Best Ultralight Spinning Rods – 2020 Buyer’s Guide

For anglers who do a lot of hiking, backpacking, or backcountry trekking to get to their favorite fishing spot, the act of lugging around a heavy fishing pole gets old fairly quickly. The inconvenience of hefting a bunch of fishing gear through the woods might make you wonder if it’s all worth it.

Luckily, ultralight rods exist to make travel anglers’ lives a little bit easier. These rods tend to be lightweight and slim, making them super easy to travel and transport. However, many anglers struggle to find an ultralight rod that does the job well.

In hopes of combating unnecessary frustration in the buying process, this article, we’ll walk you through the purpose of an ultralight rod and some of our favorites on the market.

Comparison of the Best Ultralight Spinning Rods

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Made from a mix of graphite and fiberglass for flexibility and durability
  • Clear-tip design for extra sensitivity and comfy EVA grips
  • Three-piece design and covered by a 7-year warranty
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  • Two-piece graphite and fiberglass rod with exceptional strength
  • Natural cork handle offers comfort during long fishing sessions
  • Stainless steel guides eliminate insert pop-outs and work with all lines
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  • Two-piece spinning rod with durable aero glass blank construction
  • Reinforced aluminum oxide guides deter corrosion and stay smooth
  • Graphite reel seat locks perfectly and stays stable
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  • Sensitive graphite blank and two-piece construction for convenience
  • Works perfectly for both small and large fish
  • Stainless steel hooded reel seats and two cork grips for comfort
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  • Lightweight graphite composite blank and low-profile sturdy guides
  • Custom Shimano reel seat and multipurpose hook keeper
  • Custom shaped ergonomic cork handle for better holding comfort
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What Makes a Spinning Rod Ultralight? 

There are two components that contribute to the title of “ultralight.” The literal weight of the product and the action.

Weight

Generally, ultralight rods tend to be more lightweight than higher power rods. This is because of the materials they are crafted with.

Almost all ultralight rods will have some graphite content, as it is a commonly used lightweight material added to rods in order to create sensitivity. 

This weight difference is an important aspect of an ultralight rod compared to a higher power rod as it makes it much easier to transport and travel with.

Fishing Rods (Source)

Action

The action of a rod coordinates with how much it bends under pressure. There are four common categories for classifying action: extra fast, fast, moderate, and slow. The “slower” a rod’s action is, the more flexible it is.

For example, an extra fast rod will bend only 3-4 inches before transferring power to the blank, while a slow rod would bend up to a third of the way down a rod. Action influences casting, tip sensitivity, and a variety of other things.

Ultralight rods tend to have “ultralight” actions. These actions are more suitable for fishing for smaller species, such as panfish, as it casts lighter baits well.

How to Choose a Great Ultralight Spinning Rod

There are several components that go into making an ultralight spinning rod great. Because you want your rod to be sensitive, lightweight, and easy to transport, your rod should have some, if not all, of the following qualities.

Graphite Construction

Graphite is an important part of creating a lightweight rod. Odds are, you’ll be fishing for smaller species’ of fish with your ultralight rod, such as crappie or some other panfish. Graphite is ultra-sensitive to the smallest of bites, which makes it super-desirable in an ultralight rod. In addition, graphite is much lighter than fiberglass, the other common material used in fishing rods.

Gone Fishin' (Source)

Sections

If you plan to travel with your rod, whether backpacking, hiking, or general outdoor trekking, it’s very helpful to have a rod that is sectioned. Anywhere from a two-piece rod to a four-piece rod is beneficial as it can break down easily into a more compact shape, which is easier to transport.

Length

While a variety of lengths can work for an ultralight rod, try to go for a rod that is a little shorter. Although a longer rod makes casting easier, 8-10 feet is not necessary for an ultralight rod. Anywhere from 5-7 feet is a better range, because it increases casting accuracy and will be lighter than a rod with more length.

Pros and Cons of Using an Ultralight Spinning Rod

Pros

  • Because they are super responsive, ultralight rods are a great choice for catching panfish. They have a sensitivity that many general-use rods lack, which makes them perfect for detecting smaller bites from fish that are tasty on a plate.
  • Ultralight rods don’t have any unnecessary weight that would make them inconvenient to travel place to place with. They are one of the most portable types of rods.
  • These rods are very easy to cast. Some anglers claim that they’ve had the best casts in their fishing experiences with an ultralight rod.

