Tropical Fishing: Your Essential Guide on What to Wear While Fishing

What we wear protects us from the unpredictable elements being out on the water throws at us. No longer will the stubbies, t shirt and terry towelling hat suffice. In this article we discuss how fishing attire has come a long way over the years.

Pacific Island countries have become synonymous with beach and summer vibes. Multiple big apparel and sporting goods brands have started life from these island and beach nations. Australia, also enjoy a similar beach vibe and is home to some of the more famous beach and surf brands in the world.

Hot and humid, then suddenly wet and cold, the sub tropics have some of the most unpredictable weather patterns so being prepared clothing-wise is always a great topic for discussion. We discuss some of our recommendations that may help you enjoy your time on the water. We will start from the head and face and end at our rose scented feet so read on and take note before your next fishing trip.

Important Considerations

As stated above, the tropics have some unpredictable weather patterns, but there will only be two major weather changes that we have to look out for, namely the hot and wet weather changes, plus the mixture of both. We will be exposed to extremely hot and humid situations where winds are almost non-existent. Very good for fishing as our lures won’t be battling winds when casting and our bodies can work at its full potential without trying to stay balanced the whole time due to chop. A rain shower here and there helps cool things down, but a sudden storm care of the brothers Zeus and Poseidon can leave us shivering in our boots if we don’t have suitable wet weather fishing gear.

When purchasing new threads for your next Vanuatu fishing trip, get accustomed to the following words that you may see on the labels:

  • Breathable
  • Moisture-wicking
  • V. protected
  • Quick dry
  • Blood resistant
  • Lightweight

The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.
John Buchan

1 Head / Face

Covering your head is key to preventing heat-stroke as it houses our brain, which we really need by the way. Remember we are in the tropics, so very light and airy fishing hats are standard. No room for beanies and wool lined hats here folks, save them for your next ski trip. The regular trucker hat or mesh long-billed caps offer great breathability while covering your face, but they don’t do a great job of protecting your ears and nape, which get sunburnt a lot! They are very popular and would probably be your first choice. It is usually worn even while travelling to and from the fishing destination as packing them in your suitcase can ruin the hat, so it will be a part of your fishing outfit for the duration of the trip. Normally paired with a buff to protect said ears and neck but we’ll talk about buffs later on.

fishing hat

The wide brimmed bucket fishing hats are very practical as they offer a 360 degree coverage, keeping your nape, face and ears safe from the UV rays. They also have a very small footprint when rolled up allowing you to pack it your suitcase without worry of ruining the shape. This can be your designated fishing hat while you wear your snapback mesh cap to look cool when at the lodge sipping on cold brews. Only a select few can wear this hat in public while looking pro and sexy at the same time. Extra brownie points for the ladies when you wear it backwards at the pub.

aussie bush fishing hatAnother favorite is the Aussie bush hat. Materials range from premium leather to cheap synthetics but any of them will provide great sun protection while looking damn sexy at the same time. Although not as breathable as the other hat materials out there, leather is very durable and lasts a long time. I’d happily sacrifice a bit of breathability for a healthy dose of the charms. Currently, there are some manufacturers that offer models with air vents for breathability so keep a sharp eye out for those.

straw bucket fishing hatFollowing up on breathability and lightweight characteristics, here is a personal favorite of mine. The straw bucket hat. Extremely light and breathable, these fishing hats are the bomb! 360 degree coverage while keeping your head cool will keep you fishing for longer without worry. And nothing says “fisherman” more than wearing one of these while transiting at the airports. Do yourself a favor and get one of these shiela catching hats when you get the chance. Bonus points for having your favorite beer brand logo on it too!

practical fishing hatsFinally, we have the practical and futuristic hats that have integrated sun capes that are the current fad among fishermen all over. They are light, breathable, moisture wicking and comfortable. Remember the rebels from the Star Wars movies battling the Empire clones in the forest moon of Endor? Yep, those hats. Very practical and you get to imagine yourself as a part of the galactic rebellion.

fishing buffsBuffs, on the other hand, are just a tube of stretchy and breathable fabric that helps protect your face, ears and neck. They are a must when you plan to use a mesh trucker cap. This combo is very popular among the younger folks. Really good protection from the elements and are easy to wash and wear. They make an awesome gift for the fishing guides at the end of the trip as well.

fishing visorFor those blessed with a head like a mop (lucky bastards), you can get yourself a fishing visor. Very minimal protection for the scalp but with a full head of hair, it is great. Nothing covering the top of your head means maximum breathability while protecting your face. Cool and comfy with a minimal footprint. Can’t be used by us baldies so I don’t have much else to say about them.

fishing eyewearI’ve talked about the importance of sunnies when fishing before, but just to recap, it protects your eyes from flying hooks and retina burning UV rays. Get polarized lenses for maximum glare reduction and you are good to go.

