Thursday, 7 June 2012

Savage Gear Hang Lure Bag: a decent lure bag for kayakers?

Some of you will have seen my review of the ill-fated and badly designed Sukara Lure Bag from last year.  The Sakura bag was designed for boat fishing, so it is less than ideal for kayaking, sitting a bit too high on the deck making hard to secure the bag to the deck in the event of capsize and which might impede trying to get back onto the kayak after such an event.  So less than ideal, but the Sakura bag scored low in several other areas.

Despite being advertised as a "lure wash bag", the Sakura bag failed to get lures dry after rinsing the salt off.  Plugs stayed wet for days unless the clear plastic tubes were physically taken out of the bag and left somewhere the air could circulate through them.  The bag also had some annoyances, such as a lack of space for soft lures, no dedicated small pockets for clips etc, and nowhere for items like the pliers.  The mesh bag on top was difficult to access and exposed to sea water.

However, I lived with these issues, using the bag all last season.  What rendered the bag unusable was that even with rinsing, all the zips corroded and eventually broke off.  Leaving me with a useless piece of junk that lasted less than a single season.  Not impressive.  So, a new lure bag needed for the kayak.

Before I begin, I must state that in all honesty, I have hunted widely across the internet and I've yet to find a purpose-designed lure bag for saltwater fishing from the yak.  One that allows easy access for both soft and hard lures, that prevents lure tangles, has exterior pockets for small items like clips and pliers, and most importantly of all, allows easy rinsing and drying of those expensive lures.  It goes without saying that it should be completely saltwater proof.  Which generally means no zips.  It would help if the manufacturer also provided something to fix or tie the bag onto the kayak - but now I'm really asking too much, so let's see what I found instead!

Savage Gear Hang Lure Bag - first impressions
The bag's a nice colour for freshwater fishing though for sea fishing I generally prefer something more visible.  The size looks like a reasonable compromise, this is not the bag to store racks of 200mm butterfly jigs or pirks, but it should take most hard lures up to 175mm.  Anything longer than that can still be stored in the separate plastic lure box that comes with the bag (see below).  The bag comes with a shoulder strap not shown in the photographs.  I'm afraid I can't report how comfortable it would be to wear over any distance, as the first thing I did was remove the shoulder strap!  But I'd be surprised if it was great.  At the end of the day, it's a big square box banging against your hip, so it's never going to be particularly comfortable.
The bag has a single Velcro fastening.  While I generally approve of Velcro in saltwater environments, the design of this "flap" does mean that you can't get a really tight closure on the bag.  In theory it should be fine for larger lures, and I don't see anyone using the lure tubes for anything other than lures over 65mm.  Smaller than this and you probably want to store them in the box, as there is a slight gap when you pick up the bag (especially by the handle, less so if you use the shoulder strap) between the lid and the top of the tubes.
On one side of the bag is a large open pouch made from a hook-proof mesh / netting material.  This pouch looks like it'll be great for items like pliers or a priest, as it can be accessed quickly and easily.  But if you do capsize, anything that's in there will end up decorating the sea bed.
On either end of the bag are smaller pockets. At first I thought these might be handy for pliers, as one of these will face me when fishing. Unfortunately they are an odd shape, quite narrow with one of them obscured by the shoulder strap fitting, a pair of pliers "disappears" out of reach, so probably not particularly useful.
Inside the box, there are the standard lure tubes.  This time with heavier duty plastic than with the Sakura bag, with both square and large triangle tubes.  This seems to be the only solution anyone has come up with storing long hard lures.  However, hanging lures vertically isn't great for access.  Savage Gear, to be fair, have cut some of the tubes at angles to try and let you see a bit more of lure, but the solution is still a poor one.  In addition to this, tubes are hopeless if the bag is dropped or banged, as half of them fall to the bottom of the tubes.  One solution to this by American manufacturers is to cut "v" grooves into the top of the tubes, so the hooks will rest in there and not swing around the tubes quite so much.  Savage Gear haven't bothered, in my drop test, most of the lures ended up at the bottom of their tubes.  Another issue with big tubes is the waste of space, which encourages you to try and put two lures to a tube.  Tangled treble hooks await.  But what can a man do with 30 or 40 hard lures to store?
One feature I do like is the inclusion of the traditional lure box.  This is much better than having just tubes - gives you somewhere to put soft baits and other small terminal items.
The lure box is well made, with removable partitions inside, giving you quite a bit of flexibility.  I put loose items and shook and dropped the box.  No damage and no "migration" of even small items, like clips and split rings to other compartments.  Good strong box that I suspect is pretty waterproof at least against splashes and I'm pleased to see this included in a hang bag.

