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How-to Content • Updated Wed, Apr 10, 2024

How to Choose the Best Polarized Sunglasses for Your Next Sight Fishing Trip

Sunglasses aren't just an accessory. They're a critical piece of gear for anglers. When sight fishing, the importance of being able to spot fish amidst underwater structure is paramount. That’s where polarized lenses become essential. Not only do sunglasses offer invaluable eye protection when out on the water all day — UV rays beating down, hooks swinging all around — but they enhance the whole of your fishing experience by leveling up your eyesight. Shaded view, reduced glare, and the ability to discern deeper underwater take your sight fishing to the next level. There’s a reason our guides come prepared with sunglasses — often multiple pairs — and here we’ll explain why.

Tarpon caught sight fishing the flats of Key West, Florida. Courtesy of Captain Max Hamlin Flats Fishing.

Tarpon caught sight fishing the flats of Key West, Florida. Courtesy of Captain Max Hamlin Flats Fishing.

This article covers:

What is polarization?

When you're on the water, there's one piece of gear beyond your rod and reel that truly makes a difference: polarized sunglasses. If your glasses aren’t polarized, they aren’t making a difference. All polarized means is that not all wavelengths of light are able to flow through the lens. Different wavelengths move or oscillate in different directions, shapes, and configurations, and a polarized lens restricts the flow of all wavelengths by permitting only a certain few to permeate. In other words, a polarized lens acts as a narrow gate, keeping harmful and impairing wavelengths from getting in, while only allowing necessary and useful ones to reach your eye. 

To get technical, visible light exists within a range of approximately 700-400 nanometers (nm). From there, wavelengths begin to have a harmful effect on life, and the smaller the wavelength, the more damaging it becomes. Ultraviolet, UV, light exists from 400-10 nm — with the three most notorious, UVA (400-315 nm), UVB (315-280 nm), UVC (280-100 nm), existing between 400-100 nm. Even smaller and more harmful, X-rays occupy a range from 3 to .03 nm. And, at the most harmful, gamma rays (responsible for the creation of the Hulk) exist between the so-impossibly-small-its-incredibly-difficult-to-fathom range of 0.1 to 0.000001nm, with X-rays and gamma rays having a slight overlap in their wavelengths. 

While we don’t have to worry about gamma rays or X-rays affecting us while we fish, most wavelengths of UV light make it through the atmosphere and require some form of protection. For your skin, this means layers — sun shirts and hats — and sunscreen; while for your eyes, it means sunglasses. Not just any sunglasses, but ones with polarized lenses capable of filtering out all of the damaging wavelengths of UV light. On top of that, they can filter out glare caused by wavelengths reflecting off the water, allowing you to protect your eyes while also enhancing your ability to spot and target fish.

Choosing the best polarized lenses for sight fishing

When it comes to polarized sunglass lenses, not all are created equal. An overcast morning can turn into a bluebird day and, just like that, one type of lens becomes ineffective, while another saves the day. For exactly this reason, most guides don’t just come prepared with one pair of glasses, but bring a spectrum to be best prepared for any and all weather and light conditions. Being conscious of the variety will empower you to select the right sunglasses for whatever your day on the water might entail. 

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Massive redfish caught out of Ocean Isle, North Carolina. Courtesy of Captain Tim Disano of Tideline Charters.

Polarized Lens Types

Polarized sunglass lenses typically fall within two broader categories: linear polarized lenses and circular polarized lenses. Linear polarized lenses block horizontally polarized light waves, reducing glare caused by reflections off surfaces like water or roads. They excel in minimizing glare and enhancing visibility in bright, reflective conditions, making them ideal for activities such as driving or outdoor sports where glare reduction is crucial. 

On the other hand, circular polarized lenses not only block horizontally polarized light but also convert it into vertically polarized light. They offer natural color reproduction, sharper contrast, and enhanced visibility, particularly in environments with highly reflective surfaces like water. For these reasons, circular polarized lenses provide superior performance for activities such as sight fishing, where precise visibility and glare reduction can’t be overemphasized. 

In terms of performance changes, both linear and circular polarized lenses effectively reduce glare, but circular polarized lenses may offer slightly superior performance. Additionally, circular polarized lenses provide better visibility, enabling anglers to spot fish more easily in bright, reflective conditions. 

Polarized Lens Colors

For sight fishing, understanding different lens colors and their suitability for various lighting conditions is crucial. In low-light conditions, lenses with a yellowish base or rosy colors are ideal. These lenses enhance contrast and depth perception while allowing more light transmission, making them perfect for cloudy days, early mornings, or late evenings.

For variable light conditions, copper-based lenses or those with an amber base are recommended. These lenses are effective in mid-tier light conditions, offering versatility in situations where light intensity may vary throughout the day. Whether it's spotting movement in coastal waters or adjusting to changing lighting conditions, copper and amber lenses provide clear vision and enhance the fishing experience, especially for inshore anglers.

In bright light conditions encountered during offshore fishing, lenses with a gray base are the preferred choice. These lenses are designed to minimize glare and provide maximum protection against harsh sunlight, ensuring enhanced visual clarity without distortion in bright, reflective environments such as deep blue waters.

When choosing the right lens color, anglers should consider their fishing environment and tailor their selection accordingly. For example, freshwater trout fishing may benefit from copper lenses, while offshore fishing demands gray-based lenses. However, for most anglers, a versatile option such as copper, amber, or variable lenses would be the best choice, providing adaptability to various lighting conditions.

