I have to admit, I’m a sunglasses snob. As a die-hard sight fisherman, my eyes are my most valuable asset. So testing the best sunglasses for fishing is serious work. Certifying these shades required hours of searching for fish to evaluate the technology behind the lenses and the motivation behind the design.
The best sunglasses for fishing are polarized to reduce glare and prevent damaging UV rays. The frames block light to further reduce glare while still allowing body heat to escape to keep the lenses from fogging. To test durability, reliability and comfort, we wore these glasses for hours paddling and fishing in the hot sun. In the end, after long days on the water, the best sunglasses for fishing were easy to see.
Costa del Mar
$224 | costadelmar.com
Costa del Mar leads the way in environmentally responsible and women-friendly fishing sunglasses. Combining their recycled frame material and high performance, gender-specific design makes the Caleta look good and feel good. The frames are made of 97 percent recycled fishing nets giving the glasses a unique matte finish.
Costa gave the Caleta its best scratch- and smudge-resistant 580P polarized glass lenses. The Caleta has grey lenses without mirror coating dark enough for offshore and clear-water fishing while still bright enough for all-around fishing. Our tester really liked the comfortable lenses, which are 20 percent thinner and lighter than other glass lenses.
Reel X LL Polar
$245 | dragonalliance.com
With roots in the surf and snow, Dragon Alliance sunglasses are popular among adventure seekers. Living up to their reputation as reliable sunglasses built for performance in the worst conditions, Dragon’s Reel X are one of the best sunglasses for fishing.
Dragon’s Polar lens technology reduces glare and increases depth perception by blocking hazy light and permitting wavelengths associated with color contrast. The lenses are damage-, dust- and oil-resistant with a hydrophobic coating. To survive the harsh conditions in the wild, Dragon’s H2O frames are light, tough and they float.
If you’re shopping for new sunglasses because you dropped your old sunglasses overboard, you’ll like Dragon’s Reel X.
$89 | hobieeyewear.com
Little-known fact, Hobie has been producing eyewear a decade longer than it has been building kayaks. The first pair of Hobie polarized sunglasses hit the market in 1987, and just as anglers have come to trust the name for creating some of the industry’s most innovative fishing kayaks, they have done the same for the most critical angler accessory outside of a rod and reel.
We chose Hobie Eyewear’s Snook frames combined with their Sightmaster+ polarized lens for our review. The Sightmaster+ lenses are all about maintaining the polarization imperative to anglers while fishing in low-light conditions. Think: trying to spot fish under the shadows of overhanging branches, or around the beginning and end of the day, when the fishing gets good but the remaining sunlight is low. These conditions are where the Sightmaster+ lens thrives. Hobie accomplishes this with a yellow tint and gold mirroring, providing a combination of contrast and visibility. The result: when available light was at a minimum, we knew where to place our cast.
$81-207 | lip-sunglasses.com
Murphy’s Law dictates every angler will lose their favorite pair of sunglasses to the sea. Why, then, is it hard to come by a high-quality pair of buoyant shades? LiP Sunglasses began as a quest by kiteboarders Li Chen and Dirk Michielsen to build a pair of sunglasses able to not only cut glare and protect the eyes, but also avoid being lost to the reef bottom. LiP’s most kiteboarding-centric shades feature their Failsafe leash and retainer system. However, for kayak fishing, their buoyant Flo sunglasses are what caught our eye.
The Flo is available in multiple polycarbonate polarized lens colors depending on your common conditions, but what intrigued us most about the Flo is the frame. The demands of kiteboarding are some of the most extreme there are for a pair of shades, providing a good gauge the Flo can hold up for kayak anglers. TR90 frames are lightweight and flexible, able to withstand hard use. To the onlooker, the Flo has the necessary daily style, while on the inside, the frame has a high visibility color so you can find them in the bottom of your bag or if they fall off your face. And that’s the kicker: the Flo’s buoyancy. The thermoplastic of TR90 frames keeps the Flos afloat, so when they inevitably fall in the drink, you can just pick them up and keep sight casting.
$262 | mauijim.com
Among true connoisseurs of sunglass technology, Maui Jim has long been respected as the best sunglasses for fishing. Combining the best lens technology with super-light and comfortable frames makes the Alenuihaha a favorite for anglers who demand the most out of their sunglasses.
Maui Jim’s Super Thin Glass is 32 percent thinner and lighter than average glass lenses. PolarizedPlus2 lenses provide the ultimate in clarity and definition with sun- and glare-busting polarization. We tested the HCL Bronze lenses emphasizing clarity and definition to see through the water to fish and structure below the surface.
$140 | ombraz.com
The most unique sunglasses in our review were invented in the Sahara desert. Ombraz’s co-founder was on safari when someone sat on his sunglasses. As a quick fix, he tied a piece of string between the hinges to hold the sunglasses over his ears. Voila! Ombraz was born.
With scratch- and smudge-resistant lenses and an abrasion- resistant, microbe-resistant cord, Ombraz are almost indestructible. The hand-carved and individually inspected frames are tough and comfortable. The polarized lenses from famed German craftsman Carl Zeiss cut glare and harmful rays. Believe it or not, the cord works as well as traditional arms to keep the Ombraz in place.
$299 | revo.com
After conquering space and Hollywood by sponsoring famous actors and astronauts, Revo has set its sights on fishing. Installing their high-tech lenses into wrap-around frames gives anglers a great choice for the best fishing sunglasses. Revo’s famous crystal clear lenses are based on NASA technology and sandwiched between water- and oil-resistant coatings.
The Dexter’s wrap frame is heavy enough to block most light while still allowing air flow. The grey lenses with blue coating are perfect for fishing bluewater in direct sunlight. Even with the dark lenses and reflective coating, the Revo lenses cut glare and harsh sun without dimming vision.
$259 | smithoptics.com
Based on the performance of their high-quality lenses, Smith sunglasses have become a popular choice among professional guides and tournament anglers. Starting with the clearest polarized base lens, Smith’s popular ChromaPop filters out spectrum overlap for bright and intense colors that make it easier to spot fish swimming below the surface.
The lenses are scratch-resistant with a moisture- and grease-resistant coating. We tested the bronze lens, a light brown lens with bronze coating to cut glare while still providing excellent contrast. These lenses were best suited for inshore and dark, stained water.
This article was first published in the Early Summer 2022 issue of Kayak Angler Magazine. Subscribe to Kayak Angler Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.
I can see clearly now the rain is gone. —Jimmy Cliff | Feature photo: Ric Burnley