9 Best Ultralight Fishing Rods and Why

This is our review for the best ultralight fishing rods in 2021.

So, you’re looking for the best ultralight fishing rods on the market. An ultralight fishing rod is ideal for freshwater fish like trout and panfish, and there are plenty of anglers who would argue even bigger fish like bass and walleye are more fun to catch on an ultralight rod.

At the end of the day, you want something that is ultralight, durable, and gives you the ability to make long casts with light baits. You want the sensitivity to detect light bites, but you don’t want to be overpowered if a big fish takes the bait. It’s a tough balance, and the best ultralight fishing rods need to offer the best of both worlds.

The problem is: there are so many different brands out there! To make things easier for you, we have compiled this comprehensive list of reviews on some of our favorite best ultralight fishing rods to help with your decision making process.

After testing rods from the top brands, the St. Croix Panfish Ultralight Rod revealed itself as the best ultralight fishing rod on the market.

That being said, it’s far from the only quality option. Every angler is different, so we’ve taken the time to build a list of the 9 best ultralight rods with reviews and answer frequently asked questions to help you know what to look for when buying an ultralight fishing rod.

Let’s get started!

Our Picks for Best Ultralight Fishing Rods

Our Pick
Budget Pick
Premium Pick
Durability
Trout Fishing
Okuma Celilo Ultralight Rod
$34.19

The ultralight style is perfect for smaller fish or light-hitting species. The rod is durable enough to provide plenty of action if a larger fish hits your bait.

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12/03/2021 04:14 am GMT
Travel Rod
Best For Bass
KastKing Perigee II Ultralight Fishing Rod
$74.99

KastKing introduced the Perigee II with the novice in mind. Beginning anglers who are looking for a good performing rod appreciate the lower cost of this glass composite rod.

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12/03/2021 04:14 am GMT

Best Ultralight Fishing Rods Reviewed

St. Croix Panfish Ultralight Rod – Best Overall

As its name suggests, the St. Croix Panfish series of spinning rods are ideal for panfish anglers. They excel at tossing dainty jigs for crappie, bluegill and perch, but have enough strength for a solid hookset and good fighting power. It’s hard to argue with it as the best ultralight fishing rod overall.

The rods are made with specialized high-modulus SCVI carbon and premium quality SCII graphite construction, which is what gives them that just-right balance between strength, durability and the ability to flex and bend smoothly when needed. The graphite blank is also cured with a fortified resin material for extra strength.

St. Croix makes their Panfish Ultralight Rods in several lengths and weights. We tested out the ultralight/fast action spinning rod and found it to supremely fishable. It has great bend and flex to the rod tip, and its 5′ length is convenient and great for travel.

The rod has sleek stainless steel guides and a natural cork handle that provides a secure, comfortable grip. The reel seat holds an ultralight reel snugly in place. In use, the St. Croix Panfish Ultralight Rod has outstanding sensitivity for detecting the lightest biters.

Like most ultralight fast action rods, it works best when paired with ultralight monofilament or fluorocarbon line between 1 and 6 lb. test. St. Croix has been making quality fishing rods for over 70 years now, and it’s clear that the Panfish series are worthy ultralight additions to their lineup.

Shakespeare Ultra Light Micro Series Spinning Rod – Best on a Budget

One of the great things about ultralight fishing rods is that a good one doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. While you can certainly shell out for a premium fishing rod that’s worth every penny, budget-friendly fishing rods like the Shakespeare Micro spinning rod are also excellent choices.

Shakespeare is known for making fishing rods that are great for beginners, but their Ultra Light Micro Series rods are most definitely not just for beginners. Despite their remarkably low price point, these fishing rods have some surprisingly high-end features, like comfy cork grips and stainless steel guides.

The Ultra Light Shakespeare Micro Spinning rod comes in several lengths from 4’6″ to 7’6″. The action is not specified, but the 6′ model feels like a moderately fast action ultralight spinning rod, with a good amount of bend yet plenty of backbone for solid hooksets.

It’s sensitive enough for sunfish, but you can do some ultralight bass fishing without feeling too overmatched. If you’re an experienced fisherman just dipping your toe in the ultralight waters for the first time, this is a great rod to start with.

If there’s one area where the Shakespeare rod falls short of its more expensive counterparts, it’s strength. It’s a graphite rod, and—while you’re unlikely to break it while fishing—is a bit brittle. This is definitely not a rod that you want to accidentally shut the the car door on your way to the lake. But at this price, you probably wouldn’t be too upset if you did.

