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How to choose fishing sunglasses

SUNGLASSES are the unsung hero in fishing. With so much focus on the gear we use and the location we fish, it’s easy to forget the importance of quality eyewear, which in my opinion are essential for fishing.

Understanding the differences between various sunglasses and ensuring you have the correct pair that suits you makes all the difference when targeting specific species, fishing in different locations and lighting conditions.

Let’s explore the world of sunglasses and delve into the details that matter.

Before we go any further, in the interest of transparency, it’s important to note Fishing World worked together with iconic, polarised sunglass brand Maui Jim to produce this feature story. While Maui Jim supplied some technical info and access to sample glasses, the opinions about sunglass choice belong to Fishing World.

What is a quality pair of sunglasses?

First and foremost, sunglasses are worn to protect your eyes against harmful UV rays. Not all sunglasses are created equal. In some cases, you would be better off not wearing sunglasses at all. Wearing sunglasses opens your pupils, just like during low light or night-time, and without quality UV protection, your eyes are even more susceptible to damage.

Maui Jim sunglasses protect against 100% of harmful UV rays, as do most popular fishing brands. However, there are some inferior products available in Australia and it pays to check first.

Premium polarised sunglasses can also help to prevent skin cancer in and around the eye, as well as reducing the affects of ageing over time. They’re far more than an accessory or piece of fashion. Maui Jim sunglasses not only protect against UV, they also filter out 95% of damaging blue light (HEV) while allowing in beneficial blue light.

Now we understand how essential quality glasses are to our eye health, let’s look at some factors that improve fishing.

Good lens clarity is critical. The clarity allows you to see better and it doesn’t take a genius to understand why that’s advantageous for fishos.

At the very least, most fishos understand the benefits of using polarised sunglasses. Polarised sunglasses cut through the surface glare on the water allowing you to see what lies beneath more clearly,

Cutting glare is not only good for spotting fish, but also reduces squinting and eye fatigue. When you’re spending a full day on the water, being able to dramatically reduce squinting and eye fatigue can offer a real advantage. Cutting glare and offering a “window” below the surface, as mentioned above, helps spot fish, but also allows you to locate structure, weed and subtle signs of fish that are more important than you think. A glary surface puts a barrier between you and the fish, and that is a real disadvantage.

Good sunglasses will even help you see better in the dark. Quality polarised sunglasses reduce the amount of time it takes your eyes to adjust from light to dark, such as when crossing in and out of shadows when finding that perfect location to cast, or when moving between the upper and lower decks.

Lens Colour

Here’s the fun bit, and also where it gets more complicated. Choosing the best lens colour is both a science and a personal choice. Certain colours will work better for certain fishing scenarios and locations and sometimes it simply depends what you prefer.

Below is a rundown of the various lens types from Maui Jim and how they suit different fishing scenarios. Similar colours are of course available from the other major sunglass brands.

Natural Grey

This colour offers the highest available light reduction for the richest colours and sharpest contrast—even in the harshest sun conditions.

Personally, I would use grey in offshore or open saltwater fishing areas on sunny days with little cloud cover. I’ve been wearing grey-base Maui Jims with a blue mirror finish and found them versatile as an all-round lens for fishing and driving (both car and boat). However, I do opt for a different lens on cloudy days or for fishing shaded areas.

Maui Rose

The highest contrast available for everyday variable conditions. Excellent for fast-action activities. Provides a subtle rose tint.

Rose is another fantastic all-round lens and is my favourite. Interestingly, while rose appears quite “bold” at first, your eyes naturally adjust within a few minutes.

Personally, rose colour lenses are my favourite for spotting fish in both salt and freshwater. The contrast makes fish and underwater structure easier to see. Areas of shadow and low light can still be seen clearly.

HCL Bronze

Contrast for everyday variable conditions. Great if you love a warm, subtle bronze tint.

Bronze has traditionally been a good “all-round” lens and also makes a great option for freshwater fishos looking to spot fish and wear them in different light conditions. I’ve used bronze lenses over the years and find them comfortable to wear for long periods.

Maui HT

The highest light transmission for times when most lenses would be too dark. More contrast and colour for early mornings and late afternoons, as well as cloudy days. Improves depth perception. Provides a subtle green tint.

The East Coast of Australia has been receiving its fair share of rain over the past few years and a lens such as this would make a great option for rainy days on the water. I recently tested these amongst the full range of Maui Jim lenses on a dull day and found them excellent for brightening things up.

