatility and balancing.
The Zolo balanced well with both reels and did not feel cumbersome with either of the reels. The reels also sit nice and low to the rod blank which makes palming the rods easy and comfortable. There was no evidence of the Zolo being tip heavy. The balancing point measured 38.5cm with the Calais and 40.6cm with the MGX. When compared to Rod A these measured in at 38.1cm with the Calais and 40.1cm with the MGX. This made perfect sense as Rod A is slightly lighter than the ALX, indicating that the ALX Zolo rod is as perfectly balanced as Rod A.
In conclusion, so far the ALX Zolo compares with the best out there. The look, feel and quality components used to make up the ALX Zolo are of a very high standard. However to truly gauge its performance in relation to Rod A and Rod B, we will need to hit the water.
With the initial tests of the ALX Zolo proving to be impressive, it was time to put the “DreamStik” through its paces out in the field. I was extremely anxious to see how these rods would perform and whether they would stand up to the famous other brands.
Our day started around 5h30am with Brent meeting me at our chosen location. The weather conditions were perfect for a day's testing and we eagerly launched the boat and headed to our first spot. I had paired up the ALX with a Shimano Calais, loaded with 12lb Flouro. The rod felt well balanced and thanks to its light weight, felt very comfortable. The EVA foam grips are also nice and thick, which results in less fatigue to your palms, which is something I prefer, as the thinner grips on some other makes tend to cause my hands to cramp up after a few hours fishing.
As we approached our first target area in 12' to 14' of water, I fired out the first cast. The mid micro guides and crisp action of the rod delivered great accuracy, and I was able to consistently hit my target areas. The rod loads up easily and good distance is achieved with very little effort. I was able to replicate the distance quite easily as compared to Rod A (R4500). The one thing which was immediately apparent though, is that the ALX’s power ratings in my opinion are understated. The reason I say this is because the rod has a 3 rating which according to the manufacturer is a “medium” powered rod, but the “Dream stik” model behaves and performs more like a medium heavy. The rod has plenty of back bone and power and for me is much more powerful than a medium rating. This was clearly demonstrated when I got my first bite on the ALX and managed to land a feisty 1.2kg bass with very little effort.
The Hydra NG carbon blanks have already impressed me by being extremely lightweight. So now the big question was how sensitive are these rods? Especially considering it was up against one of the most sensitive rods out there (ROD A). The first thing you will notice when fishing these rods is that it telegraphs all the vibrations from your bait extremely well. Any experienced angler will quickly be able to determine the type of structure or terrain in which your bait is crawling through. For the novice angler or someone who has not fished with a top end blank before, this will take some getting used to as everything will feel like an electric bite and you will end up striking at the slightest bump.
You are literally able to feel and picture exactly what your bait is doing under water. Another testament to the rods great sensitivity is that I was able to detect all of this in 12' to 14' of water, where I got my first fish. The deeper one fishes, the more difficult it is to keep in contact with your bait and I had no difficulty in picking up the bite. By now I was quite impressed and satisfied that the ALX was extremely sensitive, but it was only later in the day when I was finally convinced that the ALX compared with the best (ROD A). We ended up pitching at some reeds around an island, and as I crawled my bait through a submerged brush pile, I could feel every branch which my bait was coming through, when my bait suddenly felt as if there was additional pressure attached to it. It was just the faintest of indications of a pressure bite, but I was able to pick this up and immediately set the hook, and then all hell broke loose. An awesome fight ensued as I wrestled a 1.5kg post spawn female out of the brushes and safely into the boat. The rod performed brilliantly as the fish continually tried to dive back into the brush pile and the fast taper of the ALX compensated the surging fish extremely well with just the right amount of give to ensure the line did not snap or tear the hook from the fish’s top lip. She eventually succumbed and I was able to lip land her safely.
So if you haven’t guessed yet, the ALX thoroughly impressed me. The quality blank and components make for a well-balanced and extremely sensitive rod with excellent power and backbone. If I really had to fault the rod, it would be that I don't have an entire set of them YET.
Overall the ALX ZOLO does not disappoint and is fast becoming a favourite of mine. Its excellent quality and value for money will offer another great alternative to the South African Market and become a serious competitor in the high end market.