Selecting the Best Polarized Lens Color for Fishing
Sunglasses have come to be a basic part of most anglers’ gear. After all, sunglasses protect anglers’ eyes from glare and potential damage from long-term exposure to the sun, and sunglasses also provide a degree of protection from flying lures, fish, and other potentially damaging objects. Sunglasses are good things.
But also, a good pair of polarized sunglasses can make spotting fish much easier, and in fact, sometimes polarized lens sunglasses can make all the difference between a long, barren boat ride and a very productive fishing trip.
Let’s get a few things straight though…not all sunglasses are polarized, and we need to understand just what this term “polarized” means and what it does. Also, polarized lenses come in a wide range of colors, and anglers have found that some colors serve better in certain situations than others. We’ll try to work through some terms and get some good advice from experts to help choose the best polarized lens color for fishing.
So, What IS Polarization and What Does It Do?
When the light rays from the sun enter our world, they come in all directions, and they reflect off every object they strike. When the sun’s rays hit a flat surface- like the water- they reflect strongly, and this causes glare which hurts our eyes and makes spotting fish nearly impossible.
Old fashioned dark-tinted sunglasses that are not polarized only reduce the amount of light in all directions, but the glare is still there.
Polarized lenses are specially made and treated to absorb light rays coming from horizontal aspects, but they still allow vertical light waves to pass through to our eyes. Light travels in only one direction in polarized lenses, and this limitation eliminates glare.
Al Perkinson, CEO of Bajio Sunglasses, (pronounced Bah-Hee-Oh) a New Smyrna Beach, Florida based high-quality sunglasses manufacturer spoke with us recently and he explained that the best polarized sunglasses for fishing knock down the glare from the sun.
“They work like venetian blinds to limit the kind and amount of light that reaches an angler’s eyes,” Perkinson said. “Good polarized glasses make a huge difference to allow us to see the natural beauty.”
Lens Color – The Best Polarized Lens Color for Fishing
Polarized sunglass lenses come in a wide range of colors and even mirror finishes, and the choice for anglers can be confusing. Most anglers who rely on their polarized fishing sunglasses have colors they prefer in their lenses, but it is a good thing for all anglers to know that there are many different colors or lenses which might work better in certain situations.
“Color has more to do with the level of contrast you’re going to see. If you think of the gray-base colors, these are going to be very low contrast. Everything looks kind of like it does naturally, but just darker,” Perkinson explained. “People who are sight fishing are usually looking for fish against the bottom. So they want a lens that’s going to be more high contrast. That’s where you get into the brown color family. And the lens color can go from brown to copper to vermillion to red. And the more red, the more contrast you’re going to have.”
“If you’re trying to look down into the water column, no matter what color the water is, you are going to see better with a brown, copper, rose based lens. You’re going to see the fish better in contrast to the bottom better no matter what color water you’re in. We don’t build our lenses for watercolor: we just sort of build them for light conditions.”
When asked if there is a “middle ground” for polarized sunglasses and if an angler could only have a single pair of polarized sunglass, what would he recommend, Perkinson said, “ I think the middle-ground is going to be a lens with 14 or 15 percent light transmission level, So for us, the Silver Mirror and Rose Mirror/Red Base lenses are smack dab in the middle. The Rose Mirror has got a copper base to it, so it’s a little bit brown and it’s a little bit red. It’s kind of like your middle of the road lens. If you only got one pair, that’s probably the pair you want to get.”
The Copper Base lens is a great high contrast lens for spotting underwater structure and fish. Many anglers can wear this lens all day in a wide variety of conditions.
Light Transmission- A Little or a Lot
One of the basic functions of sunglasses in general, and polarized lenses in particular, is that they limit the amount of light actually reaching the eye.
“Visual light transmission or VLT is an important factor of good sunglasses. This is how much light is actually coming through the lens and how much is blocked. There are standards on this. If the light transmission is below nine to nine and a half percent, you can’t drive in them. It’s illegal to drive using these glasses because they are so dark. So most sunglass lenses will start with around 10 to 11 percent transmission. So a lot of the blues and greens- super dark colors- will have very low light transmission. And then you’ve seen yellow lenses that some brands have, and these admit up to around 20 to 24 percent light- so these lenses would be for low light- super low light. The blues and greens would be for high light situations,” Perkinson said.
Many polarized sunglasses intended for anglers have mirror finishes, and other than looking cool, these finishes can have some effect on what the angler sees.
“All the mirrors do the same things. It’s to reduce light transmission by about 2 percent,” Perkinson noted.
“I felt like we needed lenses that would hit everybody’s needs. And so we created a bit of a system. So we start with 10% light transmission- that’s blue. Then we go to 12 % light transmission- that’s green. Then we go to the 14 or 15% range with silver. We go to 16% transmission with the Drum, and then we’ll be coming out with our version of the super-low light lens. It’s not yellow- it will actually be purple- that’ll be around 18 or 19%. We just want to simplify it for people so you know what light transmission is associated with each color,” Perkinson added.
Lens Construction- Light or Heavy
Basically, polarized fishing glasses are made of either glass or plastic, and anglers might wonder which material is superior for glasses to be used on the water. For a long time, anglers assumed that glass lenses would be better than plastic lenses, but with developments in plastic lens manufacturing and research, this might not be true anymore.
“The biggest difference is that glass lenses are harder, and they don’t scratch as easily. But when it comes to clarity, the human eye cannot tell the difference. So it’s really not about glass being more clear, more pure, and plastic being less. The plastics we make these days are so sophisticated that there’s not many impurities there, and they’re super clear. So really, it’s about hardness,” Perkinson explained.
“And plastic lenses can be more sophisticated in their construction, and purely from an optical standpoint, are actually going to be better than the glass ones. In fact, almost all prescription polarized sunglass lenses are done in plastic, “adds Perkinson.
And while sunglasses are not really too heavy, a long day of wearing a pair of heavy glasses can wear an angler down. Glass lenses tend to be heavier than plastic lenses, so for many, the lighter weight of plastic lenses is a big advantage.