From bright sun to errant hooks, fishing is harder on your eyes than the price of a new boat.
If you’ve taken to the water without sunglasses, you know exactly what we mean. And as any optometrist can tell you, it’s unwise in the extreme to neglect quality eye protection, and plenty of ER doctors get far too many patients who need a hook removed from their face.
We’ve researched carefully to present you a selection of our favorite options, rating each pair for its performance to price ratio.
Quick glance at the best fishing sunglasses:
Table of Contents (clickable)
Lens material: polycarbonate
Frame material: nylon
Costa Del Mar has an avid following of anglers who swear by their sunglasses, and while these shades won’t break the bank, they’re at the high-end of what we’d be willing to pay for a fishing tool as opposed to a fashion statement.
Costa’s reputation has been built on quality, and these glasses were designed with offshore anglers in mind. We chose the Fantail over the Brine due to the wider range of color options, as well as fit issues with the latter model (they tend to run small).
The Fantail features high-quality polycarbonate lenses that are expertly polarized for the demanding conditions you’ll experience chasing reds, tuna, shark, and sailfish. Expect zero glare and no squinting, even when the sun is doing its worst.
The lenses are well-made and free from defects. While not scratch-proof, polycarbonate is tough, and it’ll take some doing to make a mark.
Costa’s nylon frames are top-notch, too, so no worries there.
And the Fantail line comes in a rainbow of color options. Anyone will find a pair they like.
If there’s anything not to like about these Costas, it’s their price. Many anglers prefer these to Oakleys and Maui Jim’s, and we can understand why: these are serious fishing tools! But you’re going to pay for that performance.
Overall, if you’re willing to pay for these Costas, you’ll be happy that you did.
Lens material: Triacetate Cellulose (TAC)
Frame material: Grilamidthermoplastic
KastKing’s Skidaway sunglasses are an inexpensive option for anglers who want solid eye protection without breaking the bank. And if you’re the kind of person who forgets sunglasses on a restaurant table, or has a well-earned reputation for breaking expensive pairs, these may be perfect for you.
Available in a wide range of lens and frame color options, we recommend one of the dark frame options for anglers. Yes, bright yellow and orange frames look cool, but you’ll suffer a bit with your peripheral vision if you choose them, as the frames will reflect bright light on either side of your face.
KastKing’s frames are made from excellent Grilamid thermoplastic. They’ll take a beating without complaint.
To keep prices reasonable, the company manufactures its lenses from TAC. That has some drawbacks, but let’s note the good stuff first.
According to KastKing, the coatings applied to each lens blocks 100% of UVA and UVB light. That’s important, and you should never accept anything less.
KastKing also checks each lens for optical distortion, a common issue with TAC lenses.
However, TAC is essentially a laminate plastic, and some users have experienced trouble with the lens coating wearing off--especially after exposure to saltwater.
And since this isn’t a wrap-around design, depending on the shape and size of your face, these glasses can leave a small gap near your cheek. That can allow bright sunlight and reflected glare in, which is certainly less than ideal.
We like the Skidaways, and so do plenty of other anglers. At their price-point, you don’t need to worry too much about losing or damaging them, and as long as you stay out of the salt, the coating shouldn’t be an issue.
Lens material: polycarbonate
Frame material: titanium and thermoplastic
Under Armour may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think about sunglasses for fishing, but we think their Igniter line might just change your mind.
Built with amazingly durable polycarbonate lenses, this wrap-around style is ideal for both glare and wind. Not only will this reduce light that might reach your eyes with other lens styles, but dry-eye can also be a real problem when you’re fishing in the wind all day, and the Igniter does a great job preventing this nagging issue.
Eye safety is paramount, and the Igniter really shines when the heat is on. Incredibly, these shades meet all OSHA standards for eye protection! That’s simply awesome, and we appreciate the added peace of mind that these impact-resistant sunglasses offer.
Of course, they’re also polarized, cutting glare to zero, and they provide 100% protection from UVA, UVB, and UVC light.
Tough, hard to scratch, and glare-eliminating? What’s not to like about that!?
Under Armour makes the Igniter’s frames tough, too, and the fit is excellent for most people.
Five color choices are on offer, and most people can find one they like.
Overall, we really like these sunglasses. The price to performance ratio is high, and they give the Costas a serious run for their money.
Lens material: polycarbonate
Frame material: TR90 thermoplastic
Huk is a well-recognized name on the water, and their sunglasses are a welcome addition to any angler’s fishing arsenal. While not as inexpensive as KastKing’s Skidaway, Huk’s Spar ups the ante quite a bit in terms of quality.
Spars sport polycarbonate lenses, and in addition to great polarization and total UVA and UVB protection, they’re pretty hard to scratch.
Note that we don’t say “impossible!”
But most users are happy with the lens quality, finding that glare and eye strain are no longer an issue.
Huk uses TR90 polycarbonate for the Spar’s frames, and it’s tough stuff. Fit is good, and most people find that these shades are comfortable while staying put in the wind and surf.
As a mid-range option, we really like Huk’s Spar.
Huk doesn’t offer many color choices, but there are four to choose from, and most anglers will find a pair they like.
When it comes to fishing sunglasses, the sky's the limit on price. But performance doesn’t track every dollar in a 1:1 ratio, and we researched carefully to bring you the best quality at the most reasonable price.
