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Made in the Shades: Polarized Lenses Are Critical Fishing Gear

Make sure you're wearing the right pair of sunglasses to help you catch more fish.

Made in the Shades: Polarized Lenses Are Critical Fishing Gear

A quality pair of polarized sunglasses eliminates unwanted reflected glare from the water’s surface while providing protection from flying objects like lures and flies. (Photo courtesy of Costa Del Mar)

Polarized fishing glasses are considerably more than a fashionable accessory—they are designed to help you catch more fish. But many anglers do not know why they need good eyewear.

Polarized sunglasses protect the eyes from glare and damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. They also help us see what’s under the water and guard our eyes from dust and debris. Plus, they protect us from lures zipping through the air after being dislodged from a snag or following an overzealous hookset.

There are several decisions you’ll need to make in order to choose the pair of polarized glasses that will best suit your needs. The most important of these concern lens material, tinting and frame style. If you’re shopping for new on-the-water eyewear, here are some points to consider in each of these areas before plopping down your hard-earned cash.

POLARIZATION: HOW IT WORKS
drawing of sun and sunglasses
Unfiltered glare from the water’s surface passes directly to the naked eye or through lenses without polarization. Polarized lenses, however, have a special filter that’s either applied to the outer surface or embedded within the lenses. The filter reflects glare (red line) while allowing beneficial light (orange line) to reach the angler’s eye, enabling him to see into the water. (Illustration by Peter Sucheski)
Lens Material

Polarized lenses are made of either plastic, polycarbonate or glass. Glass lenses offer the clearest, most distortion-free views of the watery world and are more scratch-resistant than poly and plastic. However, glass lenses are heavier than the other two, and wearing glass lenses all day can be uncomfortable unless the frames disperse the weight. Some manufacturers offer models with thinner glass and lighter wraparound frames to lighten the load.

Polycarbonate lenses can be a good alternative to glass, as they are lightweight and don’t scratch as easily as most plastic lenses, while their optical clarity is comparable to glass. However, don’t sell all plastic lenses short, as some of the options available now compare favorably with polycarbonate. If you’re the type who loses sunglasses often, or handles them roughly, less-expensive models with plastic lenses might be your best bet.

Tinting

All polarized sunglass lenses are designed to enhance an angler’s eyesight under varying environmental conditions. When it comes to tinting, the best lens color choice is dependent on the application. Regardless of what color you choose, mirrored lenses do the best job of averting possible eye damage by reflecting a portion of glare away from the user’s eyes.

Gray is arguably the most popular lens tint, as it is equally effective in bright and dim light. If you’re going to buy just one pair of polarized fishing glasses, gray is probably your best choice. Green is another good choice for all light conditions, as it tends to reduce glare from the water’s surface on sunny days and provide contrast in low-light conditions.

Other options include copper, amber and vermillion. The latter is a yellowish-brown color that enhances the contrast between objects above and below the surface in shallow water, such as submerged rocks, wood cover and spawning beds. Blue provides excellent protection in bright sunlight when optimum contrast is desired. Lastly, yellow tint brightens up a gloomy day and sharpens focus in low-light conditions at dawn and dusk.

Frames

Of course, there is a wide variety of frame styles to choose from. Wraparound frames are popular with sight fishermen who prowl around in shallow coves and creeks. This type of frame allows little to no peripheral light, enhancing the angler’s ability to spot fish or cover at longer distances.

Some flat frames are constructed with polarized lens panels or removable side shields for the same purpose—to block side glare and focus light through the lenses. On the other hand, open sides offer advantages when fishing wide expanses of shallow water or running wide-open across a lake busy with weekend boaters going in all directions.

Like anything you wear for hours on end, a pair of sunglasses must be comfortable. The frames should fit snugly without pinching. Sunglasses that are too big might fly off when you turn your head slightly while running down the lake.

If you notice yourself constantly pushing the glasses up on the bridge of your nose, you need a pair with a smaller frame. If the glasses seem heavy on your nose, try a wraparound frame or a regular frame with tacky rubber pads on the nosepiece.

Recommended


To ensure you get a pair that fits and is comfortable, there is nothing wrong with spending time wearing a pair around the store if you think they might be the right ones.

KEEP THEM CLEAN
  • Anglers are often their sunglasses’ worst enemy.
sunglasses and cloth
When wiping the lenses, hold the glasses by the bridge. If you hold them by the temples, the hinges will weaken over time. (Shutterstock image)

Using your shirt to clean your sunglasses is a great way to scratch the lenses. Instead, always use a microfiber cloth; most sunglass companies package one with their shades. Some manufacturers of fishing shirts, pants and rainsuits sew lens-cleaning microfiber cloths to their garments to make it easier for anglers to keep their lenses smudge-free. Among them are Columbia, Howler Bros., Duck Camp and Coolibar.

Occasionally use an electronics screen cleaning solution and a microfiber cloth for a thorough cleaning, but read the label on the cleaner to make sure it won’t affect the polarized finish of the lenses. Rubbing alcohol can be substituted at a ratio of three parts alcohol to one part water. A small brush cleaner, such as Peeps (getcarbonklean.io), is another good option.

  • This article was featured September 2023’s Game & Fish Magazine. How to subscribe.



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