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JEFF KNAPP: High-quality sunglasses shed new light

by JEFF KNAPP on December 17, 2013 10:40 AM

Anglers looking to add something to their Christmas wish list should consider a pair of high-quality sunglasses. Good sunglasses provide an avenue from which to view the underwater world.


POLARIZATION: The first step in choosing good fishing eyewear is to be sure they are polarized. When sunlight hits the surface of the water, glare is produced, making it difficult if not impossible to see beneath the surface. Polarized sunglasses employ a built-in filter that eliminates much of the glare.

Differences exist in the quality of the polarizing filter. Better sunglasses utilize a higher-grade polarizing film, making them much more effective in wiping the glare from a lake or river’s surface.

Polarized lenses not only rid your view of glare, they also add contrast to what’s being seen. Certain colors become more vivid. These qualities greatly assist the muskie angler in distinguishing features and objects located below the surface.


LENS TINT: Lenses are available in a variety of colors, each of which performs best under certain conditions. Makers of premium fishing eyewear offer a variety of lens colors to match the circumstances of the day.

“You have to have lens tints that work for the conditions,” noted Peter Crow, general manager for a major producer of angling sunglasses. “Not every lens tint is going to be right for every condition. Are they going to work? To some degree. But certain color lenses work best in certain conditions.”

“A gray lens is a neutral density lens,” said Gary Nesty, an angler who is also an optometrist and maker of protective fishing eyewear. “It filters all colors equally. If you want red to still look red, brown to still look like brown and green to still look green, then a gray lens is the best choice.

“When you start to get into lens colors, other than gray, you are looking at selective filtration. If you are looking for green weeds, for instance, or a fish that has a lot of green on it, if you wear a green lens it will make those green objects more visible. If you are in a low-light condition where you need some brightness, or you are in clear water with a very dark bottom, then a yellow polarized lens like a high-contrast yellow will help because you will have additional brightness to help you see the objects you want to see.”

Conditions change throughout a typical day on the water and might include a morning ushered in with predawn twilight to be followed by bright skies by mid-morning. An approaching front can carry with it clouds that again darken the sky. There are various ways of addressing the dilemma of needing multiple lens colors for a day’s fishing. One is to purchase two or more pairs of glasses. Another option might be shades with interchangeable lenses.


LENS CONSTRUCTION: High-quality fishing optics are available in optical glass and polycarbonate. Each has its strong points.

“Glass has the highest optical value,” said Crow. “It is very clear. There is very good stability of the polarized filter that we put between the lens. You can use extremely good polarizing film in glass lenses.”

Crow also noted that glass tends to be a bit heavier than polycarbonate. Glass is also very scratch-resistant.

“The one downside of glass is that it is less impact-resistant than polycarbonate,” added Crow. “For impact-type sports (a consideration when exposed to 3-ounce, flying muskie plugs) one would wear polycarbonate.”

Advantages of polycarbonate include lighter weight, higher impact resistance, and a somewhat lower price point than glass.

“Scratch coatings are applied to polycarbonate lenses, but it is a softer material than glass,” said Crow. “It will scratch easier than glass. But that’s not a problem if the consumer takes care of the glasses. If they are thrown, lenses down, on the dashboard of the truck and you drive down a gravel road, there will be problems. But if you take decent care of them it’s really not an issue.”


FRAMES: Frame construction and size is a matter of form and function, with most muskie anglers likely leaning toward function. The fatigue factor is associated with more than just eyestrain. Long hours on the water become longer when glasses don’t fit properly. Headaches can result from frames that pinch, perhaps shortening your effort.

While some frames have a degree of adjustability built into them, Crow said he feels the most important factor is that an angler buys frames that initially fit well.

Nesty, too, thinks frame fit is a huge component in quality fishing optics.

“There are big fishermen, small fishermen, youth fishermen,” said Nesty. “It’s important to shop around and find frames that fit properly.”

While a degree of adjustability can be realized in many frame designs, Nesty recommended initially finding a model that fits as well as possible. Frame adjustments should only be a matter of fine-tuning.

Components of frame size include measurements of the lens, bridge and temple. Comparing these variations by way of a catalog or website can narrow the search for good-fitting glasses. Of course, the best way is to visit a tackle store to try on several models and frame styles.

[PHOTO: Quality sunglasses are essential for many angling situations, such as the one in which Matt Ference took this fine rainbow trout.  (Jeff Knapp/Gazette photo)]

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