That said, there are standouts on our list. For overall protection, you probably can’t beat Under Armour’s Igniter. Tough enough to meet or exceed OSHA’s safety standards for eye protection, if I took a hook to the face, they’re the shades I’d want to be wearing!
For unrelentingly sunny days that just beat your eyes with glare, Costa Del Mar’s Fantails are an excellent choice. Yes, they’re the priciest model on our shortlist, but their reputation for quality is enviable.
Finally, for anglers who’ve been known to lose, break, or misplace gear, KastKing’s Skidaways provide reasonable performance for just a few bucks, making them an ideal low-cost option.
Which pair is best for you will depend on your color choices, your needs, and your face, but any pair on this list will protect your eyes and cut glare to zero.
Sunglasses can get expensive quickly, especially if you take a look at fashion brands. In truth, there’s very little difference (if any) between quality sunglasses that wear a high-dollar name and those that don’t, and in some cases, you pay much, much more for an inferior product.
Where you spend your money is your business, but we generally don’t recommend buying expensive sunglasses.
Especially if you’re the kind of person--like me--who can lose pricey shades in an instant, paying more and getting less just doesn’t make any sense.
We’ve looked carefully for products that offer top-notch quality at a variety of reasonable price points, and we’re rating our picks on performance to price ratio to meet every budget.
Right off the bat, we’ll say that you want your sunglasses to be polarized.
Polarization is a complex science, but its impact is easy to understand.
Scientists will tell you that polarization refers to a directional effect that screens-out discordant transverse waves. For instance, the oscillations of light waves occur at a variety of angles relative to one another, especially after reflecting from shiny surfaces like water. Polarization blocks transverse waves in all but one direction.
In plain English, polarization blocks some light waves to vastly reduce glare.
Polarized lenses reduce glare.
Polarization eases eye strain and lets you see more clearly both above and below the water.
Everything you bring with you onto the water takes a beating, and from bumps and knocks, to spray and sun, you want your gear to be tough and to stay put
Look for sunglasses that can take a fall or a hit from a high-speed lure without breaking. And check fit to ensure that leaning over, a quick shake of your head, or a gust of wind won’t steal your shades and drop them in the drink.
Fit varies from person to person, but we’ll do our best to report what the average user has to say.
Lens quality matters, and especially when considering durability, you’ll notice the difference between the most popular sunglass lens materials.
For outdoor use, three lens materials are dominant: triacetate cellulose (TAC), polycarbonate, and Trivex NXT. All three are vastly more impact-resistant than other commonly used materials like glass, and they offer other added benefits, too.
Triacetate cellulose (TAC) is essentially layered and bonded plastic. Inexpensive and reasonably tough, TAC needs to be manufactured properly to avoid optical distortion and block enough UV radiation to protect your eyes from the sun.
To make a TAC lens, very thin layers of triacetate cellulose--often with different coatings--are joined to form a continuous piece. Reputable manufacturers then check these lenses for problems.
A typical TAC lens.
Nevertheless, TAC lenses are more prone to issues like coating failure than either their polycarbonate or NXT alternatives--but they are much, much less expensive.
Polycarbonate is a great lens material, and it’s a much better option than layered plastics.
According to experts like Tim Hallworth, polycarbonate “is a pure solid thermoplastic that starts as a solid material in the form of small pellets. In the manufacturing process the pellets are heated until they melt. The liquid polycarbonate is then rapidly injected into lens molds, compressed under high pressure and cooled to form a single finished lens.”
The absence of layers reduces any chance of optical distortion, and the final product is strong, durable, and very scratch-resistant.
Trivex NXT is tough enough to be used for the windshield in Apache attack helicopters. Made in a proprietary process, you’re sure to get top-quality lenses, but expect to pay for them!
For our money, there’s not enough difference between high-quality polycarbonate and NXT to justify the massive jump in price.
Both polycarbonate and NXT block 100% of UVA and UVB light, protecting your eyes well. The same is true of properly coated TAC.
All three are roughly equal in weight, too.
NXT is the toughest option, but in the real world, it’s probably not a difference you’ll notice, and Under Armour’s Ignite lenses, made from polycarbonate, meet or exceed OSHA’s strict standards for eye protection.
The only real advantage of NXT is its greater optical clarity.
Is it worth the added price?
We really don’t think so.
No lesser authority than the Mayo Clinic warns that sunglasses are essential for protecting your eyes from harmful UV light. “UV radiation from the sun can damage not only the skin of your eyelid but also the cornea, lens and other parts of the eye. UV exposure also contributes to the development of certain types of cataracts, growths on the eye and possibly macular degeneration.”
Just as you’d be wise to wear proper sunscreen to protect your skin, the right sunglasses are necessary to protect your eyes.
The University of Utah’s Moran Eye Center recommends anglers opt for wrap-around styles. “If you spend a lot of time outdoors, especially around water, consider wrap-around sunglasses that protect from UV rays that come in from the side. This design will also stop the wind that makes your eyes dry. They don’t have to be expensive. They just have to fit well—and of course, you have to keep them on as long as you are in the sun.”
Eye injuries are unfortunately common for anglers.
In fact, fishing is second only to baseball in the number of eye injuries reported every year.
One poke from a rod tip is all it takes to ruin an eye for life, and all of us have snagged a lure and freed it with a few hard pulls--only to have the lure rocket back directly at us!
I’ve been hit a few times, and I’m sure you have, too.
All it takes is one unlucky impact to land a hook in the face, so protecting your eyes should be a top priority.