flyangler

Designing a Surf Gear Bag for the NON-striper angler in the Southeast

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Posted (edited)

This is intended to be a long and detailed discussion about designing a surf bag for the angler for whom stripers are not the primary target. Now that I am in my sixth year fishing the beaches and intracoastal waterways of Florida, I have a better handle on what I want/need out of a bag. So my intent here is to plan a bag that uses the leading such technology today and would be "perfect" for the needs of myself and, I presume, other non-striper anglers 

 

I don't profess to know what I am doing below, these are just the thoughts of a reformed engineer and so I am open to comments, criticisms or suggestions for improvement. 

 

I am going to break this post up into three parts: background, design thoughts and getting it made. For those wondering about all this detail, most of it was not written for this discussion. I have been collaborating with a leading bag maker and much of this was part of our many rounds of interaction by text and email. More on that process later, in the third part. 

 

BACKGROUND

 

We move to SE Florida 5+ years ago and I returned to surf fishing after nearly a 40 year hiatus. New beaches, new techniques and new gear. My trusty green canvas bag with the aluminum insert from The Surfcaster,  which I found when packing up Connecticut house, was long past its usable life. Generally, I don’t like backpacks for fishing and the first six months of walking the Florida beach with one on my back confirmed that. Too sweaty against your back, too big mostly allowing over-packing and more often than not put on the sand while you are casting. That last point is about the inconvenience when you've walked 50-100 yards down the beach and you want to change lures which are back in the pack. Eventually, after reading here and elsewhere, I decided a bag that could be worn on a belt was the answer. Fanny packs didn't work and relying on shoulder straps was no good as that would aggravate existing shoulder issues.

 

So for the past 4 years I have used a Flatlander bag that I bought in the BST here - a 2-tube bag with a short front pouch meant for rind/tail jars. While the feature-set was more typical of NE striper fishing, I was in a hurry and did lot have the patience for Jamie’s waiting list. That bag has served me well through 100+ trips to our beaches and inlets in SE Florida. But it has been a compromise and after several years of usage I have narrowed what I want/need from a bag.

 

CURRENT SETUP

 

I have posted my kit before in the Flatlander bag and other discussions. It is sometimes maligned as the Batman Utility Belt but it works well to carry the bag, a large composite D-ring to hold a lip-gripper, bottle cage/holder, old-style Flatlander belt carabiner, bottle sleeve/pouch, a pliers in sheath, dive knife and a cheap Molle pouch. The belt is a Blackhawk Tactical duty belt which is stiff and rigid, meant to hold the type of load a cop would carry. 

 

IMG_6267.jpeg.cd7c8fddd89b15efc019b01c35c9568d.jpeg

 

I don't like the standard Flatlander tube insert as it is geared toward skinny minnow which I really don't use. Being cheap, I replaced that with two cut-off 1.5L water bottles which are about 3.5" in diameter.

 

IMG_6273.jpeg.e1bc87bd753ccf3fa3b755df2b932627.jpeg

 

Above and below are the contents for this time of year, during the autumn mullet run, when forage species can run from pichards to finger mullet to full-size mullet. 

 

IMG_6271.jpeg.18258709e557b64b92733de463d9b99b.jpeg

 

All of my fishing, and most fishing on SE Florida ocean beaches, is done standing on the sand, maybe ankle/calf deep at most. Snook, jacks and other game fish hunt in the trough right in the wash and wading in there is unwise. So no deep wading, no swimming to rocks and almost no occasion for the bag to get fully immersed. Thus, between the belt and the use case, there are features built into bags for NE striper anglers and wetsuiters that are unneeded by me and most SE anglers: 

  • Internal flaps to cover tubes in case of full immersion with top flap loose.
  • D-rings to attach lanyard for pliers, Boga, etc.
  • Accessory locking system on sides of bag
  • Massive 6” Velcro patch to secure top flap
  • Buckles as backup for Velcro closures

 

As show, my bag has the detachable short front pouch for rind/tail jars, which have no role here. So I use that pouch to hold soft plastics in a very disorganized way (see photo). It is a mess, I cannot get to the bottom of pouch without taking out all other lures, etc.

