Vol 7 No. 39 - June 20, 2007

Seeing isn’t catching, but it helps

Reel Time

Captain Nick Angelo, of Land of Lakes, prepares to land a tarpon off Longboat Key last week. A quality pair of polarized glasses helped him make the cast that enticed the tarpon to take his fly.


By Rusty Chinnis
sun staff writer

Polarized lenses are one of the angler’s best tools. They not only help fishermen avoid eye fatigue, but also allow their vision to pierce the water’s surface. These lenses are so important that odds are you won’t find a serious angler who doesn’t own a couple of pairs.

When anglers discuss polarized sunglasses, they’re usually concerned with the color of the lenses. Color is important, but it’s just one of choices that youll need to make to get the most from your sunglasses. In general, sunglasses reduce the amount of visible light allowed to pass through the lens and enter the eye. Polarized lenses actually cut reflected glare and allow the angler to see below the waters' surface — a definite advantage when sight fishing or looking for signs of fish.

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 in polarization versus laminated 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, you should invest in a pair that cost at least $50 and in most cases more.

Anglers have the option of 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 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.

Lens color is the most important choice after you’ve chosen a comfortable pair of quality polarized sunglasses. 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.

For flats fishermen, brown/amber lenses are the best choice when sight fishing in shallow water. Brown/amber lenses offer a brighter field of vision, better visual acuity, and excellent color contrast. Other colors that flats fishermen might consider are vermillion and copper. These colors heighten visual acuity and enhance color. They are also deliver a brighter field of vision and are excellent for flat light conditions.

Several of the top manufacturers of sunglasses feature technologies that further increase the effectiveness of polarized lenses. My choice is Action Optics. They offer a photochromic lens that lightens or darkens as light levels vary during the course of a 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. Buy the best pair of glasses you can afford and keep them clean and in a protective case when not in use. By choosing a quality product with the proper color, you’ll greatly expand your fishing horizon while protecting your most valuable asset, your vision.

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