GEAR REVIEW: Oakley Flak Jacket polarized sunglasses

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Shallow Blue Iridium and Deep Blue polarized lenses are tailored to a variety of Texas fishing conditions both in freshwater and saltwater
Oakley Flak Jacket offers interchangeable lenses.

Oakley long has been the manufacturer of choice for athletes seeking the best in durable eyewear suited to a variety of sporting purposes, especially on the baseball diamond.

However, the company has now become a major player in the polarized lens market with its fishing specific offerings that offer quite a few bells and whistles, especially when it comes to matching the conditions on shallow coastal flats for redfish and trout, offshore locales for much larger game fish or freshwater structure where spawning bass love to hide.

One of the greatest aspects of Oakley’s patented High Definition Optics are polarized interchangeable lenses suited specifically to fishing pursuits. The patented Hydrophobic coating is geared toward inhibiting buildup of any kind on the lenses, whether it’s water spots, smudges due to skin oils and sunscreen, and even dust and other contaminants that could make spotting fish and fish-holding cover more difficult while causing eye fatigue.

Oakley’s Flak Jacket sunglasses offer lenses made with the company’s patented Plutonite technology, which provides superior sun protection, blocking at least 99 percent or more of UV rays, according to the company. However, you also can’t overlook the other protective abilities that come with the lenses, specifically from projectiles of any kind, be it a double treble fishing plug or anything else that can do serious harm.

The lenses meet ANSI Z87.1 specifications, which is on par with safety glasses used in a variety of work environments. That type of knowledge is a great tool to be armed with, especially when you’re fishing a topwater plug that easily can turn into a projectile should it get snagged on any type of cover or if a fish simply spits it and sends it back your way with as much force as you can apply on your line.

The Flak Jacket’s frame is composed of what is dubbed O Matter material, and the glasses also are available with prescription lenses.

Oakley markets a variety of lenses but two of its polarized offerings — the Shallow Blue Iridium and Deep Blue polarized lenses — are tailored to a variety of Texas fishing conditions both in freshwater and saltwater. The Shallow Blue lenses were designed to offer noticeable contrast, especially in settings such as coastal flats, while maintaining a proper amount of UV protection. The lenses are best used in medium light conditions to spot fish and fish-holding terrain, including in rivers and lakes.

The Shallow Blue lenses proved extremely efficient on an outing to the famed speckled trout waters of Baffin Bay, a place that is known for its awesome array of terrain suited to sight fishing. The bay does get a lot of fishing pressure, especially during the summer, which can make for skittish trout, drum and redfish, which all are viable sight fishing targets with either conventional or fly dapping gear. The Shallow Blues did the trick in every application, providing the ability to distinguish the outlines of fish, slight changes in cover and places where fish should be, even if they weren’t. The lenses offer impressive clarity and won’t tire out your eyes the way cheap polarized models will if you’re fishing all day. In some instances, redfish simply couldn’t hide even though they were 50 yards away or more, skulking among sea grass and even while the surface bristled with a slight wind.

The Shallow Blue lenses are lighter than the Deep Blues, and offer slightly more light transmission as a result.

While the Shallow Blues are suited to fishing saltwater flats for trout, reds and flounder and freshwater coves for largemouths and smallies, the Deep Blue lenses are designed for open water situations, such as heading out into the Gulf of Mexico for red snapper, ling, dolphin and other sought-after species. The Deep Blues are darker than the Shallow Blues and are designed for extremely bright conditions, cutting glare and reducing eye fatigue when the sun really reflects off the surface. These types of situations can really put a pair of polarized sunglasses to the test, and cheaper alternatives simply don’t work as well.

While the Deep Blues don’t have the same specifications as the other lenses, they still do the job when looking for differences in underwater terrain and to also spot the looming silhouettes of deep-sea denizens that could be closer than you think. Just for comparison, the Deep Blues didn’t work quite as well in shallow situations, but they still offered clarity and the ability to make underwater terrain stand out, and they still offered the ability to actually see fish before they spooked.

While you can buy a set of polarized sunglasses for $19.99 at every sporting goods retailer, the added cost of upping the ante is well worth it. I’ve gone through dozens of pairs of “cheap” polarized offerings in nearly every hue and shade out there, including a number that simply fell apart due to the rigors of fishing.

Overall, this set of Oakleys exceeds expectations, providing all-day comfort and superior eye protection while offering superior clarity that simply allows an angler to more easily spot and sneak up on fish that they otherwise would never have an opportunity to catch. The frames and lenses also are easy to clean and they stand up to the elements, and the interchangeable lenses allow for versatility in a variety of angling situations.

The retail cost for the Polished Black Flak Jacket frames with interchangeable Shallow Blue Iridium and Deep Blue polarized lenses as tested is $305. You also can buy a set of interchangeable earsocks for about $20 and tailor the frame colors to your liking.

The lenses and frames are available at any of the 24 Texas Oakley store or Oakley Vault locations or on Oakley’s website.

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Will Leschper has been recognized for Excellence in Craft by the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the Texas Outdoor Writers Association. He is Conservation Editor of Texas Fish & Game Magazine and is a regular contributor to the Journal of the Texas Trophy Hunters.

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