 

IMG_6277.jpeg.a47ca6c579fbbd00652965b191594870.jpeg

 

And while we use bucktails far less here in FL than up north, soft baits and paddletails are very popular and bucktail loops work well for the smaller size soft baits. 

 

So that's the background. I would be remiss if I did not point out that I am one of only two guys that I see using belt setups. The other guy is also from up north, lots of time at Montauk and he shares many of the preferences I stated above. For the majority of Florida anglers, at least here on the SE coast, backpacks are the standard, in all sorts of sizes. I am often in awe of the fully packed 30 liter packs some of these guys carry with several 3700 sized Plano boxes, a half dozen leader spools, etc. I have never had the chance to lift one of those but they must be heavy. Most of those folks leave their packs up on dry sand as they fish. 

 

A smaller number of guys have adopted sling bags, some the waterproof type, others simple nylon. Fly anglers in the surf pack light and are likely to use either a sling or an integrated fanny pack. 

 

That's it on background, design discussion next. 

Edited by flyangler

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Posted (edited)

This is where I welcome any comments from those with more experience with a range of bags. I am sure I am missing something and would appreciate any thoughts. The lousy diagrams are part of my interaction with a bag maker. 

 

DESIGN

 

I got the idea of doing a "custom" design after listening to a podcast *. What struck me was Nick's stated willingness to build bags to a specific angler's use case so that got me thinking. I have gone back and forth with Nick as we have discussed this project and I think we are close to a final design. His input has been invaluable, i.e. he talked me out of a marine zipper for the smaller section and I get why. 

 

Candidly, some of this design is based on my existing Flatlander bag and influenced by the Back Bay Bag with Front Pouch designed to hold tubes. My design is different enough from that bag that it would not fill my needs. 

 

As mentioned, from a construction perspective, I don't need a bag that could withstand swimming, waves and rubbing against or climbing boulders. That said, while lighter is better, I would prefer it to be stiff enough to hold its shape when there are no tubes inside. I have a Aquaskin bag I bought in the BST and use that when on the beach with a fly rod, but taking out the tubes and it collapses - no bueno for my needs. So for this design, black or white sailcloth works.

 

As mentioned, the short detachable pouch for rind/tail jars, rigged eels, etc. is suboptimal for my use. What would provide greater utility would be a second compartment but something full height, same as the main compartment. It would not have to be detachable either. Sized correctly, that pouch could offer the option of using either tubes or a the right size Plano-style box.

 

So my concept is a two-compartment bag that is wide enough to accommodate either 2 x 3.5” tubes (main compartment) and 4 x 1.5-2.0” tubes (second compartment), single row. The second compartment would also accommodate a 2-sided plastic box. The aim here it to be flexible so the load-out can be modified as needed. Given my usage, I would want the slimmer section closer to the belt since I would access that less frequently than the big tube section.

 

Dimensions are still being worked out but this design is slightly larger in all dimensions compared to my bag. Interior dimensions are about 6.5" wide, 4" deep and 9" high. As shown in the sketches, I am leaning toward interior dimensions of the house 8" wide, 6.5-7.0" deep and 9-9.5" high. The standard FL tube is 3" OD, slightly narrower ID. My cut down water bottles are 3.5" dia and I have found some lightweight tubes that are 3.5" ID which are perfect for this usage (see bottom). 

 

 

617ea26e4df28_toptubes.jpg.537f5e0eb870b759e2f5f72500336ff4.jpg

 

617ea269d098c_topbox.jpg.7d2d7a3d8e10b151d2ebd79c9b2e1632.jpg

 

I am thinking of a design with two cover flaps rather than a single long flap covering both openings. The outside section flap (blue below) would secure to Velcro patch on the outside edge of the bag (pink below). The inside section flap would secure to a Velcro patch on the top of the first flap (red below).