G.Loomis Classic Trout Panfish Spinning Rod – Premium Pick

A beautifully crafted rod from one of the most trusted rod manufacturers in the fishing world, the G.Loomis Classic Trout Panfish Spinning Rod is a great rod that earns every penny of its admittedly high price tag. It’s the type of rod that gives you confidence every time you hit the water.

With a strong carbon fiber blend blank that gives it an ultralight moderate action, this is a versatile ultralight fishing rod that excels in all kinds of situations. It’s great for casting tiny spinners on a trout stream, and just as well-suited to tossing jigs for panfish.

You can be sure that this rod has the power to take on hard fighters too. If a 5-pound bass decides to make a meal of your crappie jig, you can bring it in without fear of snapping the rod.

The G.Loomis Classic Trout Panfish Spinning Rod has a cork and foam handle with smooth, strong Fuji Alconite guides that keep even the lightest of lines safe from unnecessary abrasion and tension. The rod casts smoothly when paired with the right reel and spooled with 2 to 6-pound test line.

Whether you’re the sort of angler who prefers longer or shorter rods, there’s a G.Loomis trout series ultralight model with your name on it. This particular rod comes in 5′ up to 7′ lengths. The 5’6″ model we based this review on is a great compromise, and you can get some serious distance with dainty 1/16 and 1/32 oz. baits.

Ugly Stik GX2 Ultralight Rod – Best for Durability

The Ugly Stik GX2 Ultralight Rod is one of the more budget-friendly options on this list, but don’t let that trick you into thinking it’s low quality. It’s actually a rod and reel combo that costs less than most fishing rods we’re looking at here today, but will probably outlive them all.

Ugly Stik rods come in just about every size, weight and action, from these 5″ ultralight spinning rods to heavy-duty rods that are more in line with the needs of your average steelhead angler. But they all have one thing in common: they’re darn tough.

Let’s put it this way. I would never advise you to intentionally step on a fishing rod, but if you were to accidentally do so, it would probably be fine. This rod is made of graphite and fiberglass, with a clear fiberglass tip to give the rod even more strength where it’s needed most.

No action is specified, but the 5″ ultralight Ugly Stik could best be described as a medium-fast action rod. It’s a one piece spinning rod with stainless steel guides, an EVA handle and a handy hook keeper. I do tend to favor a cork handle, but it’s a small quibble with an otherwise outstanding item.

The Ugly Stik GX2 isn’t one of the most sensitive ultralight rods in the world, but its design simply favors strength over sensitivity. It handles light tackle beautifully, and is an excellent choice for jigging. You can bring in freshwater game fish species from bluegill to bass with ease. In fact, it’s one of the best ultralight rods for situations in which you expect to battle larger fish.

Okuma Celilo Graphite Lightweight Trout Rod – Best for Trout Fishing

Trout fishing brings its own particular set of challenges, especially with ultralight spinning rods. Chief among them is detecting the barely-there nibbles of these notoriously finnicky fish. The other is casting in tight quarters on tree-lined streams.

The Okuma Celilo Graphite Lightweight Trout Rod gets top marks on both counts. First and foremost, the graphite blank of this rod is amazingly sensitives, allowing you to feel every pebble on the stream bed. You’ll know if a trout so much as sneezes near your bait.

Additionally, the short stature of this rod (it comes in 4’6″ and 5′ sizes) makes it ideal for casting miniscule lures under overhanging trees alongside your favorite trout stream. It’s a reliable fishing companion in tight quarters.

Granted, if you expect to catch larger fish, you might want to choose the 6′ or 6’5″ model. Either way, the Okuma Celilo ultralight trout rods are great for chasing brooks, browns and rainbows in your neighborhood creek.

These rods also feature a sturdy stainless steel reel seat, cork handle and aluminum oxide guides that resist corrosion. They have the look and feel of high-end rods without the high-end price tag. Of course, they’re perfectly suitable for all sorts of smaller game fish, but at the end of the day they’re among the very best ultralight spinning rods for trout.

St. Croix Triumph Travel Spinning Rod – Best for Traveling

When you’re ready to hit the road on your next fishing trip, you need a fishing rod that travels well. The St. Croix Triumph Travel Spinning Rod is that fishing rod.

It’s available in sizes from ultralight all the way up to medium-heavy, and all are four-piece rods that break down for easy transport. You even get a handy carrying case with it.

