Good polarized sunglasses are essential equipment for serious anglers, and I'm always on the lookout for new affordable eyewear options. Unfortunately, it's not easy to find good quality fishing eyewear with a reasonable price tag. Kelly and I have both recently had pairs of Costa Del Mar sunglasses, almost universally considered to be the best polarized fishing shades money can buy, but sadly we both lost our precious Costas... and just can't bear to lay down the cash for new ones. Costas are just too expensive to lose on the trail (mine) or accidentally run over in a parking lot (Kelly's)... and we speak from experience here. We've been making due with inferior eyewear for the past couple of years now. Fisherman could really use some quality options that won't cost as much as an August power bill in the deep South (think January heating bill for those of you that live in the great white North), and that's why Fisherman Eyewear's Guideline Eyegear should be on your radar.
I was recently given the opportunity to try out a pair of Guideline Swell polarized sunglasses from Fisherman Eyewear, and at an MSRP of $69.95, they provide a much more affordable option than the big names in fishing sunglasses. I admit, I was not familiar with Fisherman Eyewear, but maybe I should have been. According to the company website, "nearly 40 years ago Fisherman Eyewear was the first sunglass company to introduce Polarized sunglasses to the angling world." Who knew?
My first impression of the Guideline Swell was that they are well made sunglasses. You can tell they're not cheap shades, and according to the company's e-mail "they are constructed from Grilamid BTR, 51% bio-based polymer, they are far more durable than the average sunglasses." The conservationist in me likes knowing that the company is making some effort to use a more sustainable plastic for their product. Another early impression was that they need to come up with a more custom fit protective case for this pair of sunglasses. This is obviously a generic case that they use for a variety of different Guideline Eyegear models, but the Swell really didn't fit in it very well. That being said, I wouldn't let an ill-fitted case stop me from buying a pair.
Kelly laughed a little when I first put them on because the "large, modified square" style seemed a bit big for my face. They're also more of an "old man" style than I would have chosen for myself. I typically wear something that has more of a modern wrap style... something that would probably fit better in the case pictured above. According to the company, "Guideline’s Swell sunglasses are a take on the classic wayfarers," and I agree that they have a very classic look about them.
That look eventually grew on me (and Kelly too), and after wearing them on a few outings I began to choose them over my cheap fishing shades from Walmart. The reason was simply the quality of the optics. To say "I was impressed" would be an understatement. The view through these lenses is absolutely spectacular and easily equivalent to (or better than) more expensive polarized fishing eyewear that I have worn previously. The Swell pair that I tested featured the "copper" colored lenses and performed very well on overcast days just as the manufacturer website recommends. I used them while kayak angling on Lewis Smith Lake (as seen in the photo below), and the polarized lenses produced a crystal clear view into Alabama's deepest and clearest lake.
I've also used them while stalking the banks of a small creek and while driving around town, and they have performed exceptionally well in all situations. The copper lenses may not be the best choice for a bright and sunny "blue sky" day, but these glasses are also available with gray lenses which are recommended for those conditions. For those of you who wear prescription glasses, it appears most (if not all) of the Guideline Eyegear styles, including the Swell, are available for prescription lenses. Of course these are a bit more expensive than the basic versions, but at $169 they still cost less than a lot of the big name polarized sunglasses even without prescription lenses.
So, if you're in the market for a reasonably priced pair of polarized fishing sunglasses, I would highly recommend a look at the Guideline Swell... especially if you like that classic wayfarer look and a vivid view through your lenses.
*These sunglasses were provided courtesy of Fisherman Eyewear for the purpose of this review. The Naturalist's Angle is in no way affiliated with Fisherman Eyewear and this gear review represents an independent unbiased opinion of quality and performance.*