 

617ea26ba5c08_topflaps.jpg.61819178317dbb381276316c8919c2b3.jpg

 

side.jpg.16950279bc03bc907060f1a6ca196ffd.jpg

 

I would want open-top sleeves in each section (yellow above), one “full width” in the outside section and a split one in the inside. The inside sleeve will hold leaders in 4”x4” ziplocks, so 4.5-4.75” wide, with the second slot being whatever the overall width and construction allow. That will be a narrow slot and can fit a hook sharpener or something like that. Outside section open-top sleeve can hold larger ziplocks, likely 6”x6”, for wire leaders which are easier to get into the larger bags.

 

Shown at bottom is a photo of lower profile d-rings for shoulder strap (just in case), not as large nor pronounced as the rings on the Flatlander. While I don't need the level of drainage a swimmer would need, I do want a limited number of drainage grommets (half normal number) for any water or sand to escape as well as to promote airflow in the bag. 

 

617ea267da57d_backfront.jpg.ccf04e0f40ed047fc35a71a5d43b70ed.jpg

 

Belt loops are key here since the entire weight of the bag will be sitting on those loops. The 2 tube bag with removable front pouch, not specifically designed for belt use, has standard webbing belt loops, nothing really heavy duty and not reinforced with multiple rows of edge stitching. As shown below, I am going to have to do some DIY reinforcing of the edges of that loop which is showing significant wear. For my bag I will ask that the webbing either be heavier grade or doubled as well as possibly edge reinforced with heavy thread. 

 

5230F65D-B7E5-4824-BBFB-2FEC8C304C06_1_105_c.jpeg.04eea3f9aa3202654dcd57b0bb7c6e15.jpeg

 

5883ADF6-8270-4762-870B-032214CCBF7A_1_105_c.jpeg.adacdd581e48457d261cb2684d679a8f.jpeg

 

 

Found these product/shipping tubes on Amazon, two 48" x 3.5" ID. Bottom photo shows difference relative to FL insert. I will come up with some bottom treatment that provides rigidity and allows nominal drainage. 

 

496B6B42-C902-424A-92EB-CC99FBD7B8C8_1_105_c.jpeg.518451174d66c8c4764f256b1b00cc21.jpeg

 

8B418156-9A50-4DD1-8130-C7FE3C632850_1_105_c.jpeg.8a6e06a2287590fdd940e6f2f63d2a2a.jpeg

 

Lower profile D-ring for shoulder strap will work since I don't need any locking system on sides of bag. 

 

May be an image of wrist watch

 

Boxes that I have considered, all sourced on AMZN, two Planos and two Chinese designs. Originally, I thought I was going to use the Plano, but after having all of these in-hand and considering size and shape, the box on the left is my choice. It will fit vertically in the back section and has 10 full slots and two smaller ones and should fit all but the largest soft baits that I carry. Better, having two or three of these packed for different conditions will be a vast improvement over my use of the jar pouch on the current bag. 

 

38F00348-AB9C-4915-8F22-156D9358E15E_1_105_c.jpeg.04b733794c1ce6025c6d7bc04e0b4b64.jpeg

 

3F479A22-F9C8-4F6F-AAC1-643613966B93_1_105_c.jpeg.a0eba21f1c8e657c119372dc2efe1664.jpeg

 

That's it on the design thoughts. Again, comments, suggestions or criticisms are welcome. 

Edited by TimS
We don't promote commercial sites here, their podcasts or social media handles

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GETTING IT MADE

 

As mentioned above, I am collaborating with Nick at 4171 on this design and he has been responsive thus far about being able to bring my design into reality. My only challenge might be getting his production queue. 

 

I have to give the dimensions a bit more thought, specifically whether to add another half inch to any of the dimensions.

 

I am not too worried about empty weight due to the larger size relative to my current bag. Not needing the internal flaps, BuddyLok connectors and clips for the front pouch should offset any additional material weight. 

 

The choice of black or white material is a minor consideration though I might be leaning black for a change of pace. 

 

While I have a pliers sheath for my cheapo pliers, I might spring for a matching 4171 sheath too.

