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Sunglasses Review: Best New Fishing Glasses 2013

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April 17, 2013
Sunglasses Review: Best New Fishing Glasses 2013 - 8

Once considered a luxury, polarized sunglasses are now within reach of most anglers, and the amount of science and technology that goes into building a pair of quality polarized fishing sunglasses is incredible. Modern high-end shades are a combination of components that have been refined through bioengineering, anthropometry (design based on human physical characteristics), and quantum electrodynamics. 

Today’s fishing shades incorporate decades of research and development in optical innovation, and this technological evolution has led to ground-glass and thermoplastic polymer lenses that enable us to see farther and deeper with clearer resolution than ever before. 

Polarized glasses have become de rigueur for anyone taking to the water. From weekend perch jerkers to deep-sea fishing guides, no fisherman should be without a pair. With this in mind, we gathered a representative field and put them through an exhaustive two-week test. 

Smith Chief

These full-coverage glasses have a large lens area (1.7 by 2.4 inches), and the photochromic lenses adjust with the sun’s intensity—a fantastic feature for ever-changing light conditions. The glasses are excellent for nearly every fishing application. The fit-and-finish is the best in the field, as are the stainless hinges. The ground-glass lenses are far more scratch-resistant than a lot of the polycarbonates. 

 Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Price: $199 

 Contact: smithoptics.com 

Durability: A+ 

Lenses: A, Glass 

Comfort: A- 

Hinges: A+ 

Fit and Finish: A+ 

Price/Value: A- 

Weight: 1.54 oz 

Final Word: Big, beefy shades with photochromic glass lenses will find favor with nearly all fishermen.

 

Wiley X Saint

The shatter-proof lenses provide peace of mind when flipping tungsten weights, and they had no color aberration. The side-plates and hinges proved rugged, and the straight earpieces allow for easy on-off. A half-frame design keeps the weight under an ounce. An array of extras (clear lenses, a leash cord, a carrying case) helped make this an easy pick for our Great Buy award. 

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Price: $80 

Contact: wileyx.com 

Durability: A+ 

Lenses: B+ (PC) 

Comfort: A 

Hinges: B+ 

Fit and Finish: B- 

Price/Value: A+ 

Weight: 94oz 

Final Word: Tactical style with lenses that are certified for a worksite. A screaming deal, considering all the extras. 

 

Costa Cat Cay

Costa’s time-tested 580P polycarbonate lenses are the foundation of the Cat Cay, and we found them to be incredibly scratch-­resistant. Front-frame cheek venting minimizes fogging, while the supple rubber nose pads and earpiece tips make them all-day comfortable. The lenses clarified the water extremely well, particularly in low-light conditions. This will be appreciated when the bite is on at dawn and dusk. 

 Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

 Price: $149 

 Contact: costadelmar.com 

Durability: A- 

Lenses: A+ (PC) 

Comfort: A 

Hinges: B- 

Fit and Finish: A- 

Price/Value: A- 

Weight: 1.12oz 

Final Word: A solid entry from one of the leaders in the fishing sunglass arena. Great in low light.

 

Maui Jim Waimea Canyon

This was the heaviest pair of glasses in the field (1.97 ounces), but the build is stout and well balanced. Wide side plates block stray peripheral light, making these a great choice for fishing in an unrelenting sun. Anti-corrosion spring hinges promise fuss-free operation and a subtly snug fit. The glass lenses are exceptionally clean and handled glare better than any in the field. 

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ½ 

 Price: $229 

 Contact: mauijim.com 

Durability: A- 

Lenses: A+ Glass 

Comfort: B+ 

Hinges: A 

Fit and Finish: A- 

Price/Value: B- 

Weight: 1.97 

Final Word: At nearly 2 ounces, they aren't light, but they're built like a tank and should last for many seasons.

 

Columbia Lobos

The Zeiss polycarbonate lenses are remarkably clean and crisp and had no color aberration or distortion. The wide frames cover the entire eye area neatly, and the hinges provide a snug fit. Rubber inserts on the inside of the earpieces and the tips keep the glasses in place. Outer inserts allow for a great grip when adjusting the glasses with wet hands. 

