Walking into a store and seeing a large sunglass display can make things complicated. We carry both Smith Optics and Costa Del Mar Sunglasses in a variety of frames and lenses, and knowing which is right choice for what you’re doing can be daunting, so I’ll try to simplify things:
- Polarization: Any good fishing sunglasses should be polarized. Glare on the water makes it nearly impossible to see what’s happening below the surface or to track a bobber/dry. Polarization cuts glare off the water. All the Smith and Costa Sunglasses we carry are polarized.
- Glass vs. Polycarbonate lenses: Glass lenses provide more clarity and scratch resistance while polycarbonate lenses are shatter resistant and noticeably lighter weight. There is no right or wrong between the two – I personally prefer glass lenses, while some of the other guys at the shop prefer polycarbonate.
- Lens Color: While there are lenses that work well for applications other than fishing, we’re going to focus on what makes a good lens for fishing.
- Copper base lenses, mirrored or not, provide high contrast and good all around fishing performance. Copper base lenses with green and silver mirror are a favorite for sight fishing scenarios and for fishing heavy cover. However, copper lenses have very low light transmission, so for situations like heavily foliaged trout streams and early mornings, they aren’t always ideal and can make things too dark.
- Brown (Amber) lenses like those from Smith are great all around choices because they perform well both in low light and high sun but don’t provide the same high contrast that copper lenses do.
- Low light lenses such as the Sunrise Silver Mirror (yellow colored) from Costa and the Polarchromic Ignitor (rose colored) from Smith both provide the best performance on cloudy days, heavy foliaged trout streams, and at sunrise/sunset. The rose colored Polarchromic Ignitor lenses from Smith are one of our favorites – they perform decently in bright sunlight and can be worn throughout the day. This makes for a very versatile low light lens if you only want to buy one pair of sunglasses.
- In offshore situations, gray-based blue mirror lens are the preferred choice.
- Frame choice: While we all like the most stylish and good looking frames, fishing frames should be practical as well. They should fit your face properly, let very little light in from the sides and top and bottom, and breathe as to prevent fogging. Frames that wrap around the face such as the Guide’s Choice from Smith and the Jose from Costa are favorites among our guides. A pair of sunglasses that doesn’t impede a hat also is something we look for in a sunglass frame – chances are we’ll have one on.
Both Costa and Smith have their own proprietary technologies that provide better performance on the water in addition to polarization. Choosing between the two would be like choosing a favorite child as both have their advantages. Try sunglasses on before you buy them – having a pair that puts pressure on your head is uncomfortable and will make them unbearable to wear. Having multiple pairs with different purposes is awesome if you spend a lot of time on the water in variable conditions, but isn’t always affordable, so pick sunglasses based on the conditions you will encounter the most.