Regardless of what lens colour you choose, it’s important that you feel comfortable in them. Some people prefer grey lenses, others prefer bronze lens, etc. Choose what works for you and the conditions in which you are fishing.

While there are good “all-rounder” lenses, if you take your fishing seriously, you will need more than one pair. Many fishos have several pairs. I own grey lenses for offshore fishing and glary, sunny days. I also use rose lenses for most of my freshwater and flats fishing; anywhere where I need contrast and good vision to identify fish and varying depths, etc. And, finally, a good pair of low-light glasses is important as described above. Rose isn’t bad for low light, but a specialist low light lens such as the Maui HT is perfect.


In the world of sunglasses, you can purchase several types of mirrored finishes including bi-gradient or single gradient mirrors, as well as full mirrors (brightly coloured reflective lenses).

Bi-gradient mirrors are mirrored top and bottom and reduce reflected glare from the sky and the water or land, naturally squinting for you and reducing eye fatigue. This option offers the best protection for fishos.

A single-gradient lens, features a darker top and lighter lens lower down and is considered more of a fashion lens.

In addition to the first mirrored options, I’ve been testing full mirrored Maui Jim sunglasses in several colours and found them ideal for fishing, driving and as an all-rounder lens option. Maui Jim mirror colours include Blue Hawaii, Maui Sunrise (pink), Maui Green, and Hawaii Lava (red).


Everyone’s face is a different shape and thankfully there are many frame styles to choose from. I recommend trying on several pairs and finding one that’s comfortable to wear all day.

It’s also worth finding a pair that’s practical for fishing rather than fashion. Yes, sunglasses are meant to look good, but for ultimate protection and effectiveness while fishing, choose one that blocks out as much light as possible. I own several styles and different brands; some are great for wearing around town, while others, such as the wrap-around style, are perfect for fishing and still look okay for wearing around. Again, one pair may not cover all bases.


Sunglass materials have come a long way in recent years. I recall when buying glass lenses meant heavy sunglasses. When testing a range of Maui Jim sunglasses for this article, I was impressed with the glass and how lightweight and clear it was. They were genuinely the clearest lenses I’ve ever worn.

Maui Jim’s SuperThin glass is 32% thinner and lighter than standard glass and offers superior scratch resistance. I have a habit of mistreating sunglasses. Boats and saltwater environments are typically harsh places. For this reason, I fully recommend spending the extra dollars on glass. They’re resilient and perform the best.

If you prefer a lightweight, synthetic lens, it is important to remember that different materials offer vastly different clarity and when you are spotting fish, this can make all the difference. Many brands use polycarbonate lenses as standard which compromises visual clarity. Maui Jim offers proprietary synthetic lens materials which offer almost double the clarity of polycarbonate lenses.

What else?

One of the reasons I hear from anglers for not wanting quality glasses is they’re too expensive to lose. The same could be said for any piece of fishing equipment (or even your phone).

I believe a quality pair, or even several pairs, is just as important as any other piece of fishing equipment and as such it’s worth investing in the best pair you can afford. If you’re afraid of losing them, simply attach a lanyard. Most brands have their own style of lanyard and there are plenty of after-market types. I’ve never lost a pair with a lanyard. I also take plenty of photos and find having the sunglasses sitting around your neck when taking photos or going indoors ensures you don’t lose, sit on, or have a pair fall overboard. And never, ever, put your sunglasses on your hat! That’s a guaranteed way of losing your favourite pair or at the very least, stretching them!

It’s also worth remembering, sunglasses can protect your eyes from wayward sharp hooks.

Another recommendation is to simply keep them clean – saltwater is notorious for getting on glasses and should be removed for optimal clarity. It’s best to first wash them under fresh water to remove the salt crystals that can scratch your lenses. Always carry a sunglass cloth or some soft wipes and never use your shirt!

The wrap up

Not all sunglasses are created equally. The takeaway message here is to do some research before purchasing sunglasses and find a pair that really suits your style of fishing, location, weather conditions and is comfortable for your eyes and face shape. Try them on and take advice from the retailer. If your budget allows for only one pair, try and opt for something that covers most scenarios. If you’re lucky enough to buy more than one pair, choose something different and ensure you use them in the right setting.

Your eyes are precious. Treat them as such and you will not only avoid eye-related health problems, you will become a better angler.

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