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Price: $199 

Contact: columbia.com  

Durability: A 

Lenses: A+ 

Comfort: A 

Hinges: B- 

Fit and Finish: A- 

Price/Value: B- 

Weight: 1.10oz 

Final Word: With lenses from one of the world's best optics makers, visual acuity is not an issue.

 

Revo Guide Extreme

The Guide Extreme provides optimal face coverage and detachable side plates that allow the glasses to transition from boat-functional to street-fashionable. These will find favor with shallow-water fishermen, who need to control peripheral light. Blocked vents molded into the inner frame help reduce fogging. A leash with an integrated floatie is included. 

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Price: $209 

Contact: revo.com 

Score Durability: A- 

Lenses: B (PC) 

Comfort: A- 

Hinges: B 

Fit and Finish: B 

Price/Value: B- 

Weight: 1.39oz 

Final Word: Shallow-water lenses make these go-to glasses for inshore fishermen.

 

Suncloud Warrant

We found the Warrant’s lenses performed well, without any major limitations. The nylon frames are light and went virtually unnoticed while worn. The wrap-around style provides great eye coverage with no visible light leakage.The rounded non-reflective frames are finished nicely, and the earpieces have a sleek taper to the tips. However, the nylon-on-nylon hinges and self-tapping screws suggest limited durability. 

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Price: $50 

Contact: suncloudoptics.com 

Durability: B 

Lenses: B- (PC) 

Comfort: A 

Hinges: C+ 

Fit and Finish: B+ 

Price/Value: A- 

Weight: 1.11oz 

Final Word: Lots of value here, but the construction makes us wonder how long they'll last under heavy use.

 

Kaenon Hutch

Weighing less than an ounce, the Hutch should have been comfortable. Unfortunately, the earpiece tips are sharp and bite into the head, making an over-tip strap a must. Flyfishermen will appreciate the high-contrast lenses for monitoring dry flies, but the skinny temples offer little peripheral sun blockage. We were also disappointed with the hinges, given the price. 

Overall: ★ ★ ★ 

Price: $179 

Contact: kaenon.com  

Durability: A- 

Lenses: B-(PC) 

Comfort: C 

Hinges: C+ 

Fit and Finish: A- 

Price/Value: C 

Weight: .90oz 

Final Word: Sleek and light-weight, but we wish we were getting more for the money - namely comfort.

 

Flying Fisherman Falcon

The Falcon’s dark amber lenses are well suited for bluebird days. The wrap-around frame was comfortable and stayed put at high boat speeds. We feel the molded nylon-on-nylon hinges will wear poorly under heavy use. For melon heads, the short earpieces (2.56 inches versus the field average of 3.7) may be uncomfortable. The rubber nose pads and padded temples kept the frames in place nicely. 

 Overall: ★ ★ ★ 

 Price: $70 

 Contact: flyingfisherman.com 

Durability: C+ 

Lenses: B- (PC) 

Comfort: A 

Hinges:C+ 

Fit and Finish: C+ 

Price/Value: C+ 

Weight: 1oz 

Final Word: A good pair of polarized sunglasses for weekend warriors or those on a tight budget.

 

How We Test
Each pair of sunglasses was scored by a panel of three testers, including the author and two commercial fishermen who operate out of Gulfport, Miss., and spend the majority of their lives on and around the water. The glasses were graded for durability (how well they held up to abuse); lens quality (clarity, color aberration, distortion, resistance to scratching); comfort (when worn over extended periods of time); hinge quality (ruggedness and construction); and fit-and-finish (overall quality and attention to build detail). We also performed an impact test in which a 1-ounce tungsten bullet weight was swung on a pendulum from a distance of 6 inches into the lenses (pictured). We’re happy to report that all glasses passed the impact test.

Sunglasses Buyer's Guide
Buy glasses that are going to perform best in the conditions you typically fish in and are ideal for your home waters. For instance, amber lenses are good for sandy bottoms on partly cloudy days, while dark amber or copper is better when targeting fish in grass and weeds on bright, sunny days. Gray lenses simply reduce overall brightness. Don’t be afraid to talk to the clerk about the best choices. Also, keep in mind that polycarbonate lenses weigh less than glass but tend to scratch more easily.