With the box out, you can see the mesh used for the body of the bag.  Like the Sakura bag, I guess the idea is rinse your lures in the bag.  My experience with this is not a happy one; lures just don't dry out.  But the mesh on the Savage Gear Lure Hang Bag does look like it will let the air flow better, so we'll have to see.  

One thing I don't like about the lack of a stiff partition between the section of the bag is that once you take the box out, the bag loses all rigidity and the lure tubes are prone to falling over.  This is certainly going to be a nuisance on the kayak, where things need to stay put.  Just a little stiffening of the central partition would have made all the difference here.  You really don't need anything that can make life complicated on a kayak, and if the tubes fall over in rough weather while you're trying to find a lure in the box, well, you can guess the rest...
The large triangular tubes are good for grouping lures of a similar type together, there seems to be enough space to separate them as this little shoal of Megabass Zonks demonstrates...

The square tubes cut at an angle don't permit sharing so comfortably, and this looks like a tangle waiting to happen.  If there were "V" notches cut into the tops of the tubes, it would help hold the lures in place.

The underside of the bag shows how the strap passes underneath the section carrying the box - something to bear in mind if you take everything out of the bag after a rinsing (i.e. don't put the tubes in that partition).  The strap is probably the best place to try and sew a couple of loops on so that the bag can be secured to the kayak.  However, the lack of fastening points on this bag, coupled with the lack of rigid sides, are perhaps the two weakest features of the bag for kayak fishing.  The whole bag goes a bit floppy when the box is removed.

Without doubt the Savage Gear Lure Hang Bag is an improvement of the Sakura Lure Bag for kayak fishing.  It pretty much beats it in every compartment, though perhaps that isn't such a great compliment given how badly the Sakura Lure Bag dealt with a salt environment.  However, the Savage Gear bag is far from perfect for kayak fishing and it has one or two areas that could be improved.

Particularly for the kayak angler, I'd like to see the whole bag a bit more rigid with the addition of some fastening points on the bottom  of the bag to let it be securely attached to the surface of the kayak.  I'll obviously end up creating my own solution for this as I did with the Sakura Lure Bag, but for example,just a simple loop (or doubled section) on the carrying strap that goes under the bag would let you tie it to the kayak to prevent it getting washed overboard.  This is an important consideration; after all, these lure bags can easily contain several hundred pounds worth of lures and it would be nice to see manufacturers think more about the different contexts in which lure bags might be used.

Of course, if your kayak has a large central hatch, none of this matters and the Savage Gear Lure Hang Bag is probably a good choice.  For example, it fits perfectly into the front hatch of my new Stealth Pro Fisha 575 kayak.  These days I have replaced the triangular lure hangs with another box for my softs, but the bag itself is a good size for that hatch.

The good:
  • versatile combination of lure tubes and a quality lure box (excellent for soft lures)
  • zip-less design, therefore presumably salt proof
  • good size for kayak fishing
  • mesh netting should let air pass through bag to dry lures after rinsing (not tested)
  • large mesh panel on side will be handy for quick access to things like camera, pliers, etc.

The bad:
  • no fastening points on base of bag to attach to kayak
  • no stiffener between partitions means bag loses rigidity when box is removed, in fact the bag is something of a liability without the box in it
  • lure tubes lack "V" notches to help lures stay in place
  • slight gap between lid and top of tubes when lifted by the handle

I'll be updating this review at the end of the 2012 season to let you know how the bag performed, until then, tight lines to all those fishing!

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