Polarized sunglasses top list of fishing Christmas gifts

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Anglers are tough customers when it comes to Christmas gifts, but knowing exactly what to get your fishing enthusiast can be almost impossible, unless you know exactly what they want. If you’re having trouble filling space under the tree and still want to surprise the bass or redfish anglers in your family, consider a pair of polarized sunglasses, even if they already have a tried and true pair.

Polarized sunglasses are essential for most fishing pursuits, but with so many variations and companies in the market, it can be tough to know exactly what will best fit their specifications and comfort level – both on their face and in your wallet. Lenses suited to inshore fishing may not do as well as those used on offshore trips, and vice versa. There also is the price point to consider: you can buy cheaper frames and expect them to give up the ghost far quicker than a more expensive pair, but many folks also may be on a budget – or just stingy – and not able or willing to shell out more than $50 on their sunglasses needs.

While some name brands continue to be at the forefront of the polarized eyewear market, Guideline Eyegear is hoping to not only bring quality and stylish frames but a lower price point that anglers certainly would find appealing. And so far, its offerings have been impressive.

Guideline offers a variety of styles to fit the tastes of discerning anglers, with two polarized setups – the Swell and Keel models – standing out for a bevy of reasons.

The Keel, which comes in matte green, matte black, tortoise shell and crystal blue, looks very much like other brand-name fishing glasses, the standard-looking wraparound design the typical go-to model for most anglers. However, after sporting the blue Keel model with silver flash mirror lenses all the way from Texas coastal flats to Alaskan rivers and big water, my consensus is that they’re a great pair of frames and lenses suited to a number of applications. The large frames, as tested, feature durable hinges and squarish polycarbonate lenses with a darker tint that perform well in both medium and bright conditions.

The Keel is suited best for large faces, though they provided good coverage without being too big for my medium-sized face. The model also features soft, durable nose pads and a non-skid strip atop the front and on the earpieces to keep them where you want them, even when your face is sweating in temperatures pushing 100 degrees. The overall look of the Keel models is akin to more expensive brands, something that designers captured well. At $69.95, though, the price point is far better than spending $200 or more for those other brands.

Another of Guideline’s offerings, the Swell, is a departure from the traditional polarized fishing sunglasses look, appearing more along the lines of Ray Ban Wayfarers or similar models. However, the stylish set of frames also performed exceptionally well, complementing the Keel in different angling settings and situations.

The Swell comes in crystal graphite frames with deep water grey lenses and crystal clear and matte black frames with river edge silver flash mirror lenses. The latter, as tested, provided good coverage and like the Keel is suited to larger faces, though like the Keel it also fit my face well, providing all-day comfort on and off the water. The frames don’t offer nose pads or non-slip surfaces but they also hug your face, ensuring that they won’t easily slip off.

The Swell also features polycarbonate lenses and they, too, stood up to the elements in a number of settings. The lighter lenses are ideal for shallow-water flats fishing, but they also provided superb clarity in a most unexpected way. The world-famous Kenai River in Alaska is famed for its annual salmon runs and its distinct blue-green waters turned murky from glacial silt harbor multiple species including sockeyes and kings. That water clarity – or lack thereof – isn’t typically an issue as you never really see the fish you’re catching since they hug the bottom. However, even on overcast, drab days when the water was simply darker, I still was able to make out the flip of sockeye tails near the bank as they shot up the river to spawn. There may be other polarized sunglasses that could have produced the same results, but being able to see fish below under those conditions is simply miraculous.

In my book, that backed up the superb overall review of the frames, making them the ones I turn to in almost any situation, fishing or not. Like the Keel, the Swell model as tested retails for $69.95.

If you’re looking to spend a little more, look no further than Costa Del Mar.

After first putting a Cat Cay version with green mirror 580G lenses to the test in Belize  — a place renowned for its shallow-water inhabitants including permit, snook, bonefish and tarpon, and later in skinny water near Corpus Christi and Rockport — I was blown away at the clarity. And while clear vision is a priority, this model also features the perfect amount of contrast to decipher not just changes in underwater terrain, but also allowing to easily distinguish the outlines of almost any fish you may come across in the shallows.

As with good optics in hunting, good glass in fishing may cost a little more than the cheap sunglasses most sporting goods store offer, but the difference is night and day, something you can’t overlook. Whether in Belize or along the Texas Gulf coast, the name of the game is simple: being able to see fish before they see you. These Costa models — and others in its continually expanding lines — helped to identify angling targets and changes in terrain more easily than other sunglasses I’ve donned, while also helping to protect the greatest investment: my eyes.

The sunglasses offer a large, comfortable fit, with heavy-duty construction featuring stainless steel hinges and lightweight frames. The glass lenses are fogproof and scratch-resistant, and offer 100 percent UV blockage and 100 percent polarization. Simply put, they not only protect your eyes but also kill out glare and reflections, reducing eye strain and improving vision in varying conditions.

The company also includes prescription options, which can be handy for many folks who don’t enjoy wearing contacts or simply want to quickly exchange their regular eyeglasses for ones that will help bring them closer to fish.

The suggested retail price of the Cat Cay version with green mirror 580G is $219. The sunglasses come with a hard case, and every pair of Costas includes a lifetime warranty.

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Will Leschper is founder of The Texas Outdoor Digest. He 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, in addition to writing for plenty of of now-defunct publications.

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