Low light conditions (cloudy days, early mornings, or late evenings)Yellow or rosy base
Variable light conditions (freshwater trout fishing, a day on the water)Copper or amber base
Bright light conditions (offshore fishing)Gray base
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Polarized lenses are a must when sight fishing for tarpon out of Homosassa, Florida. Courtesy of Florida Outdoor Experience.

Polarized Lens Materials

Anglers have the choice between two primary lens materials: glass or poly (short for polycarbonate). Glass lenses stand out for their unparalleled optical clarity and light transmission, making them a top choice for many anglers. With superior optics, glass lenses provide a crystal-clear view of the underwater world. Additionally, glass lenses boast exceptional scratch resistance, ensuring long-lasting durability while maintaining optical clarity over time. While poly lenses may not match the optical clarity of glass, they compensate with increased impact resistance and reduced weight. Poly lenses won't shatter upon impact — glass can — providing added peace of mind, especially during active fishing sessions or outdoor adventures. Ultimately, glass makes for the best experience out on the water, and at AnyCreek, that’s what we value most. 

Frame selection

Frame selection plays an important role in maximizing visibility and performance on the water. With a plethora of frame options available, ranging from stylish aviators to sporty technical full-wrapped frames, anglers must consider their specific needs and preferences to ensure optimal sight fishing capability.

Opting for frames that provide ample coverage and a tight wrap around the face is essential to minimize light leakage and prevent glare from bouncing off the water's surface. Styles such as sporty technical full-wrapped frames offer superior coverage, ensuring no light penetrates from the sides while maximizing visibility during sight fishing expeditions. These frames wrap securely around the face, preventing light from bouncing up from underneath the water or from the sides, thereby enhancing sight fishing capabilities.

Best polarized sight fishing sunglass brands

Whether you're seeking budget-friendly options, mid-tier performance, or premium quality, there's a range of sunglass brands catering to every angler's needs and preferences. From affordable options like Flying Fisherman to premium brands like Maui Jim, anglers can find sunglasses that strike the perfect balance between price, performance, and style, ensuring optimal visibility and comfort during their fishing adventures.

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Spring shad caught on the Tar River, North Carolina. Courtesy of Tar River Co.  

Best Budget Polarized Sight Fishing Sunglasses

Flying Fisherman: Known for offering budget-friendly options, Flying Fisherman sunglasses provide decent polarization at an affordable price point. While they may not offer the same level of durability or optical clarity as higher-end brands, they provide a viable entry point for anglers on a budget looking for adequate glare reduction.

Best Mid-Tier Polarized Sight Fishing Sunglasses

Bajío: Positioned as a mid-tier brand, Bajío sunglasses offer a balance of affordability and performance. With decent polarization and durability, Bajío sunglasses cater to anglers seeking reliable eyewear without breaking the bank.

Native: Another mid-tier option, Native sunglasses combine quality craftsmanship with innovative design features. Offering enhanced durability and optical clarity, Native sunglasses are suitable for anglers seeking reliable performance at a moderate price point.

RCI: Positioned towards the higher end of the mid-tier spectrum, RCI sunglasses provide advanced features such as enhanced lens technologies and durable construction. While slightly pricier than other mid-tier options, RCI sunglasses offer excellent value for anglers seeking superior performance without splurging on premium brands.

Best Premium Polarized Sight Fishing Sunglasses

Smith: Smith sunglasses represent a premium option for anglers seeking top-of-the-line performance and cutting-edge technology. Renowned for their superior optics and durability, Smith sunglasses are favored by professional anglers and outdoor enthusiasts for their unmatched quality and performance.

Costa: Costa sunglasses are synonymous with premium quality and performance in the fishing industry. Featuring advanced lens technologies and durable construction, Costa sunglasses offer exceptional optical clarity, glare reduction, and durability, making them a top choice for serious anglers.

Maui Jim: Positioned at the pinnacle of premium eyewear, Maui Jim sunglasses set the standard for optical excellence and innovation. With state-of-the-art lens technologies and unparalleled clarity, Maui Jim sunglasses deliver unmatched performance and comfort, making them the ultimate choice for discerning anglers seeking the best in eyewear.

Suggested accessories to have on the water

Ensuring your sunglasses are properly cared for and protected while on the water is essential for maintaining optimal visibility and performance. Investing in a hard case for your sunglasses is crucial for protecting them from damage while not in use. Here are some suggested accessories to consider bringing along with your sunglasses:

Hard case: Provides sturdy protection against impacts, scratches, and other hazards during fishing expeditions.

Microfiber cloth: Essential for keeping sunglasses clean and free of smudges or debris, gentle on lenses, maintains clarity and visibility.

Glass cleaner: Removes salt deposits from lenses, ensures clear vision and optimal performance, prolongs sunglasses' lifespan.

Eyewear retainer: Prevents sunglasses from falling into the water, securely fastens around your neck, provides peace of mind during activities on the water.

Getting out on the water

Polarized lenses are essential for enhancing visibility and protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays and glare. Whether you opt for linear or circular polarized lenses, selecting the right lens color and material ensures optimal performance in various lighting conditions. At AnyCreek, our guides are equipped with multiple pairs of sunglasses to ensure your experience on the water is unmatched. So, gear up with the right sunglasses and accessories, and get ready to enjoy clear vision and exceptional performance during your next fishing expedition.

Best Polarized Sunglasses for Sight Fishing FAQ

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