Updated on September 16, 2020
This is a complete guide to the best fishing sunglasses in 2020. The guide below will walk you through the simple steps of choosing sunglasses to help ensure you are getting the best polarized sunglasses specific to fishing—for your budget.
In this new guide you’ll learn:
- (Top tier) best on the market
- Best Costa sunglasses for fishing
- Polarized sunglasses for women
- (Middle tier) best fly fishing sunglasses under $100
- (Bottom tier, backups) best cheap polarized sunglasses for fishing
Sunglasses are not essential to casting and catching, but by increasing visibility an angler also increases efficiency and safety. Sunglasses are an item that any angler would be wise to make part of their gear bag.
Best Polarized Sunglasses for Fishing (Top Tier)
For this section, most people swear by Smith Optics or Costa when it comes to outdoor sunglasses that are fishing specific. However, Oakley is a behemoth in this industry with a couple of very solid options including the incredibly lightweight Flak AND Maui Jim with their super-thin glass lenses should not be left off of this list.
The advantage of spending your money in this section is going to be clarity/visibility, comfort, scratch resistance, lens quality (plastic or glass) and style.
These higher end sunglasses have many lens types to choose from—based on your fishing application
Guides choice, general:
- Blue lenses are great for freshwater
- Green lenses for saltwater
- Amber lenses to brighten things up on cloudy days
- Gray lenses are a good all-around color for rivers, lakes and streams
The Tuna Alley shades are top of the top, and are considered by some the best fly fishing sunglasses, period. These glass lenses increase scratch resistance, as well as visual clarity. Providing both quality and longevity.
A good bit of money, but this purchase might be the last one you ever make.
These sunnies offer Smith’s proprietary Chroma pop lenses, which deliver amazing detail and visual clarity.
They are fishing specific and offer a special coating that repels moisture and oil. Smith has a fantastic warranty.
One of the best sight fishing shades available.
Accessories to consider
These items are relatively inexpensive and help to increase longevity.
- Sunglass retainers. As mentioned in our care section these are a must-have as they are inexpensive and can dramatically reduce the chance of loss and damage
- A protective case for your sunglasses is also a very inexpensive way to support your investment by protecting your lenses when not in use. I also find that a case like this helps to create a routine of putting your shades in the same spot each time
- Microfiber cleaning and storage bags like these serve two factors a) They are another way to help protect you lenses by giving you a quick / convenient way to store when not in use and b) they also give you a quick / convenient way to clean your lenses safely
Polarized Fishing Sunglasses for Women
Many of the sunglasses herein are unisex, however this section is specific to the woman angler. If you are a woman angler looking for a top end pair of polarized sunglasses for fishing I recommend looking in our best of best section above and choosing a pair with a smaller profile like the stingray. Or if you are looking for the best pair for the money—check out the Suncloud Zephyr’s below.
(Middle Tier) Best Polarized Sunglasses Under $100
This is a good middle tier section with some fantastic polarized fishing glasses right at or under $100. Both of these options below meet the criteria for the factors you need on the water. When you combine that with lifetime warranty you get:
The best polarized fishing sunglasses for the money!
Along with Under Armour’s proprietary ArmourSight polarized lenses, these shades offer flexible frames for durability. Because they are backed for life you could even make these a backup pair of sunglasses at some point.
The Men’s Force offer everything an angler is looking for, and at a good price. The fact that this product is backed for the life makes The Men’s Force one of our stand out targets for best polarized fishing sunglasses for the money.
(Bottom tier) Best Cheap Polarized Sunglasses for Fishing
If you are on a tight budget there are some really great options here.
The cool thing about this section is that if you feel inclined to save up a bit of money for a top tier product at a later date you can use the ones you purchase from this section as a backup down the line.
Suncloud is owned by Smith Optics and without a doubt is my favorite company when it comes to best sunglasses for the money.
The style of these shades is not for everyone but they are comfortable and high quality at a price point you cant beat!
RIVBOS makes some big claims with these shades. These are 1) unbreakable frames and 2) Lifetime breakage warranty on both the lenses and the frames.
Why are sunglasses Important for fishing?
Sunglasses when fishing serve two main purposes
- Increased visibility for anglers
Eye protection simply means protecting your eyes from ultraviolet radiation or UV damage. Protecting your eyes from UV light becomes even more important as the time outdoors increases.
This study from the NIH says,
Ultraviolet light exposure to the eye has been associated with cataract formation and retinal degeneration. In both cases, it is hypothesized that ultraviolet light can initiate formation of free radicals, which can cause protein modification and lipid peroxidation. Several procedures can be recommended to prevent ultraviolet light damage to the eye, such as the use of suitable protective glasses when outdoors.
For max. Protection make sure that the sunglasses you are considering purchasing say, 100% UV protection
Another factor for this section is—shielding your eye. It sounds a bit silly, but eye protection also means protecting your eyes from physical objects like a tree branch or perhaps a fly on the backcast. When it comes to the eye it is better to be safe than sorry, on the off chance an accident.
Increased Visibility with Polarized Lenses
Increased visibility is a huge win. The ability to see underwater can assist in an angler being safer and more effective on the water.
Polarize by definition is to restrict vibrations. In this case, polarized sunglasses restrict the vibrations of light which helps to reduce glare from the sun.
This allows an angler to
- See underwater with increased visibility allowing him or her to avoid obstructions like boulders, logs and wade safer
- See fish and fish lies more easily for sight fishing or just more effective determination of fish lies to avoid spooking fish
Note: Polarized sunglasses have nothing to do with UV protection. The two main factors when purchasing sunglasses for fishing are 1) The best-polarized lenses you can comfortably afford 2) 100%UV protection
Tip: All About Vision states, “In addition to sunglasses, wearing a wide-brimmed hat on sunny days can reduce your eyes’ exposure to UV by up to 50 percent.”
Sunglasses for fly fishing
Polarized sunglasses are a must for all anglers. But because this is a fly fishing site we do emphasize the use of sunglasses for flyfishing specifics. Polarized glasses are a tactical advantage when fly fishing. By taking the glare off the water you can see further into the water making sight fishing easier. You see trout lies that you would not otherwise and avoid spooking fish. Moreover one can wade more safely by seeing obstructions.
This section serves as a bit of a sunglasses buyers guide to help you ask the right questions and choose the right product. Personally, I like to have one pair of glasses from our best section and one from our budget section. Right now I have Smith Optics, Challis and SoundCloud’s, Flatline. I find this is a good way to always have a backup without “breaking the bank”
Tips // Points // Questions to ask yourself when considering the best sunglasses for fishing
- The product should protect against UVC and UVB rays. Look for 100% UV protection
- Sunglasses should have polarized lenses
- Determine how much time are you spending outside (on the water, hiking, boating, climbing, etc)? This could help determine your budget and/or style
- If you are spending heaps of time outside or on the water consider a wraparound style of shades
- Color of lenses
- From $20 to $300– get the best ones you can comfortably afford to lose, then dont lose them 🙂
- Amber, copper, or brown lenses for fishing in low light situations.
- All polarized lenses cut glare, however the higher the quality the higher the clarity.
- Darker lenses do not equate to better UV protection
Tip: if you are going to spend a good bit of coin on some new sunglasses for fishing I highly suggest spending a few more bucks and get some sunglass retainers to keep your shades close at all times.
Glass vs Plastic Lenses
Due to a myriad of variables, each product needs to be evaluated on its own but here are some overarching points pertaining to glass vs plastic lenses
Are more versatile as polycarbonate plastic is a product that can be modified easier. On average plastic is less expensive, but less scratch-resistant. Plastic can be significantly lighter creating a more much more comfortable experience when worn for longer periods. Polycarbonate plastic is more durable and has greater depth when it comes to tinting and protective coatings and lens treatment.
Are typically more expensive, but more scratch-resistant. Moreover, glass lenses tend to have better average optical quality / clarity, but tend to be heavier.
If you do choose glass lenses I highly recommend getting glass that is anti-reflective
Sunglass Care (Protecting Your Investment)
Below are some general tips that will help you care for your new investment and prevent from losing them.
The tips below have helped me to have my expensive glasses for about 5 years already and my backups for about 2 years and with the lenses still in good shape.
You’ll drop the $200 pair in the river, but have your $20 pair forever (avoid this!)
- Get your sunglasses wet prior to cleaning the lenses
- Always use a microfiber cloth for your lenses. The bag that came with your sunglasses is typically the best material to clean your lenses with.
- Never use a napkin, paper towel or your shirt to clean your lenses—this can cause unnecessary scratching
- Be mindful of where you place your sunglasses keep them in a protective case when you are not using them
- Getting a couple of microfiber cleaning and storage bags will 1) support you to put your sunglasses in a safe place 2) serve as a safe way to clean your lenses without scratching them
- Avoid putting your sunglasses in precarious places like the dashboard of your car. Take an extra moment to put them in a case
- Do not lay your sunglasses on surfaces face down
Avoid Loss // Proper Storage
- Try and put them in the same place each time you get home
- Check out sunglass accessories like these sunglass retainers. These are a must for sunglasses over $100, as they keep you from setting your shades down in general.
- Keeping your sunglasses close will help avoid loss AND damage in the long run
Sunglasses for women, tip:
Do not store your sunglasses in your purse. There are too many loose objects in your bag that can damage your expensive shades.
Glasses are comfortable, feel good to the eye, help in all different scenarios and… can look kinda cool 🙂
If you can afford it I like to have two pairs at all times. I currently have a pair of Smith and a pair of sunclouds. Expensive and not too expensive for backup. If one gets lost or broken I can work on replacing rather than needing to bite the bullet so to speak with an out of the blue cost.