Last month we covered some fishing eyewear basics – polarization and UV protection. This month we’ll look into a few other things to consider as you narrow your search for new fishing glasses.
The style of frame and size of the lens is usually the first consideration when folks walk up to the sunglass showcase. I know it’s cool to have those aviator style sunglasses, but you might want to rethink that choice. Small diameter lenses and thin wire frames will allow a huge amount of light to reach your eyes all around the edges. Not only will it allow in stray light, it will let those harmful UV rays reach your eyes, thus negating the effectiveness of your chosen lens. What you need when selecting fishing glasses is the most complete coverage you can get. Larger lenses and close-fitting wrap-around frames are the best choice for maximum protection.
Glass or polycarbonate? This is a matter of personal preference. Glass lenses are generally superior on an optical level and typically cost a little more. Most agree that they are clearer and provide the best possible visual acuity. They are also more scratch resistant. The downside is weight and that’s where polycarbonate lenses are your other solid choice.
Polycarbonate lenses weigh less than glass, at the price of not being quite as clear as glass. The difference is nearly undetectable but it’s there. They’ll also scratch easier than glass if you do not take special care in cleaning them. One big advantage of polycarbonate is that they are shatter resistant and will stand up to an errant backcast from your fishing buddy, possibly preventing an eye injury.
Different companies have various proprietary names for their formulations of polycarbonate. It can be a bit confusing to sort through the marketing terms, but it all pretty much boils down to glass or poly. Much further down the list are the regular plastic lenses on the bargain sunglasses. These have much lower optical integrity and they are very easily scratched.
That leads to perhaps the most contentious aspect of sunglasses…price. There is a huge difference in price points with some selling for as little as $15 while the upper-end can put you over three bills. Then again, most of the equipment we buy to pursue our favorite pastimes fall into this same trap. Generally speaking you get what you pay for. I tend to gravitate towards buying quality equipment. Days in the field or on the water are too special for me to go bargain and risk disappointment. It stands out even more with eyewear; plus we’re talking about the health of our eyes.
On the lowest end of the scale are the all-plastic sunglasses. Most of the ones I’ve seen are tagged as polarized but I don’t recall seeing much on them about their UV blocking qualities. I’d be suspect of these models and thoroughly check them out before trusting my eyes to them. Generally speaking their coatings are applied to the outer surface of the lens. And, being relatively soft plastic, these lenses are very easily scratched. Those surface scratches are not only irritating, they can leave you open to increased UV penetration as the UV filter is on that outer layer. Some studies theorize this could be worse than going without sunglasses since your eyes are dilated from the dark lenses, thus allowing more UV to reach your retina.
Quality sunglasses will have multi-layered optical-grade lenses with various coatings to improve their performance. Most will sandwich their polarizing films and UV filters between the outer layers of the lens. This keeps these components free of scratches and maintains the integrity of the protection for your eyes. The major manufacturers offer a variety of different coating and layers. Perhaps the most useful coating to look for is an anti-reflective film applied to the inside of the lens. With this option, any light that slips in through the sides is not reflected back into your eyes.
In addition to quality lenses, you’ll also want to look at the construction of the frames. Corrosion resistant stainless steel screws, hinges and springs are a must in our coastal environment. Padded nose pieces and comfortable temple pieces are also nice features to look for. Remember that you’ll be wearing these all day so get a pair that fit properly. Different models are designed for different facial shapes and sizes so try on as many as you need to find the right style and best fit.
Last, but certainly not least, what color lens do you need?
Perhaps the most debated option on fishing sunglasses is lens color. It can make a huge difference in how effective your glasses are for different applications. The myriad of tints and hues greatly affect the way you see the world. Grey is likely the most popular selling tint for all-purpose sunglasses across the United States. Being a neutral color, grey provides for nearly natural color perception throughout the light spectrum. Depending on the degree of tint, it can also provide the most overall darkening effect in very bright conditions. This is generally the preferred color for offshore anglers and for driving. Green and blue tints also fall into this category, though to a lesser extent than grey.
While offshore guys are most often concerned with toning down the overall light intensity, inshore anglers are generally more concerned with seeing through the water to locate underwater structure and fish.
For this you need a lens that increases your perception of contrast. There is a huge range of lenses that fit this bill. Every manufacturer has a different name for the various colors covering this spectrum. Rose, amber, copper, and vermillion are but a few. All of these filter varying amounts of different light waves. The increased contrast provided by these lenses really does improve your perceived visual acuity. They can literally make a marsh redfish appear to pop out from its surroundings. If you enjoy sight-fishing in shallow water, these are the colors you need to check out.
From my non-scientific research over the years I’ve found that what works best for one angler isn’t necessarily the optimum color for the next guy. Some studies indicate that it relates to individual eye color and seems to make sense when you think about it. People with light blue eyes perform best with the darker hues while those with dark brown eyes prefer the lighter tints. Folks in the middle generally report that they don’t see much difference.
Good quality sunglasses can make or break your day on the water. I’ve had many anglers on the water with me wearing the wrong sunglasses. I’ll be calling out fish locations while they stare at the water getting frustrated because they can’t see them. I carry a spare pair for just such occasions. Once these guys put the good stuff on they are simply amazed at how much easier the game becomes and I guarantee they’ll be willing to fork over a few extra bucks for the upgrade.For the health of your eyesight and increased enjoyment of the outdoors, I hope you will take a serious look at your choice of sunglasses.