Polarized sunglasses are one of many essentials needed for safe and successful days on the water. Most anglers would agree that quality polarized sunglasses are equally important as your favorite rod and reel. Unfortunately, the beautiful sun we love for so many reasons—including successful sight fishing—is incredibly damaging to our fragile eyes. While apparel manufacturers continue to raise the bar with user-friendly, fashion forward designs to protect our skin from harmful UV rays, just as much thought must be involved in protecting our eyes.
For years you’ve heard of the benefits of polarized sunglasses and their ability to help you spot fish and penetrate surface glare, but they are equally important in their ability to protect our eyes. Harmful exposure to UV rays can lead to numerous medical conditions. You can actually burn the surface of your eye much like your skin, so every time you are on the water it’s critical you wear polarized sunglasses that effectively block UV light. While many manufacturers attempt to gain market share with stylish designs, fishermen and boaters want to choose a frame with wide sides that help shield sunlight from all directions. Thin wire frames with open sides let in too much light and defeat the purpose of wearing polarized sunglasses.
Technology oriented manufacturers are also developing new lenses that adjust to the light’s intensity depending on the prevalent conditions.
When it comes to the actual lenses and materials, technology and terminology vary greatly among manufacturers, but they all attempt to accomplish the same thing. As light waves bounce off objects, such as the water’s surface, the light reflections generally occur in a horizontal orientation. Without an in-depth physics lesson, polarized sunglasses combat this glare by utilizing vertically aligned filters. Because of this filter alignment your lenses provide the ability to cut through glare when you tilt your head up and down. Lean your head to the left or right and the filters won’t align and you’ll notice a loss of polarization.
Polarized sunglass lenses are manufactured in polycarbonate or glass, with the latter providing increased visual acuity and scratch resistance. Glass lenses are heavier and more expensive than polycarbonate lenses, but will shatter with direct impact. While some claim glass lenses are superior, polycarbonate lenses are typically more affordable and lighter while still offering impressive optics. You’ll have to weigh out the benefits of each and decide for yourself, but make sure you purchase the highest quality product you can afford. Protecting your fragile eyes is not the place to skimp on quality.
There are numerous methods used to create polarized lenses, with most manufacturers incorporating some form of sandwiching, injecting or baking of polarization. While layering polarization materials and filters, manufacturers also incorporate additional performance enhancing features such as dust, water and scratch resistant coatings. They do this to provide anglers the best performance possible. Still, it is crucial to remember that just like it’s important to alter your tackle and techniques in order to adjust to changing conditions, you’ll also want to change your sunglasses to improve your vision as lighting conditions vary.
Gray lenses provide a good option for a variety of lighting conditions and transmit all colors of the spectrum. They don’t distort colors like other lenses do and are best suited for bright conditions and offshore arenas. Yellow lenses are high contrast specialty lenses best suited for low light and overcast conditions. Great during sunrise and sunset, yellow lenses provide the greatest contrast for spotting fish in shallow water. Amber lenses are also great all around lenses and result in bright scenes for increased contrast and target discrimination. In addition to the previously mentioned lens colors, there are many variations to each.
Whether your preferred manufacturer labels their lenses vermillion or copper, brown lenses let in a lot of light and perform best when sight fishing shallow water or freshwater by providing increased contrast against the bottom. Technology oriented manufacturers are also developing new lenses that adjust to the light’s intensity depending on the prevalent conditions.
Another recommendation for increased performance is to wear some sort of facemask like a Hoo-Rag or Buff. By pulling the facemask over your head you are not only protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, but the facemask will further eliminate stray peripheral light from entering through the sides of the frames. Lenses that feature venting holes will help minimize fogging when exhaling through the facemask.
While selecting the proper lens for the prevalent conditions is critical, you’ll also want to take into consideration the manufacturers customer service and reputation among industry professionals. From experience I can tell you that Pelagic, Kaenon and Smith provide unmatched clarity, with no questions asked service and repair.
The newest polarized sunglasses are the result of decades of advancements and optical innovation. Providing anglers and boaters increased depth perception while reducing eye fatigue and improving clarity, polarized sunglasses are an integral piece to the puzzle. With all of these benefits, a final piece of equipment to remember is an eyewear retainer. These safety straps are available in countless variations, colors and styles. With quality polarized sunglasses often retailing for over $200, it’s in your best interest to keep them from falling overboard.