Cons

  • Because ultralight rods tend to be constructed with graphite, they lack the durability that fiberglass brings to the table. It’s important to be a little more gentle with an ultralight rod as it has more of a risk of damage.
  • Ultralight rods are not as versatile as more general-use rods. If you consistently use your ultralight rod to catch larger species of fish, there’s a good chance it will break down quickly over time.

Quick Take | Best Ultralight Spinning Rods

Just looking for the top three best ultralight spinning rods? Here they are:

  1. UglyStik GX2 Spinning Rod
  2. Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod
  3. Shimano FXS 2 Piece Spinning Rod

Review of the Best Ultralight Spinning Rods

It’s not always easy to pick an ultralight spinning rod if you’re a beginner; there are many considerations to make and a seemingly endless amount of options to choose from. To help you through the process, we’ve compiled a list of five of our favorite ultralight rods and listed the pros and cons associated with each.

Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Rod, USSP503L

PROS

  • A Variety of Lengths to Choose From
  • Graphite Construction Keeps the Rod Sensitive
  • Quality Materials Contribute to the Rod’s Durability

CONS

  • A Little Stiff
  • Doesn’t Work Well With Braided Line
  • Thick Foam Grips Take Away From Sensitivity

The Ugly Stik GX2 spinning rod line features several different lengths that have ultralight power. They range from 4’6” to 7-foot, which allows for some versatility depending on your own personal fishing style.

This rod is constructed with graphite and fiberglass. The graphite contributes to sensitivity in the rod while the fiberglass keeps it strong and durable. The lengthy handles are made with EVA foam, which is lightweight and soft.

The rod also features stainless steel guides, which Ugly Stik say adds “durability and eliminates insert pop-outs.” The GX2 series is the newest in the spinning rod collection from Ugly Stik.

The collection has a modern, sleeker design from previous versions. They also say that this new collection offers better balance than the one before.

Bottom Line

Ugly Stik is a well-known name in angler, households. They are known for creating durable rods made with good quality materials. The GX2 series lives up to this reputation. Although it is a little stiff, the graphite and fiberglass construction make the rod sensitive, as well as strong.

This is fairly important as you can use this rod for a variety of fishing styles without the fear that it will break or crack. There a couple downsides of this rod, including the thickness of the handles and the stainless steel guides which don’t work with all types of line.

Keep this in mind before purchasing. If these aspects would be a detriment to your particular fishing style, skip this rod.

Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod 5'6' - Light - 2pc

PROS

  • Very Durable and Strong
  • Added Graphite Adds Sensitivity
  • Lightweight Construction Keeps the Rod Portable and Easy to Transport

CONS

  • Reel Seat is a Little Short
  • Braided Line Tears Apart Guides
  • Cork Handle is a Little Uncomfortable

Another rod series from Ugly Stik, the Elite range is similar to the GX2 range but has a couple different qualities. Like the GX2 range, this range features several different lengths and actions that have ultralight power. There are four ultralight rods, the smallest length at 4’6”, and the largest at 7 feet.

The main difference between these rods and the GX2 line is the materials used in construction. The Elite range is also created with fiberglass and graphite, but Ugly Stik uses 35 percent more graphite in these rods, in the hopes of giving the tool more sensitivity while keeping it durable.

These rods are also a little more lightweight than the GX2 and they have cork handles rather than foam. They also feature stainless steel guides and exposed blank-style reel seats with cushioned stainless steel hoods. Ugly Stik claims that this line is “virtually indestructible.”

Bottom Line

This is another great rod series from Ugly Stik. Having 35 percent more graphite really adds to the sensitivity of this rod, so the elite range is a good option if you’re looking for rods that are a little more flexible and sensitive.

However, this line has a similar problem with guides and braided line. If you really prefer using braided line, consider a different rod. This line’s reel seat is also a little short compared to others on the market; for this reason, make sure that the reel you’re hoping to use will fit before purchasing.

Shimano FX 5'0 UL Freshwater Spinning Fishing Rod

PROS

  • Flexible
  • Smooth Casting
  • Extremely Sensitive

CONS

  • Sensitivity of Tip Makes it Less Durable
  • Not as Strong as Other Rods on the Market
  • Not a Lot of Length Options for an Ultralight Rod

Another popular brand for spinning rods, Shimano released the FXS line in hopes of accommodating a variety of anglers of all ages and skill levels. Shimano is a Japanese company that prides itself on creating innovative products that can withstand the test of time.

