Whether you’re trying to spot a floating lure in the glare of the sun, scanning the edge of a pond for tailing reds or just trying to protect your vision, top-notch sunglasses can have a huge impact on your fishing success.
I always failed to consistently use sunglasses except when fishing in extremely bright conditions simply because I had never experienced a quality product.
I thought most people purchased expensive sunglasses just for cosmetic reasons, but I soon found out just how many fish and underwater obstructions I had never been able to see.
Noticing many of my friends wearing Costa sunglasses, one day I took off my dollar store specials and asked for a quick peek. With my first glance of breaking waves in the surf, I experienced the ‘high definition effect.
I instantly knew my tackle bag was desperately missing something — Costa Del Mars.
But once I started searching, I was overwhelmed by the 72 frame styles and 17 types of lenses Costa offered.
I searched the Web and read every article and review on Costas I could find. I wanted to make the right choice, but there were few good reviews with detailed comparisons.
After buying some, then ultimately realizing other lens types were better-suited for my needs, I decided to learn all about these glasses and write an article to prevent others from making the same mistake.
After years of meticulously comparing the lens types, I’ve found the pros and cons of each.
Most of my buddies, who thought the Costa lens color they owned was the best, were surprised when a different lens I let them borrow performed even better.
The attached video shows many unaltered underwater picture comparisons of the Costa lenses, so check them out for yourself before you make a purchase.
400 vs 580 lenses
This is where I found Costas are a notch above other brands, especially for fishing.
The 580s feature a patented technology which provides added eye relief by blocking most of the yellow spectrum light rays which exist at the 580 nanometer mark. These yellow rays are tough for the eye to process and cause eye fatigue.
The 580s also block some of the blue rays that create haze.
The dimming of these colors makes looking in the sun’s direction less stressful. This brings out great saturation and contrast between other colors, which makes a huge difference in seeing objects further underwater than with regular polarized sunglasses.
Luckily, Costa started creating the 580 lenses in a distortion-free plastic polycarbonate lens to go along with their 580 glass lenses. Personally, I think the 580 polycarbonate is lighter and more impact-resistant than the cheaper 400 plastics.
The 400 series in glass gave very similar views as other top-end sunglass brands, but the 580 line was better in every lens color than any other brand I tested.
If you want a more natural view, get the cheaper 400s in glass. But I found the 400 plastics had a horrible view.
Bottom line: If you want the best in eye comfort and the highest contrast in colors, opt for the 580s.
Glass or Plastic?
Most people think the glass lenses have better clarity, but that wasn’t the case for me. I could barely tell a difference, and even more importantly, I found no difference at all in underwater viewing clarity in glass and plastic lens of the same color.
As far as weight is concerned, let your nose be the guide. Glass is nearly twice as heavy on average as the plastic models. (Yes, I actually weighed dozens of pairs with a gram scale.)
Keep in mind that glass will fog with changing environmental conditions from time to time, but plastic lenses remain nearly fog free.
For durability, I think plastic has the edge. More than 75-percent of the people I know with glass Costas had a pair crack. The plastic seems almost indestructible, but it may scratch a tad easier than glass.
Glass is definitely more expensive than plastic. The 580 glass is the most expensive, averaging 75 bucks more than the 580 plastics.
Even the less-effective 400s in glass cost slightly more than the superior 580s in plastic, which in my mind, is the clear cost-to-benefit winner.
If you do decide on glass, there are silver, green or blue-mirrored options.
Blue- and green-mirrored lens have the advantage over non-mirrors during very bright conditions, making harsh sun appear like a low wattage light bulb (the mirrored coating lets in only 10% of light compared to 12% of most non-mirrored lenses.)
Remember, the underwater clarity of the mirrors won’t be any better than non-mirrors in these bright conditions, but your eyes may be less stressed.
Keep in mind, however, that mirrors are a huge drawback to any situation when the conditions aren’t bright. They will severely limit your ability to see deeply underwater.
I found non-mirrors work best in the first and last few hours of daylight when the fish bite best. Further, I think mirrored glass has the potential problem of the sun burning your face faster because the mirrors reflectmore light.
Even though they look cool and some people like them, I think the silver mirrors are definitely something to test before buying. They had the worst underwater viewing ability of all the glasses I tried.
Gray, copper, or amber base colors
Gray-based lens are good for all-purpose use and seeing colors in a more natural tint. I think the best fishing application for the gray lenses is deep blue water.
Contrary to what many thought until testing, the blue-mirrored 580 gray glass performed the worst of the 580 gray bases in underwater clarity at any brightness level.
Personally, I saw fish much deeper with the gray plastic and non-mirrored gray glass in blue water. When it isn’t really bright out, these darker blue mirrors make looking into the water very tough.
However, the blue mirrors are very comfortable in bright conditions compared to the non-mirrored greys, and work surprisingly well in freshwater and inshore conditions.
Interestingly, the 580 gray plastic brings out the bluest tones I have ever seen, and is surprisingly very different from the 580 gray glass, which I found wasn’t as blue.
I think having an amber or copper base is the wisest choice for freshwater/inshore fishermen because they give the best contrast between greens and browns. This helps distinguish structure and fish better in every water color except clear, deep blue water.
In an unexpected surprise, I found the amber base allows more contrast and vivid colors in greens and browns than the similar copper lens. Scenery has a very tanned tint in copper.
During early- and late-morning fishing, my 580 ambers did the job much better than green-mirrored copper glass.
However, since the ambers let in the most light, they may not be dark enough for sunny midday fishing for some anglers.
For these bright conditions in freshwater or inshore, I think the 580 green mirrored copper glass is best. But nothing aggravated me more than straining my eyes in low-light conditions on morning and evening trips with those dark green mirrors.
So, for offshore fishing, I recommend gray 580 plastics. For best results with inshore, nearshore and freshwater fishing, choose the amber 580 plastics or the copper 580 glass with a green mirror for midday use.
I believe the 580 plastics are the most economical and durable choice. If you’re getting mirrored glass, I recommend getting another pair without the mirror for use in less-bright conditions. Remember even when the light is dim, the polarized rays bouncing off the water still inhibit your ability to see well underneath the surface.
After telling my clients about these results, several people I know switched over from Oakley, Maui Jim and other high-end glasses to Costas, and they tell me they’ll never look back.
I recommend trying a pair.
Expensive sunglasses definitely aren’t a necessity, and as long as they feature polarized lenses and have UV protection, any brand will be useful for fishing.
However, I believe buying Costas will significantly increase both eye comfort and your view underwater, which is worth the price tag to me.
Editor’s Note: The Apex Predator is not endorsed, sponsored by or affiliated with Costa sunglasses. He paid for all of the sunglasses mentioned in this review, and simply wants to provide additional information for sportsmen contemplating a sunglass purchase.