Gear reviews

Bajio enters fly-fishing market on a mission to save saltwater flats

This is the most significant new company/product entry in the fly-fishing market in at least a decade. And it comes at seminal moment for sport fishing as a whole.

“Bajio,” named after the Spanish word for “shallows,” will make its North American debut this month by unveiling a base lineup of fishing lifestyle sunglass frames with 10 different lenses covering five tints in both glass ($250) and plastic ($200). They will be sold through select fly and conventional tackle retailers, and specialty outdoor and sunglass stores.

Al Perkinson.

The company is based in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., and is headed by Al Perkinson, who formerly led marketing at Costa del Mar sunglasses and is currently a board member of the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and Trout Unlimited.

“Bajio is heavily focused on saltwater fly fishing,” said Perkinson.  “The mission of the company is to help save saltwater flats around the world.  That’s our economic driver.”

Of course, any angler, from trout streams to bass ponds to deep blue water, can benefit from quality polarized eyewear, which is why literally dozens of sunglass companies have marketed in the fishing space over the years. Some have even dabbled in fly fishing, but most of them have proven to be little more than dabblers. And even some longstanding brands are working hard to stay relevant in fly as they’ve been absorbed by large multinational fashionista conglomerates.

In my estimation, Bajio is going to not only stand the test of time, it will soon lead the fly-fishing market because of two factors—clarity and conscience.

Clarity

Let’s talk technology (but only a little bit).  Every sunglass company in the world has its own spiel about light waves, and color absorption, and things like that, that most of us understand little and care less about. Bajio’s scientific selling proposition is actually relevant and understandable for the average angler.

Bajio is focused on blue light management. Short-wave blue light is myopic and scatters in the eye.  That creates haze and interferes with visual clarity.  It can actually cause other nasty things.

For example, if you’ve noticed that you’re sleeping worse and/or having more headaches in recent (COVID) months, it might be because you’re staring at screens more. LED lights crank out a lot of blue light, and they can cause these effects.  The sun is 100 times more intense than artificial light in this regard, so if you want to minimize haziness and protect eyes, you have to manage blue light. Bajio lenses block over 95 percent of blue light, at least 10 percent better than most other lenses. That means you see noticeably clearer, and our testers unanimously vouch for that.

There are a number of other selling points, but here are another few that demonstrate how Bajio lenses are actually designed for anglers foremost, and not just designed in a way that could be applied to fishing.

Bajio lenses also block the majority of intense yellow light, which accentuates acuity.  In other words, in my experience, you are able to see “pieces” of fish when you’re spotting, and don’t have to see the whole fish to know it’s there.  That’s huge for advanced sight fishing, or even for a newbie learning how to sight fish effectively.

The lenses have an oleophobic (oil and water repellant) coating, whereas most older generation fishing glasses were just hydrophobic (water repellant).  What that means is that the smudge from your greasy fingers is easier to wipe off after you inadvertently touch your lenses. Put it this way—if you tried to write on these with a Sharpie, the ink would wipe right off.

These lenses also have polarized film encased within them.  That way, water can’t get under the polarized film. How many pairs of polarized shades have you had de-laminate on you after you dropped them in saltwater?  These won’t do that. Also, the mirror part of mirrored lenses is under the actual glass, so you’re not going to degrade that with little nicks or scratches.

Conscience

The future of fly fishing has never been more dependent on recovering and protecting natural resources, and ensuring that new generations can access them.

Cause-related marketing is the foundation of Bajio, and the company has already identified a number of partner organizations to help realize its conservation vision. Perkinson is already known within the industry for having connected this “conscience” to highly visible brands, e.g. “Indifly” which provides indigenous communities around the world with resources and skills (through association with fly fishing) needed to create generational change. Bajio will no doubt join the ranks with Patagonia, Orvis, and a handful of other companies as bona-fide stewards of resources that make the sport (and commerce) possible in the first place.

The company is already demonstrating conscience through how its actual products are made. Not only will sales be shared to support change, products are built to do no harm.  Frames are 100% plant-based, including coconut.  They’re 100 % biodegradable and recyclable, as are the real glass lenses that come from sand, and can be returned to sand.

The takeaway

I’ve been covering the fly-fishing market as editor Angling Trade magazine for almost 20 years. I have seen more companies come and go than I can remember.

I think this is the most important company launch in at least a decade, and it offers massive immediate potential to fly dealers. Moreover, mutual success will support the resources that make the sport possible in the first place.

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