 

No photo description available.

 

 

 

That's it for my "prepared comments"....if you have read this far, without thinking TLDR, thanks. 

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Do you really need to bring that much stuff with you everyday?

I would use a small sling bag with a couple small Plano boxes to keep things organized.
I go to FL a couple times a year and all I bring is a tiny sling bag meant for fly fishing. It has one tiny Plano box, a leader wallet, a few packs of soft plastic, pliers and a carabiner for a fish grip. A knife goes in my pocket. I’ve never felt like I’ve needed more stuff and it’s too hot to want to lug around tons of weight. 

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Posted (edited)

28 mins ago, z-man said:

Do you really need to bring that much stuff with you everyday?

No, not on any single day, but without knowing what is going to be in the surf on any given morning, yes. 

Quote

I would use a small sling bag with a couple small Plano boxes to keep things organized.
I go to FL a couple times a year and all I bring is a tiny sling bag meant for fly fishing. It has one tiny Plano box, a leader wallet, a few packs of soft plastic, pliers and a carabiner for a fish grip. A knife goes in my pocket. I’ve never felt like I’ve needed more stuff and it’s too hot to want to lug around tons of weight. 

Z, what you describe works for smaller snook, ladyfish, spanish macs, Tailor blues and small jacks - smaller fish, smaller prey, fewer lures needed. I see guys like that all the time, a half dozen lures, 8' med-light rod with 15-20# line and they are casting moderate distances and twitching back topwaters or swimbaits. That works if those species are about. 

 

But when 100 pound tarpon, overslot snook, large jacks, chopper blues and sharks are around, you are dealing with a completely different range of lures and techniques. That's when the 8' rod is swapped for the 11' 2-5oz stick and 30-40# braid. Given lures can be up to or above 4oz and 9" long, you are talking about 3600 or 3700 sized boxes. In fact, usually 2 or 3 of them, which you will be challenged to get in the largest Patagonia or SIMMS slings. And that is why so many guys use backpacks during those times of year. 

 

I had days where you have overlapping presence of glass minnows, pilchards or greenies and small and large mullet, and have used everything from 1oz Hogy paddles to 4oz open mouth poppers. My largest fish was a tarpon just over 100# that was taken on a 1oz Hogy in the middle of the mullet run in November four years ago. That tarpon were ignoring 8" long soft baits and when I switched to a pilchard sized bait, hooked up on second cast. The big fish were targeting the little minnows which are supposed to be sweeter than mullet, though I cannot confirm that. 

 

Anyway, there's a method to the/my madness. 

 

ETA: Have you seen what some striper guys carry? Six tube bags stuffed to the brim? How is that different than what I am discussing above? 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by flyangler

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Posted (edited)

The bag you show in your pix is not a Flatlander “Blitz Bag”. BBs are small bags designed to be on a belt only and have 3x2”x5.5” tubes and high mount belt loops. (Black bag below)

 

What you have basically designed is a Flatlander Back Bay with front pouch. These bags have a leader pocket on the front flap, high mount belt loops, available with or with out bucktail loops. Main compartment has 3x2”x6.5” & 4x1.5”x6.5” tubes. So the main compartment will hold 2x3”x6.5”, maybe 2x3.5”. Front compartment will also hold 4x1.5”x5.5” with the BT loops in it. (White bag below)

 

15D0F7C3-66A0-46CA-8308-4BB630B93065.jpeg

532C973E-445D-485F-8605-2E1973CEC866.jpeg

2F3EB9DF-B743-40B0-8D69-B582F7BEB555.jpeg

29996407-18D7-44FA-86A8-88A0C488AE11.jpeg

2EFD232C-0D7D-43FC-8616-461E7E9798CF.jpeg

ED6498B9-9DD2-4B78-B850-8DD6336871F2.jpeg

A79D445D-E34C-4E99-A0B0-030B19E1A861.jpeg

Edited by Inshore

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Posted (edited)

@Inshore - Thank you, you are correct, mine is a "2 tube with removable front pouch", not Blitz, not Back Bay. As I noted, I bought it used so did not really order it directly from Jamie, so name was never forefront in my mind. I will correct erroneous mentions above. 