The ultralight model of the St. Croix Triumph Travel Spinning Rod is a 5′ rod with a fast action tip. It’s made of premium quality SCII graphite with a cork handle and guides with aluminum-oxide inserts. The rod and the carrying case it stows away in is even small enough to meet the carryon requirements for most airlines.

Of course, the big question is, how does it fish? As it turns out, quite well.

You’d be forgiven for assuming that a four-piece rod is a bit of a chore for real-world fishing, but this one actually performs admirably. The fast action tip is slightly stiffer than many ultralight spinning rods, but gives you excellent hook-setting power and surprising sensitivity.

Overall, this is a great rod to take with you on camping trips. Stow it away in your car or RV, and there will always be a fishing rod handy when you need it the most. These rods are very durably made, and come backed by a 5-year warranty.

Fenwick Eagle Ultralight Spinning Rod – Best for Panfish

With the classic look you might expect from a company that’s been making quality fishing equipment for more than 65 years, the Fenwick Eagle Spinning Rod certainly gets top points for beauty. But in addition to its simple, timeless design, it’s also an effective rod that gives you a real edge at your local pond.

The ultralight version of the Eagle Spinning Rod measures 5’6″ and has a flexible moderate action with a great balance between bend and backbone. It’s one of the best ultralight spinning rods for panfish, perfect for tossing light jigs and flies for bluegill, perch and crappie.

In addition to strong-yet-sensitive graphite construction, these rods have a cork handle and stainless steel guides. With an ergonomically designed reel seat, it’s comfortable and easy to fish with. The no-frills reel seat also adds to the rod’s sensitivity, helping to transmit even the lightest bites.

When paired with the right spinning reel, the Fenwick Eagle Ultralight Spinning Rod offers smooth casting with 1 to 6-lb. test line. The guides have an aluminum oxide coating to further reduce friction and keep your line from fraying. The rod also comes with a 5-year warranty.

Ugly Stik Elite Casting Rod – Best Ultralight Casting Rod

It almost goes without saying that the majority of ultralight rods—the overwhelming majority, in fact—are spinning rods. But there will always be those who favor a casting rod and reel over a spinning combo. Fair enough!

If that sounds like you, then the Ugly Stik Elite Casting Rod is the fishing rod for you. The ultralight version of the Elite is a versatile choice for all kinds of freshwater fish, and offers a comfortable grip for anyone who favors the simplicity of a casting combo.

The rod measures 7′ and has medium-fast action. That places it among the longer and more flexible rods on our list, which means it gives you great casting power for light tackle. The rod has great bend to it, which provides some cushion when fighting bigger fish.

With cork handles and stainless steel guides, the Elite Casting Rod is also a handsome fishing rod that pairs well with most ultralight casting reels. It’s a favorite among ultralight bass fishermen in particular, and excels at pitching light jigs and soft plastic baits.

Like most Ugly Stik rods, it’s also darn near indestructible. And bear in mind, if casting rods simply aren’t your thing, the Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod is virtually identical, except that the reel seat is designed to accommodate a spinning reel instead.

KastKing Pedigree II Fishing Rod – Best for Bass Fishing

Bass fishing on ultralight tackle brings its fair share of challenges, not the least of which is the real possibility of tanging with feisty game fish that far outweigh your light line and featherweight rod. The KastKing Pedigree II Fishing Rod is up to the challenge.

The Pedigree II is available in 5’6″ and 6″ultralight spinning rod sizes (as well as several heavier models) that offer a bit more power and backbone, which is a huge help when you’re bass fishing.

The rod is constructed with an incredibly durable and sensitive carbon fiber blank. Details include high-end Fuji O-Ring line guides, a graphite reel seat, dense EVA grips, a hook holder and beautiful bare finish to the carbon fiber blank.

That bare finish isn’t just for looks (although it looks great) but also for added sensitivity. That will come in handy for finicky bass who barely make a move when they slurp up your finesse jig. The KastKing Pedigree II Rod really gives you next-level sensitivity for bass fishing.

The rod also has medium-fast action, which offers a pretty good balance of flex and strength. If you’re used to heavier rods, it can be an adjustment. But there are few items better suited to ultralight bass fishing than the Pedigree II.

Ultralight Fishing Rods – FAQ

best ultralight fishing rods

Even when you know what the best ultralight fishing rod is, you may not have necessarily found the best fishing rod for your specific needs. