Having a quality pair of sunglasses is a must when fishing or boating. The number one rule of buying sunglasses is making sure they offer 100 percent UVA and UVB protection.
However, not all sunglasses that offer 100 percent UV protection are created equal. The second rule of buying sunglasses for fishing and boating is that they need to have polarized lenses.
Even low-cost polarized sunglasses are better than high-end nonpolarized sunglasses when fishing.
I have been boating where I can see fish 80 feet down and am trying to point out sharks and dolphins to other people on the boat and when I take off my polarized sunglasses, I realize all the other people are seeing is surface glare on the water. Having the right sunglasses makes the environment more visible, clear, and allows for a better experience on the water.
When spending long days on the water people get exposed to more sunlight than almost any other activity. Not only are you in the sun all day but the reflected light on the water can hit you with 65 percent more sunlight. Excessive UV light exposure may lead to eye damage and contribute to the development of cataracts. Wearing a hat and quality sunglasses can help minimize these risks.
Personally, I like wearing black sunglass frames with dark lenses. This helps minimize the reflection of light from the sunglasses onto my nose. The dark lenses allow for the super bright days to seem like normal lighting conditions. Below I describe in detail which lens color is best for specific lighting and water conditions.
- How to Choose Sunglasses for Fishing
- Here Are The Best Polarized Sunglasses for Fishing
How to Choose Sunglasses for Fishing
The light reflected off the water from the sun travels back in a uniform horizontal pattern, causing significant glare, blurring and even blinding your ability to see through the water. A polarizing filter reduces and blocks these lightwaves by redirecting incoming horizontal light waves and scattering it outwards.
Polarized sunglasses differ from their non-polarized counterparts in that they selectively filter out glare induced horizontal light beams instead of simply decreasing all spectrum of light equally. Regular glasses work by just reducing how much light there is total, while polarized glasses allow in a surprisingly high amount of light, simply filtering out the light we don’t want.
It’s important to note, however, that polarization does not equal UV protection. The UV protection level is designated by other aspects of the lenses, which is another reason why those cheap knock-off “polarized” lenses are no good. They use a cheap filter to kill off a slight amount of glare, while not offering any UV protection or successfully removing all of the glare. Most high-quality brands like Costa or Maui Jim have lenses that do well in both reducing glare and offering protection from UV rays.
As I’ve mentioned a few times already, polarization filters are not created equally. Generally, there are two types you’re likely to come by unless you get some weird Chinese cheap glasses that no one has ever heard of before. The two types differ in thickness are come as follows: 0.75mm or 1.1mm.
The thicker the lens filters are, the better they are. Thicker polarization filters offer better durability in terms of being scratched and damaged but aren’t proven to provide any significant advantages in overall glare reduction. Of course, thicker polarization coatings are going to drive the cost up, but for me personally, I’d always opt for the thicker filters in terms of fishing. Your glasses are likely to fall off from time to time, get dropped, or get scraped up by your fishing gear. Having that thicker coating is like having a screen protector on your phone.
As a bonus, polarized glasses also offer incredible reduction from shiny things. Gone are the days that your buddies fancy chrome trimmed fishing boat blinds you!
So, why aren’t all sunglasses simply equipped with top tier polarization? Aside from that fact that better polarization equals a higher cost, there are some real disadvantages to polarized sunglasses, most of which have nothing to do with fishing.
A few examples of disadvantages come in with reading liquid crystal displays (LCD). Some of you may have an LCD screen on your fish finders, GPS units, or as some kind of entertainment unit on your boat. Furthermore, gas pumps and ATM machines will also among the affected displays. Reading LCD screens are going to be more difficult with polarized glasses on and there’s really not much you can do other than take them off briefly to attain the information you need.
Another major disadvantage to polarization is the penetration and production of light when used while looking through a polycarbonate windshield. Vehicles like motorcycles and boats typically use polycarbonate in the windshields, which produces very odd looking colors and a blurry effect when used while wearing polarized sunglasses.
In the world of fishing sunglasses, you get two options: Glass or polycarbonate.
