Glass vs Plastic Sunglasses for Fishing

Glass vs. Plastic: Which Lens Is Best for Your Next Fishing Trip

Anglers are known to put their sunglasses through a beating. Walking through brush, climbing in and out of boats and vehicles and consistent movement can cause some damage to our sunglasses. Sunglass companies are quickly learning that anglers prioritize durability as well as high performance in our sunglasses, so many now offer both glass and plastic lenses.

Each type of lens has its pros and cons and both can work well for fishing. However, if clear vision and scratch resistance are your top two priorities, go with glass. If lightweight, affordable and comfort are what you’re after, stick with plastic. At the end of the day, a nice pair of glass lenses and a nice pair of plastic lenses are both going to work well for fishing.

Good sunglasses are essential for fishing
Good sunglasses are essential for fishing

Glass vs. Plastic

Depending on the company you choose to purchase from, you’ll notice a few differences between their glass and plastic lenses. Most fishing specific companies like Costa, Smith and Maui Jim take pride in both types of lenses, so there aren’t major differences, but they do outshine each other in certain areas.


Durability is high on the list of priorities for anglers. Our sunglasses are too important to our success to continually fall apart or easily ruin. Many anglers invest well over $100 into their glasses, so it’s vital to know that the lenses we have are going to perform.


The durability argument can take a few different forms when it comes to glass lenses. If you were to drop your pair of glass lens sunglasses onto the ground, you run the risk of the lenses shattering. While this doesn’t often happen, it is possible. Dropping them directly onto a sharp rock or the pavement can result in a heartbreaking crack and a complete destruction of these vital tools.

However, if you have owned a pair of glass sunglasses, you’re well-aware of how scratch resistant they are. So, if you do drop them on the pavement and they don’t break, you can pick them up and not likely notice a scratch. Or, if you brush your face on a branch or scrape your glasses on the car door, the glass lenses are not going to scratch very easily.

Overall, glass lenses are plenty strong, but they can be more susceptible than plastic lenses when it comes to high-impact incidents. So, make sure you’re careful with your streamers and indicators when you’re fly fishing.


Plastic lenses aren’t going to shatter when dropped against a hard surface. However, they do have the possibility of scratching. When you do drop your glasses in the parking lot or along the bank, be prepared for the lenses to scratch. If you’re hoping to prevent this from happening, covering your lenses with an anti-scratch coating can go a long way in keeping your glasses protected.

At the end of the day, plastic lenses win the durability test. They may scratch along the way, but they won’t shatter and be completely useless. If you do choose to go with plastic lenses, do your best to make sure they are coated with the scratch resistant solution.

What Sunglasses Do I Recommend?

A great pair of polarized sunglasses is a game changer. Spending a little bit more for quality sunglasses is well worth it. Think of it this way – you might have hundreds of dollars wrapped up in a fly rod that just sits in the closet. You can wear sunglasses all the time. My Recommendation? Check out the Smith Guides Choice Link to Smith Optics Below 👇


Clarity is another vital piece of the puzzle for a quality set of fishing sunglasses. It’s challenging to find data that is able to tell whether glass or plastic lenses have better clarity. Both have their upsides when it comes to which option is better for overall clarity.


For years, glass was known as the ultimate lens in terms of clarity. Generally, it’s the most clear material in the world. That’s why it’s used for all different types of windows. With one clean, even the dirtiest glass can become extremely clear.

If you talk to diehard sight anglers, you’ll generally hear that glass lenses continue to be the best option when it comes to clarity.

The amount of distortion in glass lenses is essentially zero. This is hard for plastic lenses to compete with despite some new improvements.


Plastic lenses are continually making improvements. Due to the cost of glass, companies are experimenting with ways to make plastic lenses match the amount of clarity that glass lenses provide. Companies like Smith are creating the Chromapop lenses which are some of the most clear lenses available on the market.

Maui Jim and Costa are also continually improving their plastic lenses to become clear enough to compete with glass lenses. As companies are able to decrease the amount of distortion in plastic lenses, they’re more able to compete with glass.

Most people wouldn’t be able to tell a major difference between glass and plastic lenses, so you can’t go wrong with whatever you choose.


Comfort is something that should be at the top of every angler’s list when you’re choosing your sunglasses. When we’re on the water, we’re generally wearing our glasses all day. Plus, we may wear them on the drive to and from the water. If our glasses aren’t comfortable, we’re in for a day full of headaches and continuous adjustment.


The general rule of thumb with glass lens sunglasses is that they’re going to be heavy. Despite improvements, glass lenses make sunglasses fairly heavy. This doesn’t have to be a big issue as long as the frames are able to withstand the weight. Companies like Maui Jim, Costa, Smith and Oakley offer a variety of frames that are extremely comfortable despite glass lenses.

The main thing to consider when buying frames for your lenses is if the weight is balanced. A larger, rounded frame is going to better support a glass lens and prevent them from making your head feel as if it’s being pulled down.

Be aware that the glass lenses are going to be a bit heavy, but they generally aren’t unbearable.


Plastic lenses are extremely light and allow anglers to be a bit more creative with their frame choice. Frames are what are going to determine if the glasses are comfortable, so if you want that freedom, stick with plastic lenses.

You won’t even notice they’re on your head as the day progresses. You won’t feel as if your neck muscles are continually supporting your too-heavy head. Most anglers would argue plastic lenses make for more comfortable sunglasses, but it’s definitely a personal preference.


Safety is something that anglers don’t have to worry about with glass or plastic lenses. Both types of lenses do a great job of protecting anglers from harmful UV rays. Plus, both types of lenses can be polarized, so you won’t find yourself squinting throughout the entire day. Sunglass companies have made sure our eyes are protected whenever we hit the water.


Generally, glass lenses are going to be more expensive than plastic. Glass is more expensive to produce and work with, so they almost always cost more. If affordability is your overall desire, you won’t go wrong with purchasing glass lens sunglasses.

Last Cast

Overall, there aren’t a ton of differences between glass and plastic lenses. Glass lenses are more scratch resistant while plastic lenses are more durable overall. Glass lenses may have a bit more clarity, but it’s not a massive amount. Both are going to be plenty safe and comfortable for you while you’re out on the water. The major difference is going to be price. Glass lenses will hit your pocketbook a bit harder than plastic. As long as you’re purchasing your glasses from a reputable company, both lenses are going to do the trick.

Danny Mooers is a high school English teacher in Arizona with a love for fly fishing. Growing up in Minnesota gave him the opportunity to experience all types of fishing and grow his skills. After living out in the Western United States for several summers in college, his fly fishing obsession grew. Having the opportunity to share in his passion for fishing through writing is a dream come true. It’s a lifelong hobby and he strives to make it understandable for people of all skill levels

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