When you shop, be sure to wear the hat you wear when you fish to ensure the frames sit well under the brim and the earpieces slide nicely under the band. If they aren’t comfortable, you won’t wear them.

Comments (8)

Top Rated
All Comments
from ntoscano50 wrote 1 year 2 weeks ago

I tested the Maui Jim World Cup Sunglasses in Matte Black Rubber / Neutral Grey. These sunglasses are excellent. The polarized lenses did an excellent job of blocking horizontally planed light. These sunglasses are extremely comfortable and very aesthetically pleasing. They simply look and feel great. They stay on your face when you are moving. The glasses work great during any outdoor activity, but are especially useful on the water. There are only two reasons that these glasses, in my opinion, did not get five stars. The first is that they are a little pricey. Normally, I would not spend over $200 dollars on a pair of sunglasses. Compared to the more expensive brands, they are well worth the price, though. The other reason I only gave the glasses four stars is because the lenses did fog up on me a couple of times. If the lenses were anti-fog, I would have given these glasses five stars regardless of the price.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Russ Rhodes wrote 1 year 9 weeks ago

Need to test RCI sunglasses made by Shady Characters of Indialantic Fl. They blow the others away!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from pjmdy wrote 1 year 14 weeks ago

I love these product reviews that the average guy can't afford. I bought Berkeley polarized, polycarbonate shatter-proof sunglasses with cushioned side temple grips, wrap-around lenses at WalMart for $20.00 thank you!! They work extremely well, fit great and are worth every penny. I don't have $200 to blow just to buy something for bragging rights sake to show off. Granted there may be a few who feel they just absolutely have to have these and no other, but it gets to a point of being ridiculous, Try doing reviews on more sanely priced items - it would mean more to average readers.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from peteyraymond wrote 1 year 14 weeks ago

Bob, my guess is that they're either made in China or in China, but maybe even China.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bob Hansen wrote 1 year 14 weeks ago

Hi...

Great review, Todd...

I understand the need for good sun glasses when it comes to proper eye care.

Some of them seemed outrageously priced, though.

I'm sure curious as to how much they actually cost to make...in whatever country they're made in...!!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)

from peteyraymond wrote 1 year 14 weeks ago

Bob, my guess is that they're either made in China or in China, but maybe even China.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from pjmdy wrote 1 year 14 weeks ago

I love these product reviews that the average guy can't afford. I bought Berkeley polarized, polycarbonate shatter-proof sunglasses with cushioned side temple grips, wrap-around lenses at WalMart for $20.00 thank you!! They work extremely well, fit great and are worth every penny. I don't have $200 to blow just to buy something for bragging rights sake to show off. Granted there may be a few who feel they just absolutely have to have these and no other, but it gets to a point of being ridiculous, Try doing reviews on more sanely priced items - it would mean more to average readers.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bob Hansen wrote 1 year 14 weeks ago

Hi...

Great review, Todd...

I understand the need for good sun glasses when it comes to proper eye care.

Some of them seemed outrageously priced, though.

I'm sure curious as to how much they actually cost to make...in whatever country they're made in...!!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ntoscano50 wrote 1 year 2 weeks ago

I tested the Maui Jim World Cup Sunglasses in Matte Black Rubber / Neutral Grey. These sunglasses are excellent. The polarized lenses did an excellent job of blocking horizontally planed light. These sunglasses are extremely comfortable and very aesthetically pleasing. They simply look and feel great. They stay on your face when you are moving. The glasses work great during any outdoor activity, but are especially useful on the water. There are only two reasons that these glasses, in my opinion, did not get five stars. The first is that they are a little pricey. Normally, I would not spend over $200 dollars on a pair of sunglasses. Compared to the more expensive brands, they are well worth the price, though. The other reason I only gave the glasses four stars is because the lenses did fog up on me a couple of times. If the lenses were anti-fog, I would have given these glasses five stars regardless of the price.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Russ Rhodes wrote 1 year 9 weeks ago

Need to test RCI sunglasses made by Shady Characters of Indialantic Fl. They blow the others away!

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)

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