Both options are available in polarized or none-polarized options and both can be found in the same price ranges.
Glass is likely the most popular and offers the most clarity. Surprising to a lot of people, glass is actually more resistant to scratching than polycarbonate. On the flip side, glass is nowhere near as durable overall as polycarbonate and are at risk to shattering, whereas you can’t shatter a polycarbonate lens.
Polycarbonate lenses enjoy a few benefits such as lighter weight, which makes a huge difference for fitment and how well they stay where you put them. Polycarbonate can survive falls, bumps, dings, etc far better than glass lenses.
Lens Color and its Relationship With Light Conditions
Unlike lens material, you’ve got more options when it comes to colors, and yes, this does matter a great deal and which you should choose will likely be determined by the type of fishing and the time of day you’re participating. Things get a little confusing here and like I mentioned before, most enthusiast fishermen tend to have multiple pairs of glasses to be prepared for different scenarios.
Color, otherwise known as tint, determines a lot more than just the appearance of the lens. The color of the lens will change what types of light are let through at what frequencies and the color of the lens may also impact how the colors of reality appear to you while using the glasses. Some colors enhance specific wavelengths, which change the intensity and contrast of some colors while diminishing others.
A blue mirror finish with grey insides are best utilized while offshore fishing and tend to be the favorite. The blue color matches the color of the sea which greatly reduces color induced glare issues.
A green mirror finish with those fancy amber lens colors on the inside is best used for inshore fishing and shallow sea fishing. This is the most optimum color configuration when it comes to spotting fish and obstacles through the water.
An all-encompassing yellow tinted lens makes for excellent performance in low light or overcast scenarios. These help to reduce glare while actually increasing the reflection of ambient light off of underwater structures and fish, helping you spot things of interest.
A totally grey lens inside and out is the optimum sweet spot for general fishing usage and is among the most popular in the polarized category. These are often used in sports such as golfing and offer the best all-around performance for general sunglass usage for those of you who don’t want to buy multiple pairs of glasses for multiple scenarios. Grey lenses are also known for being fairly color neutral. They don’t change the appearance or contrast of color as much as the other options, they only darken the world around you.
Brown or dark copper tinted lenses offer top tier light reduction that deepens colors without changing them much. These also make for great general usage glasses, however, quickly become too powerful in terms of darkening when used in anything less than direct sunlight applications. In bright situations, many people love to use these colors for inshore fishing or even bow fishing as they greatly enhance the reflection of color from the fish itself.
There are many other colors you may find fishing glasses using, however, in my experience, these colors are the most popular and generally the most utilized by fisherman.
Why Should You Buy Quality Fishing Glasses
A good set of fishing glasses is just as important as any other type of gear you’ll need on your next fishing incursion. Utilizing high-quality glare reducing lenses allows fisherman to see through the water without glare, offering a massive advantage, especially when it comes to bank fishing. Being able to see not only fish but obstacles in the water such as stumps and branches allows you to better place your lure and avoid snags.
Quality fishing glasses are going to be an expensive purchase but they’re well worth the investment if it leads to more fish in the net. Furthermore, while fishing, your eyes will be subject to extreme sunlight for long durations. UV rays are proven to cause irreversible damage to the eye over long periods of time.
Photokeratitis and/or photoconjunctivitis can also occur in just minutes of exposure to the sun, which is the inflammation of the eye due to intense UV exposure. This essentially means your eyes will swell and fill with excess liquid to prevent deep internal damage. Your eyesights effectiveness will diminish greatly due to the swelling, making it nearly impossible to see through the water and spot fish.
Personally, I have an affinity for killing multiple birds with one stone. Simply put, why wouldn’t you want to protect your eyes while giving yourself a massive advantage in fishing?
Why Your $5 Gas Station Shades Are Junk
You get what you pay for. End of story.
Alright, fine, I’ll go ahead and explain it because there are a lot of people that would argue that the quality of sunglasses doesn’t actually matter. Those people are wrong and once you read this guide, you’ll be catching more fish than them!
First off, gas station glasses typically aren’t polarized. Some of them may actually say they’re polarized, but this is false advertising. They use a cheap lens coating to achieve a similar effect, close enough to use “polarized” in the marketing copy but not nearly close enough to optimally provide vision into the water. Cheap sunglasses, even equipped with fake polarization often times end up making glare even worse than it is without glasses. These are also reported as causing headaches and even nausea, two things that can ruin a fishing trip rather easily!
Secondly, materials used in the construction of your shades vary greatly. With cheap sunglasses, you’re getting shades that are equipped with far less durable materials. If your shades break while you’re out on the lake, you have a few options. Duct tape them to your face, suffer or go diving in hopes of finding some poor lads glasses that were lost in Davy Jones Locker. Three choices you likely won’t want to undertake when your mission is catching fish. Do yourself a favor and buy quality sunglasses that will last.
Frame Construction and Design
Getting your hands on a high-quality set of sunglasses that are perfect for fishing means you’re getting high-quality materials mixed with top tier construction methods.
In terms of material, you need to understand that your glasses will be subject to lots of water, and for some of you, salt water. Even if you aren’t dipping your glasses into the water like a crazy person, salt hangs around in the air above the water and settles on everything, including your glasses. This means using metal isn’t an option because the metal is subject to corrosion in environments you’d likely be using your sunglasses most in.
Since we can’t use any metals, likely the strongest, most durable and cost-effective material, what else can we do to ensure the glasses are corrosion resistant but still robust? Manufacturers as of late have been using a special blend of nylon, which is polyamides, co-polyamides, and gliamides. These don’t corrode from the salt but offer incredible durability. They won’t melt from the sun, they won’t contract from extreme cold, and they provide the best shape-keeping attributes out of any options we currently have. Furthermore, nylon proves to be an excellent platform to build on since they’re so lightweight and easy to mold.
Aside from that, the actual design of the sunglasses matters significantly, much further past just their appearance. Typically, a wrap-around design, otherwise known as an “8-base” seems to be agreed on as being the best for most use cases. This design is specially crafted to fit the curvature of a face, ensuring better fitment, higher levels of comfort, and most importantly, that the glasses don’t fall off during average activity. Furthermore, this design encompasses lenses that do well to ensure your entire eyeballs are protected from the sun.
Here I’ll list out and review some of my favorite sunglasses for fishing. Typically you get what you pay for and sunglasses are absolutely no exception here. There are no cheap exits here, the top tier glasses are scientifically proven to provide better UV protection, better polarization, and better ability to focus and spot fish.
It is not as simple as recommending a single pair of do-it-all glasses. In reality, if you want to be prepared for all conditions, you’ll need to buy a couple of pairs of different glasses. Hopefully the “How to Choose Sunglasses for fishing” section above helped determine which lens and frame type will work best for you.
Here Are The Best Polarized Sunglasses for Fishing
1. Costa Del Mar Fantail (Captains Choice)
Cost: Around $95
My Review: Costa Del Mar Sunglass are awesome high-end sunglasses at a reasonable price. As with all Costa’s, these have a limited lifetime warranty. The Fantail is available in over 30 different color configurations, lens tints, frame styles, etc so there should be a suitable style and lens tint for everyone.
The Fantail allows for these to fit securely and not have to be so tight they get uncomfortable when wearing them day after day.
This is one of the best fitting sets of glasses on the market. The idea of the Fantail was to provide better grip to the head for fisherman, primarily while bending over the edge of the boat to net a fish. We’ve all been there when a fast movement or wind makes your shades fall off. These frames attempt to fix that problem, and for the most part, they do a good job at it!
Although they aren’t on the expensive side of what Costa Del Mar offers, they still utilize a lot of similar build materials as the more expensive offerings including the robust 580 polycarbonate lenses and proprietary bio-based nylon frames.
Why I like it:
2. Costa Del Mar Blackfin
Cost: Around $95
My Review: These are the classic frames that you see professional fishermen wearing that helped grow the Costa name and reputation. They are quality built frames and have great lens options.
They don’t have the extreme hook at the ends like the Fantail does, but they do make an attempt to remain ergonomic and the elegant curvature at the ends allows for a secure comfortable fit.