2 Fishing Tops

Our shirts will cover the biggest real estate on our bodies when we are on the water, as they keep not just our torso protected but also the arms we use the most when fishing. Long sleeved shirts are the best and a vast array of styles are available to suit every need. For tropical destination, quick drying, moisture wicking fabrics are the best as we may be confronted with sudden rain showers alternating with blazing heat throughout the day.

fishing jerseysButton down shirts from the likes of Columbia, Simms, Aftco and other well-known brands offer a combination of the best characteristics a fishing shirt should have. They have collars that fold up to help protect the nape and they even have vents under the arms and at the backs for maximum breathability. They are quite expensive though but the materials and durability make up for the price tag. We do get what we pay for in this area so just keep that in mind. I’ve had good shirts last almost 8 years before having to purchase new ones.

quick dry fishing top

Looking for a more reasonable option? Fishing jerseys made with quick drying fabrics have been the rage for the past couple of years. You can customize the printed designs and choose colors to your liking. Comfortable, cool, easy to wash and they last as long as you take care of them. They can be made to have vents and mesh panels for breathability, plus collars to protect your nape. Very stain resistant and the sublimation process they use to print the designs make the prints last a lifetime. Perfect for team shirts and those who love to customize their fishing gear.

long sleeved fishing topFor us who are on a budget, a basic and clean long sleeved t-shirt made out of quick drying materials are the way to go. You can easily get them customized if you want. These bad boys are usually given out as gifts from tackle stores or when you fish on a chartered trip. Great memorabilia that are functional fishing wear as well.

fishing coatWet weather gear is an essential part of your clothing. As mentioned above, we may be met with rainy conditions when fishing and a light, breathable and easy to pack rain jacket is a must have in your day bag. Having a nice refreshing shower to cool you down in great when the heat is on, but after 10 minutes of soaking in monsoon-esque rains plus wind will bring your morale down quick. Just keep a packable rain jacket in your bag at all times and you’ll be laughing.

3 Bottoms for Fishing

Considering we’ve gone quite deep into the fashion world of fishing, let’s touch on the clothing that protects some of the most important parts of our bodies. If fishing in your birthday suit is your thing, by all means go ahead, but we’d rather cover up the family jewels for the sake of everyone else on board.

fishing board shortsBoard shorts have been the mainstay in our pants collection. Seriously, if there was anything made more suitable to fishing than board shorts please let me know as I feel they are the best fishing shorts out there. Lightweight, quick drying, stretchy and comfortable, you basically forget that you are wearing anything down below when fishing! Easy to wash and dry after a day’s fishing is the best part. Even for a long range expedition, having 3 pairs of board shorts are all you need. Wash and wear, rinse and repeat. Major fishing brands have clawed their way into the board short market and make fishing specific shorts, so a vast array of choices abound. Alas, they don’t provide much sun protection below the knees so much sunscreen application is needed, but a sacrifice I am willing to make for the sake of comfort.

fishing pantsThere are good long fishing pants that protect your legs from the sun. Fishing brands have made pants that zip off at the knees so you can have the best of both worlds. They are lightweight, cool and comfortable, with heaps of pockets for keeping tools close to you. Leg coverage is up to you as you can remove the legs if the heat is getting to you and put them back on when the sun is just burning your skin off. Only downside is they require a tad bit of maintenance as saltwater can corrode the zippers fast if you don’t wash them immediately after the day’s fishing.

4 Fishing Footwear

To finish things off, we will be ending at our lovely toes. A usual oversight even for us guides, our feet are just as important as our hands and arms. Getting an injury by stepping on a misplaced hook is no fun and can ruin your trip quick. We are all guilty when it comes to fishing barefoot. Any excuse to be barefoot actually. But having proper footwear has a huge impact on our bodies. Safety of course is one, having something in between your bare feet and a big 5/0 treble hook is enough explanation but shoes designed for fishing also prevent slipping accidents. We spend the whole day on a boat that constantly gets wet and if lucky, bathed in fish slime from the day’s catch. Slipping is an actual danger that we have to consider. Ever ended a day of fishing and find yourself writhing in pain every time you put your slops on? Yep, your feet are also prone to sunburn and some sort of footwear can help deter that. The added cushion of shoes also create shock absorption for your knees and back.

Get shoes that have non-marking rubber soles that offer great grip even on wet surfaces. One fishing shoe that always comes to mind is the Shimano Evair shoe. They have amazing grip that keeps us from slipping and sliding, while protecting our skin from UV rays. There are other brands available like Columbia and Simms that make great water shoes but try them out first. Grip and safety are useless if they are uncomfortable, as you won’t even want to wear them in the first place. Even using your old sneakers will do if you are still unconvinced of the benefits of wearing shoes while fishing, as long as they still have good grip.

When hooked up to a fish of a lifetime, having a good fishing shoe protecting your feet and providing you with great grip will make things so much easier and safer. Eliminate possibilities of accidents and you can focus on your fish.

So next time you get the chance to go fishing gear shopping, consider the tips listed above so when you eventually see yourself out here in the tropics, you can enjoy yourself more by eliminating discomforts caused by the tropical weather.
For your Vanuatu fishing trips inquiries and pricing, contact us or email us at

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Tropical Fishing: Your Essential Guide on What to Wear While Fishing

John is originally from the Philippines. John has extensive guiding experience throughout Asia and...Learn more

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