Choosing the right polarized sunglassesFrom the February 4, 2009 Issue
Color is important when choosing the right sunglasses.
SUN PHOTO/RUSTY CHINNIS
Polarized sunglasses are an angler’s best friend. We wear them because they reduce the amount of visible light that passes through the lens and cut the surface glare that lets us see below the water’s surface. This ability is a definite advantage when sight fishing or looking for signs of fish. Many anglers choose their glasses according to style, not realizing that the color of the lenses and other factors determine their real effectiveness. Color is important, but it’s just one of the choices that you will need to make to get the most from your sunglasses.
After choosing a frame that’s comfortable and fits your face, lens color is the most important component. Anglers who fish blue water and spend long hours over the open sea should buy grey lenses. Grey provides natural contrast and minimizes color distortion in the deeper blue waters encountered offshore.
For flats fishermen, brown/amber lenses are the best choice for sight fishing shallow water. Brown/amber lenses offer a brighter field of vision, better visual acuity, and excellent color contrast. There are advantages to having more than one pair of glasses as vermillion and light copper-colored lenses heighten visual acuity and enhance color in low and flat light conditions. Another option is to choose a line of sunglasses that feature interchangeable lenses.
The reduction of the glare has another beneficial component. The eye functions like a camera and must adjust to varying light levels. On a bright day, the pupil constricts, muting light levels. Polarized lenses help eliminate reflected glare, so the remaining light falls in a much narrower range of intensity. The eyes can then relax, allowing greater depth perception and truer color contrast.
When choosing polarized glasses you have a number of options: cheap versus expensive, glass versus (polycarbonate) plastic, cast versus laminated polarized lenses and the color of the lenses.
The lowest quality are the so called rack glasses, the kind you find in the local pharmacy. These are better than no sunglasses, but you should buy the best pair you can afford. As a rule, a quality pair of polarized sunglasses will cost quite a bit more, but they’re well worth the difference in price.
One of the major decisions is choosing glass or plastic lenses. Glass lenses provide better visual (clarity) acuity than plastic and are more scratch resistant. However, glass lenses are heavier. If you purchase glass lenses, make sure you buy a quality pair with a broad, comfortable nose piece.
If you choose a good quality pair of glass or plastic sunglasses, your primary considerations should only be frame style and lens color. Choose a frame that is comfortable, and one that helps block out extraneous light. Some glasses wrap around the side of the face, while others have separate side shields.
Several of the top manufacturers of sunglasses feature technologies that further increase the effectiveness of polarized lenses. Companies like Smith Optics offer photo-chromic lens that lighten or darken as light levels vary during the day. They are more versatile and provide better visual acuity in changing lighting conditions. I have found the glass lenses to be superior to plastic, but good plastic lenses may be a better choice for others.
When you choose a pair of polarized glasses, follow these broad guidelines, while experimenting to find the color that works best for you in your particular fishing situation. By choosing a quality product with the proper color, you’ll greatly expand your fishing horizon while protecting your most valuable asset, your vision.
If you use prescription glasses you’ll invest quite a bit more in the glasses and want to make sure you’re getting a good fi Glass polarized lenses don’t allow for the option of a bi-focal, but optional stick on "cheaters" are available. Choose your sunglasses carefully: they’re one of the angler’s most important tools.