 

Thanks for the correction (twice). :banghd:

Edited by flyangler

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Posted (edited)

5 mins ago, flyangler said:

Back Bay, not Blitz

Your bag is a “2 tube with removable front pouch”…

Edited by Inshore

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Posted (edited)

11 mins ago, Inshore said:

Your bag is a “2 tube with removable front pouch”…

OK, more corrections to be made. Again, thanks for the clarification. 

 

But thank you for the photos, you confirmed something that led to my two cover flap design - the total length of that single flap covering both sections. I used a ruler and tried to envision how long that flap would be when fully opened, it came up to my armpit. Further, since I would be more focused on going in and out of the larger tube section, there was no need in my mind to have to open such a long flap. Probably a minor issue, but helps explain why I am hoping to have two cover flaps and this slightly larger and deeper bag. . 

 

2F3EB9DF-B743-40B0-8D69-B582F7BEB555.jpeg.ec81c64f83e0d0aa0b02beb24d5f59e1.jpeg

Edited by flyangler

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Posted (edited)

Here is a pic that will tell you what you want to know…

 

This is my BBay, the other is one I just picked up off the BST for may dad. My bag has the tubes in the front pouch, a “add a tube” and plier sheath on it.

 

Total open flap length is ~11.5” Hope this helps.

 

F7CC7375-F55A-4576-9C75-005B64812198.jpeg

Edited by Inshore

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1 hour ago, flyangler said:

No, not on any single day, but without knowing what is going to be in the surf on any given morning, yes. 

Z, what you describe works for smaller snook, ladyfish, spanish macs, Tailor blues and small jacks - smaller fish, smaller prey, fewer lures needed. I see guys like that all the time, a half dozen lures, 8' med-light rod with 15-20# line and they are casting moderate distances and twitching back topwaters or swimbaits. That works if those species are about. 

 

But when 100 pound tarpon, overslot snook, large jacks, chopper blues and sharks are around, you are dealing with a completely different range of lures and techniques. That's when the 8' rod is swapped for the 11' 2-5oz stick and 30-40# braid. Given lures can be up to or above 4oz and 9" long, you are talking about 3600 or 3700 sized boxes. In fact, usually 2 or 3 of them, which you will be challenged to get in the largest Patagonia or SIMMS slings. And that is why so many guys use backpacks during those times of year. 

 

I had days where you have overlapping presence of glass minnows, pilchards or greenies and small and large mullet, and have used everything from 1oz Hogy paddles to 4oz open mouth poppers. My largest fish was a tarpon just over 100# that was taken on a 1oz Hogy in the middle of the mullet run in November four years ago. That tarpon were ignoring 8" long soft baits and when I switched to a pilchard sized bait, hooked up on second cast. The big fish were targeting the little minnows which are supposed to be sweeter than mullet, though I cannot confirm that. 

 

Anyway, there's a method to the/my madness. 

 

ETA: Have you seen what some striper guys carry? Six tube bags stuffed to the brim? How is that different than what I am discussing above? 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t think you need a new bag. What you need is a boat. :laugh:
I have a less is more mentality. I find it more challenging to bring a few baits and fish with them and make it work. Spend more time fishing and less time changing baits. 
I agree that you want to have different size and types of baits with you but do you really need 10 topwater baits? Bring one or two. The same with the metals and soft plastics. Are you really ever going to use or lose that many in one day? Leave a few spares in the truck if you’re really concerned about running out of baits. 

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fly.......this is going to be interesting, because - regardless - of us up here in the Northeast, any design that will lend itself to a lighter quality bag is always at the forefront of a striper fishermen's mind.  That said, hopefully, the design will enable some of us to carry a little of everything without the kitchen sink effect on our backs.

