A select few premium performance eyewear brands, including Maui Jim and Costa, were founded by fishermen. Because their focus remains sport fishing decades later, these makers have perfected the science of creating sunglasses frames and lensesincluding polarized sunglasses for fishingthat maximize visibility and durability in the numerous fishing environments you’re likely to encounter.
With this guide, choosing the right sunglasses will be as simple as shooting fish in a barrel. Learn everything you need to know about fishing sunglasses: why the lenses are usually polarized, your options for prescription and bifocal lenses, and how to find the best fishing sunglasses for you.
Anglers who fish anywhere from the riverbanks to the salt prefer polarized lenses in their fishing sunglasses. If your favorite place is on the water, you’re probably familiar with the discomfort caused by glare. It all starts 93 million miles away, where the sun blasts forth a full spectrum of light: visible, ultraviolet, and infrared. Light shoots toward earth, ultimately bouncing off the waters of the Caribbean, the Alaskan shores, Ozark Mountain lakes, rushing trout streams, sleepy fishing holes, and grandpa's pond. Anglers everywhere squint, turn their heads, and brace for glare, eye strain, and washed-out colorsexcept the anglers wearing polarized fishing sunglasses.
Polarized lens coatings work specifically to cut glare that reflects off horizontal surfaces like water, snow, and roads. The result? Amazingly clear, sharp, and glare-free vision, even in the high-glare environments that are the angler’s natural habitat.
Sharp and glare-free vision doesn’t just make fishing more enjoyableit has the potential to make the activity safer and to help you net more fish. Wearing the right pair of polarized sunglasses, you’ll experience less eye strain, and you’ll see rocks and debris below the water more clearly. And if you’re wade-fishing, with the sun’s glare and reflection filtered out, you might spot more fish in the water, too. Finally, polarized coatings help your lenses stay cleaner. The waterproof coatings on polarized lenses shed water and snow so that cleaning them is a snap.
Polarized lenses may require an adjustment period before you can truly appreciate their benefits, and not all polarized sunglasses are equal. Cheap drugstore lenses may not provide the same level of comfort, function, or durability as the superior-quality polarized lenses trusted by anglers.
Polarized lenses do not offer protection from UV damage. Only 100% UV blocking lenses can provide that. But polarization can easily be combined with UV protectionmake sure to look for both in your fishing sunglasses.
Many fishing sunglasses are available with prescription lenses, including prescription bifocal lenses. This is a popular option among people who spend time on the water. Fishing is not ideally suited for photochromic (aka Transitions®) lenses, which darken in response to bright light. You’d need polarization in your photochromic lenses, and while the glare-cutting benefits of polarization are fantastic on the water, polarization is not necessary or even desirable all the time. (For example, it can interfere with vision when looking at screens.)
Polarization is one reason many anglers who wear glasses opt for a dedicated pair of fishing sunglasses with prescription lenses. Anglers also tend to appreciate the sports-specific fit, wrap-around eye protection, and maximum coverage for maximum glare reduction in their fishing sunglasses.
If you’ve noticed it’s getting a little difficult to thread the hook while on the water, you may want to opt for a pair of polarized fishing sunglasses with readers. You’re experiencing presbyopia, a condition everyone does, usually beginning in the mid-40s. The eye’s lens loses flexibility, which makes it more difficult to focus on close-up objects.
If you don’t wear glasses for distance vision but need a boost for close-up tasks, you can get by indoors with a pair of “cheaters,” or reading glasses. Outdoors, however, the sunglasses-and-readers shuffle can become a hassle, especially on the water. There are only so many pockets on your fishing vest, so save the space for your fly box and hit the water with a pair of fishing sunglasses that pulls double duty as readers.
There is not a single pair of fishing sunglasses that will be the best option for everyone. After you establish the right prescription or magnification options, you’ll need to consider lens color and fit.
Fishermen need to see the action below the water's surface, and the proper lens color can help. The closer the lens tint matches the background, the more the lens will make the fish stand out. For example, in mountain stream fishing, an amber or copper lens is the best because it matches the color of the rocky, brown stream bottom. In this situation, fishing sunglasses improve the angler’s visionand chances of a successful tripin two ways: The polarized filter cuts the glare off the top of the water, and the tint of the lens makes the fish stand out under the water.
The best fishing sunglasses for you will be the ones that fit you best. A proper fit provides better vision, better protection, and more comfort. When looking for your pair, consider:
Remember that even if you achieve a comfortable, secure fit, accidents can happen. Styles that float, or straps that secure your shades around your neck, will save you from needing to replace fishing sunglasses you’ve lost in the water.
Try a pair of polarized sunglasses on your next fishing trip and quit squinting.
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