Choosing the Best Fishing Shirts for Sun Protection and Hot Weather
It was nearly 10:00 am that sultry July morning when the old man straightened up from leaning against the rail of the pier 25 feet above the still Gulf of Mexico. Nary a breeze had rippled the emerald green surface of the water all morning while it reflected the searing sun, like a slowly undulating liquid mirror. He peered intently eastward from under his hooded fishing shirt, one of the best fishing shirts for sun protection, while occasional small jacks and other baitfish “smacked” on the surface. That’s when the angler coolly slid his gloved hand to the line near his reel and snapped off a 70-yard cast. The reel purred in the thick air as he worked the three ounce swimbait several times.
Then he grunted and struck the nine-foot rod hard as the calm water exploded with six feet of hook-crazed tarpon tasting steel for the first time. His intense battle was just beginning, not only with this huge “silver king” but with the extreme elements of sun and heat and humidity that tests any angler’s limits of endurance and health. Curious onlookers wondered if his long sleeve fishing shirt was the right choice for him to stay cool during a prolonged fight on such a hot, humid day.
Fishing, like most other outdoor summer activities along the Emerald Gulf Coast, really challenges the ability of our bodies to cope with tropical-like heat and humidity as well as endure the hot sun. It’s like living in a verse from Coleridge (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner). Where we find ourselves without a fair breeze, “painted on a still and silent sea”, with only the blazing sun as company. So choosing the best fishing shirts for sun protection and hot weather while providing comfort in “sticky” situations is as essential as using the right tackle to target whatever fish species are available.
Nowadays most anglers (including me) are well aware of the long-term perils of sunburn and sun exposure and the benefits of donning wide-brimmed hats and using high Sun Protection Factor (SPF) sunscreen to protect our skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) solar rays.
Still, sweating flushes away sunscreen which leaves our skin messy and vulnerable to sunburn and more susceptible to overheating. Heatstroke (also called sunstroke) is a real danger to anyone when their body can no longer maintain a temperature below 105 degrees. That makes anglers, especially aged ones, vulnerable to heat exhaustion and heatstroke, particularly during a long, hard fight with a large gamefish like tarpon, jack crevalle, shark, or billfish. In hot, still summer weather. Preventing this short-term hazard of becoming overheated by choosing the best fishing shirt for hot weather is critical in maintaining our comfort and safety.
Long before internet search engines and online catalogs, summer loving outdoorsmen sought the best fishing shirts for sun protection that were effective, comfortable and affordable. In my background research for this article, I talked with several people in our region who spend a lot of time on the water.
Captain Patric Garmeson of Ugly Fishing LLC, has been on the water around Mobile Bay about 250 days each year for the past six years as an inshore fishing guide.
“Yeah, at first, I thought these guys wearing long sleeve hooded performance shirts were just being trendy until three or four years ago when I put one on while it was 90+ degrees. It was amazing how a little perspiration on the shirt makes you cooler. Then in the winter, it makes for solid base layering beneath a jacket. I wear them like 200 of the days I am out fishing each year,” he said.
My search for ‘the best fishing shirt for sun protection and hot weather’ also included reviewing products from several of the more prominent outdoor clothing manufacturers. By far though, the most informative person I spoke with on this subject was Seth Meyer, Conservation and Content Coordinator for AFTCO (American Fishing Tackle Company). Meyer took time to explain to me the evolution of the best long sleeve fishing shirts with hoods and other accessories.
He stated how even ordinary clothes offer some degree of Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) from the sun’s most dangerous rays. Clothing with a UPF rating of 30 or more blocks about 95% of the UVB (burning) rays. Outdoor wear with a UPF of 50 is 98% effective and often more comfortable due to the advanced technology put into it, making them the best sun shirts for fishing. Though that often comes at a higher cost, the offset is more safety and comfort built in.
