In boats, regardless of size, space is always at a premium. You can never quite seem to have enough of it in spite of how many dollars you’ve spent on the boat and how big the deck space actually is.
Livewells are pretty standard fair these days in tournament craft, but let’s face it, not all of us are tournament anglers and the livewell just takes up space we could otherwise use for something else. I know my little BlueFin doesn’t have a livewell, or an ice box for that matter, so storing a fish or two for a feed is a big problem (that’s assuming I actually catch one or two!).
Early in 2007 we were contacted by Matt Jones from Aquastralis. His company makes a range of fish fridge bags that solve the storage problem, don’t take up much room and work an absolute treat – they’re called FIJ.
The FIJ is unique for anglers and I’ve never come across anything like it. It has clearly been designed by someone who fishes and incorporates a range of features that make it very user friendly and enures your catch is kept in the best condition before you get home.
The features of the FIJ include a compact design, high density foam insulation, Boston valve for quick drainage, straps for easy and space saving storage, an integrated fish ruler and waterproof nylon zips. There are four models in the range, each appropriately named, and they include the Kingfish Bag, Salmon/Beach Bag, Snapper Bag and the Yellowfin Tuna Bag. As a point of difference, the Salmon/Beach Bag also includes a shoulder carry and rod strap and gussets for increased volume.
I’ll elaborate on a few of the features I thought helped set the FIJ bags above the simple ice box.
I used the Salmon/Beach Bag and found it an indispensable item since it arrived at the office. For starters the storage straps help keep the bag neat and tidy under the hatch. When you need to use the bag you can quickly unclip the straps, which are adjustable too, and roll out the bag. On the first use of the bag, one of my crew (that was me) forgot to grab a couple of bags of ice, and with a good fish landed in the first 10 minutes of fishing we pondered what we would do. Without too much thought I dropped the bag over the side, half filled it with water and popped the fish in and zipped it up. The insulated sides and the closed zipper kept the sun at bay and the bag operated just like a mini live well. Every hour or so I changed a bit of water with a bucket and all was sweet. Back at the ramp I emptied out most of the water, added the ice and made an ice slurry. It worked perfectly.
Second trip out we took a bag of ice and popped the fish in the bag straight on ice. The bag was really cold inside and quickly cooled down the fish. On returning home we cleaned the fish and I left the ice in the bag to see how long it would last sitting in the back yard. I checked after day one and the ice was still in there with not much melting, and by day two there were still small pieces of ice in the bag. So from that very simple backyard test, held in Queensland, you could say the insulating properties were fantastic. There are not too many times you need ice for a couple of days in a fish bag.
The design of the FIJ incorporates a Boston valve. These are the valves you find on high quality inflatable kayaks and the like. They have two screw section – one into the bag and one into the first screw. This system allows you to quickly and easily drain off excess water if you need to carry the bag anywhere. It also allows you to completely remove the valve and give the bag a really good clean out at day’s end.
The zipper is made from nylon and can become a little sticky when there are bends in the bag. This problem is easily solved by straightening out the bag and doing the zipper up. The zipper is said to be waterproof and in all honesty I can say I never had water come out through the zipper. Keep in mind though that I always had the zipper up top and the bag sitting comfortable upright. So the zipper gets the tick of approval too.
We sent up the Kingfish Bag to Carl Stokes, one of our hard fishing friends at Hinchinbrook. This was going to be a real test of the product because if it can handle the way tropical anglers use and abuse their gear, the FIJ would handle just about anything.
Here’s what Carl Stokes had to say about the Kingfish Bag.
“I really love how this opens up space in a smaller boat as it’s so compact. But apart from that it’s real easy to keep fish cool and a 4kg bag of crushed ice keeps fish well,” said Carl.
“What is good though is when you have an unplanned trip and need to store a good fish you catch. The FIJ is really handy for that and its robust construction means you can throw fish like mackerel and wahoo in it without worrying too much about tearing the fabric,” said Carl.
“I agree with Steve regarding the zipper. With the big fish we catch up here they sometimes make it hard to keep everything lined up so it becomes a two man job. But what better way is there to make sure the guy who didn’t catch the fish gets real close and personal with it?” chuckled Carl.
“The largest catch I’ve had in the bag is 60kg total weight (nannygai and trevally) and the fish kept very well until we got home – fantastic,” finished Carl.
After 8 months of playing around with the FIJ, I’ve got to say I am pretty impressed. It doesn’t take up too much space in the boat, it does what it’s supposed to and it’s easy to clean and maintain. You can find out more about the range of FIJ products by calling Aquastralis on (03) 9312 5906. For anglers of all persuasions who need a handy ice box without the massive dimension hard boxes have, the FIJ is your answer.
|50cm x 182cm
|35cm x 100cm
|76cm x 120cm
|Yellowfin Tuna Bag
|101cm x 152cm
For further information Matt Jones 0421 700 094