Much like answering the question about which fish you like to catch, determining what constitutes the best fishing sunglasses is largely subjective. Your choice should reflect the freshwater, inshore or offshore locales where you most frequently pursue your quarry. There's the decision about sacrificing the extra crisp clarity of glass lenses for lightweight plastic. And you should probably consider your face size and shape so they fit right.
While appearance and feel may initially lure you in, functionality should be what ultimately lands you the right pair. Not only should the best fishing sunglasses protect your eyes from 100% of the harmful UVA, UVB, and UVC rays (and perhaps a few stray casts), they must perform in a variety of water and light conditions to help you pinpoint even the most subtle push of water or surface-breaking fin. From offshore frames with vents that help prevent fogging to freshwater styles that compact down for simple storage, you'll find that the best fishing shades are both practical and tactical.
Costa Rafael — Utilizing a wide temple design and wrap-style shape, Rafael ranks among the best fishing shades for blue water fishing scenarios due to admirable features like the three-square hole venting system that reduces lens fogging and Costa's patented 580 lens technology, which selectively filters out harsh yellow and harmful high-energy ultraviolet blue light. The absorption of high-energy blue light cuts haze, which produces greater visual clarity and sharpness. The blue mirror lenses provide 100% UV light blockage and 100% polarization, even in the brightest and most extreme offshore light conditions.
Aside from the patented 580 lens technology, big boons go out to Costa for Rafael's lightweight bio-based resin frame construction, sturdy hinge system, rubberized temple tips and nose pads. There's no need to fear headache, heaviness, or slippage while out at sea. This is one pair of fishing shades that has been expertly crafted to sit comfortably on your face regardless of the number of hours you spend in the fighting chair€¦ hopefully while watching a bill or two being thrust into the air.
Maui Jim World Cup — Taking a supreme spot next to Rafael is Maui Jim's World Cup, appropriately named after a worldwide blue marlin tournament. The classic wrap style is constructed from a lightweight, but durable high-grade injected nylon that can withstand the offshore elements. While the price tag on this pair is slightly higher than on Costa's Rafael, World Cup is worth a second look since Maui Jim's SuperThin and PolarizedPlus2 lens technologies play well together when it comes to providing avid anglers with lightweight lenses that eliminate 99.9% glare and 100% harmful UV rays without sacrificing clarity.
Adding to the list of lens features that brings the World Cup to the list of best offshore shades is the waterproof and oleophobic coating that effectively repels water, grease and smudges. Doesn't matter if you're re-applying sunscreen or rigging a fresh ballyhoo, you'll pretty much always be able to see through them, no matter what you get into.
Smith Guide's Choice — Well thought-out frame details paired with ChromaPop polarized bronze mirror lenses (ideal when fishing depths of 10 feet or less) earn Smith Guide's Choice the top spot in the best inshore shades category. When chasing tailing reds on the grass flats or scouting for snook through the salty mangroves, these glasses should be considered as an essential tool of the trade.
Guide's Choice gives you nearly unparalleled protection and clarity while remaining conscious of beneficial features that go beyond the lenses. The megol nose and temple pads gently, but securely hold the frames in place, even when drenched by the quick flick of a tarpon's tail. The wrap style has been designed with wide temples to provide a high level of light protection in full sun situations, while the integrated sunglass leash ensures that your investment stays either on your head or around your neck regardless of what a day on the water might bring.
BEST SMALL FIT
Costa Trevally — Since this style's namesake is one of the hardest fighting fish that a saltwater angler can battle, it only makes sense to equate it with a triumphant win for the female fishing crowd who have scoured all corners of the earth to find frames that don't sacrifice serious functionality for a smaller fit. Offering the same 580 color-blocking lens technology as Rafael, Trevally can be customized with Costa's color enhancing polarized lens colors (glass or and comes in four frame color options. The matte tortuga fade and orchid frames, in particular, are an appreciated diversion from the more traditional options in black and tortoise.
Costa consistently hits the mark by offering the highest level of UV light blockage and polarization at 100%, with Trevally being no exception. Just be prepared, because these aren't your mother's sunglasses.
Costa KC — Created by Costa for country crooner Kenny Chesney, these shades aren't optimal for reducing side-glare since they are a classic aviator-style, but if you have been in search of a pair of small fit sunglasses that will work well for weekend bank or beach fishing excursions, this could be your pair. Count on Costa's 580 green or copper lenses to do a top-notch job of filtering out 100% of UV light whether you decide to scout out the shoreline for largemouth bass or just prop your feet up in a hammock.
Native Kannah — Another stand-out pair of shades in the "best small fit" category goes to Native's Kannah. The sleek, but durable design is a good option if you are one of those non-committal anglers who have held off on buying a good pair of fishing shades because of the numerous trials and tribulations you always seem to put your gear through. No more excuses because Kannah includes Native's N3 lens technology, which has superior impact resistance and durability against temperature extremes. If you're still on the fence, consider the fact that Native has a "no questions asked" lifetime warranty and will send you a replacement pair for $30, regardless of the reason.
Keep in mind that poly carbonate lenses won't have the same degree of clarity that glass lenses will, but Kannah does have a Reflex mirrored lenses in green and bronze that will help to further reduce glare and visual light transmission while enhancing contrast when on the water.
Native Eldo — It doesn't matter if you plan to wet a line on a sunny summer Saturday afternoon or on a cloudy winter evening, Eldo has you covered by including an extra pair of high-contrast lenses for overcast or low-light conditions. The close fit of this particular style does an excellent job at keeping side glare and peripheral light out of the equation, but since there isn't a side venting system like the Rafael, fogging may be a concern. Eldo is likely to perform at its best when fly fishing local rivers and streams versus when chucking big baits from your boat in hot, humid conditions.
The frames are constructed from a castor-based resin, which makes them stronger and more earth friendly than petroleum-based plastic alternatives. Another feature worth noting is the revolutionary anti-ocular intrusion system that prevents your lenses from shooting toward your eyes in the event of an impact.
Smith Drake — The medium fit, high level of Italian craftsmanship, and ChromaPop polarized lens technology brings the Drake up to the top of the "best overall" category. Comfort-enhancing features like out-of-sight hinges and comfortable megol nose and temple pads make this the overall style to beat when on the water.
The copper mirror lens option does the best job of eliminating blue light, which makes copper the most effective color during the broadest time range. That means that whether you are walking the dog for muskies in the late afternoon or jigging for panfish in the morning, you shouldn't have any issues with your visibility. Again, while the impact-resistant carbonic lenses won't give you quite the same level of crispness and clarity that glass will, the impact resistance and lighter feel can offer a significant advantage when on the water for longer periods of time.
Popticals Popgun — Space is always a commodity when you're out on the water in a bass boat that's packed with tray after tray of soft plastics and cranks, so a company called Popticals saw this as an opportunity. While offering full UV protection and polarization using lenses manufactured by Carl Zeiss Vision, Popticals features a patented portability feature that allows your lenses to slide in parallel to each other for compact storage. Now they are making serious waves in the bass fishing community with the Popgun style of wrap-around sunglasses that utilizes this technology. No need to leave them on your head, on your shirt, on your back or in your hair because they compact down to fit inside one small, durable case -- one thing your multitude of tackle trays will never quite do.