Product Review - Maui Jim Sunglasses

By Mike House, Sportfish Hawaii

I had an opportunity to participate in the Big Island Invitational Marlin Tournament in Kona recently, something I’ve wanted to do for some time.  I was on one of the charter boats we represent (Start Me Up, Lahaina Harbor, Maui), and we were outfitted to land anything that came our way.  And since the target species was Billfish, more specifically Black and Blue Marlin weighing in at over 200 pounds, we ran heavy gear with the intention of being able to manhandle something of substance.  We ultimately ended up placing third in the tournament by weighing in a 423.5 lb Blue Marlin, but because we were in all the daily pools, we walked away with the highest payout at just under $44,000.00.

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In addition to all the necessary equipment such as rods, reels, gaffs and lures, an essential link in the chain of gear used to fish Hawaiian waters is a good pair of sunglasses.  Because the sun is so powerful here in the tropics, the ability to relax the eyes and see into the water can be the difference between reacting to a fish and not even knowing it was there.  In our specific case, the fish hit the lure like a ton of bricks and there was no doubt we had hooked him, but there were several times throughout course of the tournament when we’d see a fish in the lure pattern and have to take measures to entice a strike.  I had a good pair of polarized glasses that blocked out glare quite nicely, and I had no complaints about the product.  That is, until I got a pair of Maui Jims.

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One evening during the tournament, we were tied up next to the Maui Jim boat and another private yacht, Cormorant, in Honokohau Harbor, and a three-boat party complete with music, food and drink soon developed.  Part of the celebration was to commemorate our skipper’s birthday, part was for the fact that the Maui Jim had the largest fish of the tournament at that point (a 550.5 lb Blue Marlin), and part was just because boating truly is a social function.  The good ship Maui Jim was entertaining their vendors and other people associated with the company, so I had the opportunity to spend a portion of the evening rubbing shoulders with a boat filled with people who make and/or sell sunglasses for a living.

Figuring I would be invited aboard or accepted into the group only if I wanted a pair of Maui Jims (or at least want to talk about them), I was a little intimidated about my introductions with them.  However, I was soon proven wrong, as they were all friendly, unassuming, and we spent our time talking about the big fish they had caught earlier in the day and what strategies we would all employ to find our way into the winner’s circle on the last day.  The tournament ultimately ended up with Maui Jim placing second and us in third, and we eventually parted company with some great memories to share.

A few days after the tournament, I received an unexpected package in the mail.  It was a pair of Maui Jim glasses, sent to me from Elly Forrest at Eye Catchers in Maui, outfitted with Maui Jim’s HCL Bronze high contrast lenses.  She sent them to me, convinced their product was better than what I was using, so I obligingly tried them out.  Since they looked nice, I wore them in the car, then going for a walk, on the beach, etc., but I had no occasion to use them on the water (and had no idea just how good the sun protection was).   However, as I used them more frequently, it became obvious to me that these sunglasses were superior to what I was using, and I decided to do some investigating. 

I noticed the color change from not wearing the glasses (natural) to putting them on (shaded) was negligible, and when I went into a room or through a tunnel, sufficient light was still present and there was no need to remove the glasses.  I started wearing them everywhere, and showed them to everyone I met.  And when I went back to Kona to fish the next tournament a couple weeks later, I wore them on the water.

Spending several days on the water in bright sunlight can be extremely fatiguing on the eyes.  Constant squinting to reduce glare is not only frustrating, but it takes away from your ability to concentrate on watching the water for fish.  Maui Jim’s seven-layer lens manufacturing process must work, because the days I spent on the water during the second tournament were considerably more comfortable than in the first.  At one point, a Mahimahi swam past the boat, and I could immediately see it in the water with all the sharp colors a Mahi emanates.  Those on board without Maui Jims could see the fish after we pointed it out, but the sharp contrast gave us the advantage to see it quickly and in brilliant vibrant color.  And this advantage was important in a tournament where the potential winnings were close to a quarter of a million dollars. 

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We watched the fish swim through the lure pattern and disappear as fast as it came, squint free, and with colors as close to natural as I’ve ever seen.  The glasses are lightweight, durable, and the vision clarity is beyond belief, even when looking at objects in the distance.  The glare was all but completely gone, and at the end of the day my eyes were not tired as they had been in the past using other brands.  Since that day on the water using Maui Jims, I use these glasses now almost exclusively, be it fishing, a day at the beach, or for a business meeting.   

So what is it about Maui Jim lenses that makes them different?  A number of manufacturers have good styling to help sell their products, and while the Maui Jims are also nicely styled, this article isn’t about personal taste.  Furthermore, no sunglass is worth anything without eye protection and ability to see on the water, and that’s what this article is about.

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Glare, especially a day of it on the shimmering ocean in Hawaii, is what causes eye strain, and the goal of most manufacturers is to reduce it to a comfortable level.   Unfortunately, however, in the eyewear industry, the higher the reduction in glare, the more a sacrifice in optical clarity and good vision is experienced.   

Maui Jim has been able to combine the best of both worlds by using a patented 7-layer process called PolarizedPlus.  According to their promotional literature, they take “two pieces of hand-ground 100% optically correct glass and sandwich a polarizing film between them.  A bi-gradient silver dioxide coating is then thermally applied to the front, and an anti-reflectant coating is vaporized and vacuum processed to the back.   The fishing touch is a thermally bonded waterproof coating on both sides.”  They go on to say the result is amazingly clear, sharp, glare-free vision, and frankly, after wearing these glasses for months now, I couldn’t agree more.  These glasses are the clearest, sharpest, and most glare-free I have worn.  

The sunglasses come with two types of lenses: neutral grey and the newer HCL bronze I currently have.  The grey lenses advertise highest glare protection and are reportedly suitable for all light conditions.   The HCL (high contrast lens) bronze version offers additional contrast and a subtle bronze hue for everyday wear.  There are a multitude of styles to choose from, in both men’s and ladies’ versions.  The glasses are comfortable and durable too, thanks to other quality features such as corrosion resistant, spring hinges (crucial for use in saltwater), adjustable temples, hand-cut dyed temples and solid colors that prevent flaking, peeling and fading.

Try out a pair of Maui Jims, available at four locations of Eye-Catchers on Maui, or visit their website at www.mauijim.com for more information.  I think you’ll find these glasses will have a positive impact on your fishing days, whether you catch or not.

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