Think of the Blackfin as the bigger brother to the Fantail. These shades are a bit heavier duty and heavier in weight.
Just like the Fantail, these use top tier construction materials such as the 580 polycarbonate lenses and bio-based nylon frames to achieve top-class durability and maintain fairly low weight profiles.
Why I like it:
3. Costa Del Mar Isabela (Best Women Sunglasses)
Cost: Around $95
My Review: While women can buy men’s sunglasses the size and style are not typically what they want. Costa makes great polarized sunglasses just for women. These glasses are the best for both style, fit and performance. The Isabela is one of the most popular women’s high-end women frames on the market. These come in multiple frame colors and multiple lens colors. These are ideal for sunny days while boating fishing or at the beach.
There are many women-specific sunglasses that can be bought at gift shops or department stores but are not on the same level as this pair of high-end Costa’s. When you are wearing Costa’s it is not a status statement. Wearing nice sunglasses makes for a more enjoyable time by properly protecting your eyes and allowing you the seeing the environment around you in a vibrant and clear way with top quality polarized lenses.
Why I like it:
4. Maui Jim Big Wave
These are the kind of glasses you’d buy if you live in the sun day in and day out and really want top quality shades with no exceptions.
It’s tough deciding where to get started with these. Above all, these have a brilliant color display that far surpasses any set of sunglasses on this list. Of course, we’re here for fishing and not color brilliance, and they’ve got that covered too with the PolarizedPlus2 lenses, only found with Maui Jim shades.
The lenses, aside from incredible polarization are available in two colors, are constructed with the Maui Jim SuperThin glass, which is said to be roughly 30% thinner and lighter than the glass other manufacturers use. That’s tough to gauge just holding them in your hand, but they sure are lightweight and the optical clarity is among the crispest of any sunglasses I’ve reviewed.
Furthermore, you also get the MauiPure lens material, which is basically the SuperThin glass reinforced for durability and ensuring they’re less prone to shattering than other glass lenses. These are among the clearest, color enhancing, and durable lenses on any sunglasses I’ve ever seen. Usually, I’m not a big fan of glass lenses, but these seem to be incredibly durable and fare well against scratches, which is basically the biggest downfall of glass lenses.
Why I like it:
5. Wiley X P-17
Cost: Around $80
My Review: Real quick, I want to mention that these are nearly double the price anywhere else, including the official Wiley X website, so I think the deal Amazon has is pretty sweet. They meet ANSI Z87.1 industrial standard code for high-velocity impacts, which is pretty cool to know!
Aside from the killer deal, these are offered at, they’re also great shades in general! These are one of the lowest profile designs on this list and also one of the lightest models.
Wiley X glasses are also known as ballistic glasses. There are worn as safety glasses in the military and my friends use to wear these for eye protection when playing airsoft.
When you pick yourself up a pair you’ll get a nice clamshell case with a Wiley X cleaning cloth, a T-Peg elastic strap, and a leash cord, a hell of a deal!
I will mention this, the early versions of these glasses were known to have coating failure, where the coating would slowly fade away after getting wet. Wiley acknowledged this issue and has since stated they fixed the problem, using higher quality lens coatings, so don’t be scared off by the old reviews of these sunglasses. They’re a fantastic deal with fantastic lenses inside a very robust frame.
Why I like it:
6. Oakley Fuel Cell 009096
Cost: Around $115
My Review: It wouldn’t be an all-inclusive sport sunglasses guide if I didn’t add in at least one of the Oakley offerings. Now, before we get started, I want to make it clear that many of Oakley’s polarized glasses make excellent fishing sunglasses. Simply put, I chose these because I like their low profile design and I believe they are among the most comfortable for me. Oakley has a ton of options that I highly suggest you browse through if you choose this brand as it really comes down to personal preference in most cases.
Now, for the Fuel Cell! These offer a very sleek appearance as opposed to many of the other Oakley products, which I enjoy. They’re simple, yet packed some top quality attributes I would expect to pay top dollar for. With Oakley, many people believe you’re paying for the brand, and while that’s totally true, you’re also getting a brand who thoroughly enjoys trying to make the “best” of something.
