Outdoor Life Online Editor

The latest trends in fishing sunglasses are not defined by current fashions. Those grape-sized lenses on orthodontic wire frames typically found clinging to the noggin of some gel-haired type wouldn’t make good fishing shades; nor would a pair from the new Britney Spears Celebrity Collection. What anglers need is a blend of optically fine lenses that are in the proper tint (polarized, obviously), have strong frames and fit snugly enough to stay on as they and their wearer zoom up a lake through a 20-mph crosswind. So yes, function wins over fashion, but that doesn’t mean fishermen need to look bad. Some of the new polarized products for anglers may make you want to strut.

Okay, so you’re in a sporting goods store ready to try on the first of several neat-looking pairs of glasses. Put on a pair and check yourself out in a mirror. Do they look cool? Good. Now forget the mirror and shake your head, bend over and do a few toe touches. Did the glasses slip? How do you think they’re going to stay on during a full-throttle boat ride in a 20 mph wind?

A tiny bit of slip is manageable (you’ll be wearing snuggers attached to the earpieces, of course), but if the things feel odd or heavy or need to be constantly pushed up your nose, then look for another pair. You’ll know a good fit when you find it, because the glasses will cling to your face like plastic wrap. A good fit feels lighter, too. When you think you’ve decided on a pair, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it have stainless hinges? A good pair of fishing shades should.
  • Are there nose pads? Some come with soft rubber-based pads that cling even to narrow noses.
  • Are there pads on the temple pieces? Rubber-based pads either at the temples or near the end of the earpieces help the glasses hold in place. Some new models have spring-like titanium temple pieces that comfortably hug your face. Be wary of designs (like some shooting glasses) that wrap around your ears, because they can become as irritating as a splinter.
  • How is the cheek and side space? Is there excessive room at the lens/ frame bottom above your cheeks? Gaps allow light to bounce back into your eyes. Also, if the lens lacks an anti-reflective coating, the glasses will be far less effective.
  • Are you allergic to metals? Some metal frames are nickel.
  • When you blink your eyes do your eyelashes touch the lens? This may seem insignificant in the store but after hours of wear this can drive you crazy.

There are several things to consider here: material, tint and visible light transmission. Few products exist that don’t meet the basic requirement of complete internal ultraviolet (UV) shielding. (Ultraviolet light is invisible but can damage the eye’s lens and cornea.) All of the glasses we tested were 100 percent UV protected.

One thing that prescription wearers should be aware of is that the more radical wrap designs can distort prescription glass. Check with the manufacturers to see which models can be fitted with prescription lenses.


  • .76mm plastic: This is the least expensive plastic lens, but it is available as polarized and in a variety of tints.
  • 1.1mm plastic: A far stronger, more stable polarized plastic that is available in various tints.
  • Polycarbonate: The most impact- resistant material. Better optical quality than either of the above.
  • CR-39: A hard resin plastic that is scratch-resistant and higher in optical quality than polycarbonate. It is usually available in prescription.
  • SR-91: A new resin-based impact lens by Kaenon. It’s advertised as being optically superior to all lens materials but glass.
  • SR-71: This is a new resin-based Kaenon lens that is slightly more scratch-resistant and a bit less impact-resistant than SR-91.
  • Ophthalmic glass: This has a very high optical quality but is slightly heavvier than plastic.

Though many other tints are available, the tints described below are best for fishing. In addition, sunglass companies are experimenting with new variations (Costa del Mar’s Wave 580s are an example) that eliminate and heighten various colors of the spectrum so that consumers can find pairs that better suit their particular needs.

  • Gray: This color provides the most accurate renditions of color, but it doesn’t give great contrast for sight-fishing. Some sunglass aficionados describe gray as an “unhappy” color.
  • Brown: This is a warm, versatile tint that provides good contrast. It is called amber by some companies.
  • Amber: This is a brown/yellow shade that is good for many conditions and provides excellent contrast.
  • Vermilion and copper: Used interchangeably by different companies, both of these tints have a reddish hue. This is the best all-around sight-fishing tint available.
  • Yellow: Sometimes called “Sunrise,” yellow is a tint that is especially suited to low-light conditions. It does provide good contrast.
  • Photochromic lenses: These lenses are available in many of the above-mentioned tints. They darken when exposed to light. Be aware, however, that some darken too much, while others are too light.

Some of us require bifocals in order to see where our lures land and read the instruments on our boats. Some companies are now making stick-on prescription lenses that can be placed on the bottom of a pair of sunglasses. Just be careful: Some anglers have taken plunges as they tried to step into boats or onto docks.