Not too many years ago, long-sleeved cotton tee shirts and wide brimmed sun hats were the only technology available for angler sun protection and comfort at a reasonable cost. Though still widely available, long sleeve cotton shirts tend to feel “hot” because they absorb and hold perspiration against the skin. That retards cooling of the skin, and lessens its UPF and comfort effectiveness. Next came the long-sleeve, button down shirts (later vented), made with light synthetic materials like polyester.
These were, and still are widely popular and used by fishermen around the world. Lending as much toward style as functionality in a variety of colors, sizes and styles for men and women at a modest price. But these still lacked the flexibility and comfort active anglers sought, especially in tropical settings.
More recent innovations of the best performance fishing shirts include quick drying and moisture-wicking underwear and outerwear made with advanced synthetic material blends which give active anglers an even better edge over the elements at increasingly competitive prices. These included accessories like face shields, hand gloves, or shirts with thumb holes to help protect those exposed parts of the body as well. Nowadays those items are widely available in stores and online, with huge varieties, styles, and prices.
Even eyewear has evolved to offer anglers better protection from reflected sunlight and glare that cause cataracts and other eye damage. Consequently, competitive priced polarized sunglasses are the norm for all fishermen these days. And they are widely available in a myriad of brands, styles and colors for men, women and children in stores all over. With so many choices to be made about all these products, the question of who is the best at providing them eventually comes up.
AFTCO is a family-owned American company which has through decades of extensive research, developed a wide variety of sun-protective outer and under wear shirts and other products to fill the needs and budgets of fishermen and women active in summer, and throughout the rest of the year. Seth Meyer pointed out AFTCO product developers are always working on new ideas that are one to two years ahead of production. Of their current product line, he said “As you pay more, you get more”. Their Samurai Long Sleeve Performance Shirt “offers consistently effective sun protection, and is more affordable.” A step up, the Yurei Air-O Mesh® Hooded LS Performance Shirt offers more breath-ability and comfort for all day wear in hot and humid conditions. Plus it comes with a built-in vented face mask.”
Then their Barracuda and Adapt lines feature “all the bells and whistles, with revolutionary fabrics like the Geo-Cool and Phase Change. These offer all the available features and are most efficient at regulating core body temperature in a wide variety of environmental conditions.”
As a leader in the fishing wear industry for over 60 years, AFTCO’s varied product line has continued to evolve with refinements in technology, currently culminating in their Adapt Phase Change hooded fishing shirts. Utilizing a unique bio-based “Optimer® Phase Change” technology, this may well be “the best fishing shirt for sun protection and hot weather” now in the marketplace. And it works for cold weather fishing as well! In fact the Adapt Tactical Phase Change Performance Shirt was voted ‘Best In Category’ at ICAST 2021.
These shirts, made with an innovative new quick dry, moisture wicking blended fabric reacts to changes in body temperature in a way that dissipates or stores the body’s own generated heat. Thus, it helps keep you drier and cooler in summer heat, or drier and warmer against the chill of winter. This year-round comfort and versatility does make the Adapt shirt a good overall buy for anglers. It may even encourage many budget bound anglers to raise their price point just a bit to get it.
While not widely available in stores yet, Adapt Phase Change Performance shirts are available through the AFTCO online web page. The Adapt shirts come on the heels of several of AFTCO’s very popular lines of ultra-light, long-sleeve performance fishing shirts, and the best hooded fishing shirts. Like the Samurai Sun Protection Hoodie, Wrangle vented long-sleeved shirts, and the Barracuda Geo Cool line with an integrated vented hood and mask, and thumb holes. These are widely available through many retail outlets across the region, in a variety of colors and sizes for men, women, and youth anglers. And the convenience of comparison shopping for clothing right off the rack in this online ordering marketplace is still important to many fishermen and women.
I also learned of AFTCO’s long standing legacy with fishing conservation by contributing 10% of their profits back into conservation organizations and causes. The company is a strong supporter of the CCA (Coastal Conservation Association) network and is an actively contributing partner with CCA in a variety of conservation activities (like fish hatcheries) on every coast.