The Fuel Cell model comes with the HDPolarization coating, which is one of the best coatings for visual clarity of all sunglasses on this list. They’re tough too and come with a Z87.1 optical impact certification. Furthermore, the actual lenses themselves are the Plutonite lenses, which are said to be capable of filtering out UV rays and blue light, which is great for those of you staring at GPS screens or something similar for long durations of time. This model also comes with the option to add a tertiary lens coating, the Iridium lens coating. This further reduces glare and amplifies color, which I highly recommend spending the extra cash to get as it makes a huge difference when used for inshore fishing, it’s like you have X-ray lake vision!
Why I like it:
7. DUCO Carbon
Cost: Around $35
My Review: These are a bit of a different flavor than most of the other sunglasses on the list and that’s due to their aluminum and magnesium frame with carbon fiber temples. Yeah, they are cheap Chinese imports, but they’re only thirty bucks and I like them quite a bit for several reasons.
One, they look awfully nice. I’m a sucker for the simplistic design and the carbon fiber attributes.
Two, the lenses do exceptionally well at getting rid of that horrendous glare with their polarized filters and since they’re resin, they seem to have better visual quality than the polycarbonate lenses on the list in this price range and they’re shatterproof.
Third, they offer a lot of the characteristics I’d look for in terms of fishing glasses without that faux sporty feel, which is primarily why I’ve added them to the list. Not everyone going fishing needs to look like an aspiring athlete and some people prefer the sleek and light design that these sunglasses offer.
Why I like it:
8. KastKing Hiwassee (Budget Choice)
These lenses are available in the following color schemes:
- Chartreuse mirrored with brown on the inside
- An icy blue mirror with a grey inside color
- Full smoked grey
- Steel mirror with copper inside color
To boot, they threw in a molded ABS hard case and a microfiber pouch. In all reality, for the price, these are a great value. They’re super light, incredibly comfortable, and offer some pretty amazing lens coatings that we are only just now starting to see in these lower price ranges.
Why I like it:
9. Filthy Anglers Shawsheen
The lenses are polycarbonate, so if (when) you drop them, they won’t be shattering, and the polarization coating is just downright filthy!
They come with cute little hook badges on the sides so people know you’re serious about fishing, always a bonus!
Why I like it:
10. Strike King Okeechobee
Cost: Around $25
My Review: These are fairly well-known sunglasses in the industry and for good reason. They’re reasonably priced, come with 8 color scheme options, a nice little nylon storage case, and they flat out get the job done.
You’ll be getting some fairly high-quality lenses with these bad boys. A hydrophobic lens coating that’s both UVA and UVB resistant and a dual layer polarization system offers pretty good defense against reflection.
The frame is a hardened plastic that is light but also very durable and the bi-gradient mirrored lenses themselves are constructed of polycarbonate, meaning they’re shatterproof. They implement a similar wrap-around style as do most of the glasses on our list and all in all, these are an excellent low priced option for some very tough and very nice looking shades.
Why I like it:
Cost: Around $10
My Review: This retainer is made for Costa sunglasses but can work for any frames that come to a point. The rubber ends slide over the tips of the frames. These are nice so you can take off your sunglasses when going indoors and they stay around your neck. It is also nice when you are done using them from the day they can be hung up so the lenses will not get scratched up. These retainers last about 1 year when used frequently. If you are on a boat these are great. Sunglasses do not fly off as often as hats but it can happen. Having a retainer for sunglasses help keep the lenses in better shape and will reduce the likelihood of them being lost or broken.
Captain Cody has worked on charter fishing boats in the Florida Keys, Virgin Islands and Alaska. Cody grew up in Pennsylvania and has also done extensive freshwater fishing including bass fishing tournaments. Cody strives to provide detailed information about the best fishing gear and tactics to help both novice and experienced anglers have a more productive and enjoyable time on the water. Cody also has a background in aerospace engineering and neuroscience but really only takes pride in being good at one thing and that is fishing!