They advocate for “the wise recreational use and conservation of our natural environment for the long-term benefit of our customers and for the future of our company.”

Made primarily for freshwater fishing, the rods are fairly versatile and work for many different styles of angling. They offer two ultralight sizes, one is five feet long, and the other is 5’6”. Shimano rods are created with aero glass construction and the grips are made with EVA foam for comfort and sensitivity.

The guides are made with aluminum oxide and are reinforced for added durability. The rods also feature custom reel seats which are solid locking and made with graphite.

Bottom Line

Another great choice for anglers hoping to catch smaller species of fish, the FXS series from Shimano is ultra-sensitive and lightweight. This is a great pick for those who enjoy hiking into mountain lakes or traveling with their rods as it won’t take up a ton of room and isn’t a huge weight to carry.

But along with sensitivity comes the potential for breakage. Because this rod is so sensitive, it doesn’t have the durability that some of its competitors offer. When in doubt, stick to fishing for small species with this rod to avoid long-term damage.  

Okuma Celilo Graphite Lightweight Ultra Light Trout Rods, CE-S-662UL-1

PROS

  • Gorgeous Design
  • Super Lightweight and Transportable
  • Graphite Construction Makes the Rod Very Sensitive

CONS

  • Tip Breaks Easily
  • Not Super Durable
  • Not Good for Trophy Fish

Okuma offers several ultralight rods in the Celilo collection. The company designed these rods specifically with salmon and trout in mind. With the help of input from top-level salmon and trout anglers, they created the Celilo rods to be powerhouses in this realm.

The rods are beautiful, featuring light-colored, lengthy cork handles and a sleek black blank. The blanks are created with graphite for maximum sensitivity, which also makes them super lightweight.

They come in seven different lengths, but all feature aluminum oxide guide inserts as well as hooded stainless steel reel seats.

The handles are made with a thru-blank design with fore and rear grips for extra control. They feature a standard pipe reel seat and a stainless steel hook keeper for added convenience.

Bottom Line

Another super-sensitive pick, the Okuma Celilo series acts as advertised. Again, when you have a rod that is made to be sensitive, there are often issues with durability, and the Celilo series is no different.

Some users complain that the tip breaks off easily and that the rod will break under the pressure of large fish. For these reasons, be gentle with this rod and avoid using it for hunting trophy fish.

It is a beautiful rod with some great features and performs as an ultralight fishing rod should. It’s a great pick to bring along for a hiking trip or to be your go-to travel rod.

SHIMANO Stimula 2-Piece Spin Rod (5-Feet 6-Inch Ultralight)

PROS

  • Sensitive and Flexible
  • Great for Accurate Short Casts
  • A Great Value for the Material

CONS

  • List Element
  • Guides are Not Great Quality
  • Not as Balanced as Other Rods on the Market

Coming back to Shimano, the Stimula series is another great option for an ultralight rod. The Stimula series only has one ultralight rod available, in a length of 5’6”. The Stimula rod series was created by Shimano to ensure durability.

The series features a variety of rods that are hardy enough to take on a variety of fish. This particular ultralight rod is a two-piece. It has fast action while keeping flexible.

Unlike its FXS collection, Shimano created the Stimula series with cork handles. The ultralight rod features a fore and rear grip on the long handle for extra control. As with many rods on this list, this one features lightweight aluminum oxide guides and a hook keeper for convenience.

This rod is unique-looking, with a bright red blank and light-colored cork handle. Shimano created this rod for anglers looking to fish smaller bass, panfish, and trout.

Bottom Line

If you’re a beginner looking for your first ultralight rod, this is a great choice for you. It’s a super-simple, no frills-type rod that gets the job done for a great price. Although it is made for smaller fish, many users say that it can hold up under the weight of larger fish as well.

The rod wins points for its flexibility and sensitivity but loses some for some durability issues. You must be fairly gentle with the rod and guides, and make sure that you measure the reel you’d like to use before purchasing this rod as the reel seat is not large enough to accommodate some sizes.   

Conclusion

If you’ve been searching for an ultralight rod to bring along on your angling adventures but didn’t know where to start, hopefully, this article gave you some confidence to make an informed choice.

Whether you’ve been using ultralights for years or if you’re planning your first purchase, keep these tips and reviews in mind when scrolling through Amazon or at your local sporting goods store.