 

Heretofore, as Inshore stated, that Flatlander Back Bay bag has been the closest thing i can see that fits that description.  I'm a guy that basically looks to carry some plugs, tins and bags of soft plastics.  I still carry a bag with a pouch on the opposite side of my belt to accommodate this.  It would be nice to have a single design have the ability to carry all this without the heavy bulk.  Hopefully, your design ends up going down this road.  Eager for this discussion and eventual outcome(s).

 

p.s.  Is it possible that several sizes will emerge from the overall concept of this design?

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6 mins ago, z-man said:

I don’t think you need a new bag. What you need is a boat. :laugh:

You don't want to know what was on my boat up in Connecticut when we lived there. 

:point:

6 mins ago, z-man said:

I have a less is more mentality. I find it more challenging to bring a few baits and fish with them and make it work. Spend more time fishing and less time changing baits. 

My "less is more" is this bag, compared to the boys with stuff 30L backpacks. Everything is relative. 

6 mins ago, z-man said:

I agree that you want to have different size and types of baits with you but do you really need 10 topwater baits? Bring one or two.

Pencil? Open mouth? Roberts Ranger? GT Ice Cream? Dog walker? 

 

Tell me my casting distance in advance, or wave conditions or the gamefish involved and it would be easier. Six weeks ago the tarpon and jacks were in the wash chasing finger mullet. Three weeks ago, same beach, wind out of the East and they were out past the second bar with the surfers, at the limit of my casting with a 2.5 oz Ranger. 

 

You have been here, so what about sargassum or slime weeds? If you look closely, I usually have one type plug with double hooks and one with a single in-line hook on the tail. The latter, especially on the topwaters, makes it possible to fish those weedy days without getting frustrated bringing in weeds on every cast. But those single hook rigs are less efficient at hook up when not needed. You know the conditions.  

6 mins ago, z-man said:

The same with the metals and soft plastics. Are you really ever going to use or lose that many in one day?

My PB, if you want to call it that, is losing or having chewed up 10+ plastics in single day. It was a day when a hard bait, above or below the surface, would not get a look. Even jacks can mangle a No Live Bait Needed body. The sharks take their tax. Spanish macs too when not using wire. I don't carry too many metals, but I know guys who have a half dozen spoons with them at all times. 

6 mins ago, z-man said:

Leave a few spares in the truck if you’re really concerned about running out of baits. 

You are right, but how far do you go until "less is more" is actually suboptimal? 

 

In my opinion, up north it is much easier, though you couldn't tell that from the way some striper guys pack their bags. At the risk of oversimplifying, the options are simpler and easier to decide what you need in advance:

  • Location - Back bay or ocean side.
  • Lighting - Day or night or in between. 
  • Stripers - schoolies or bigger fish.
  • Bluefish - yes or no. 

With the exception of when albies are in, the potential gamefish encounters are relatively limited and more predictable. 

 

I get what you are saying and think I am practicing similar, but it is all relative I guess. 

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43 mins ago, Inshore said:

Here is a pic that will tell you what you want to know…

 

This is my BBay, the other is one I just picked up off the BST for may dad. My bag has the tubes in the front pouch, a “add a tube” and plier sheath on it.

 

Total open flap length is ~11.5” Hope this helps.

 

F7CC7375-F55A-4576-9C75-005B64812198.jpeg

Looking at this.....@flyangler what would be the length of this very same flap design if, in fact, you cut down all that velcro and the actual length of the flap itself.  This current flap almost reaches the very end of the front of the bag.  You definitely do not need it to be that long for reasons stated in your OP.

 

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@z-man - regarding "less is more" that is one of the concepts I am trying to integrate here in the features of the bag itself. As noted above, there are features needed by wetsuiters that are really no needed here. 

 

While minor weight consideration for clips, snaps and locking devices, all of those do add a bit to weight but more importantly add the the complexity of the build and the construction. If you don't know it, these bags are mostly sewn inside-out and then have to be reversed to inside-inside. The sewing machines are industrial strength but the work area is tight and the hand work is quite demanding. My thinking is that the less of those detail items, if they are not needed, should save on both weight (minor) and ultimate cost (once a template pattern is created). 

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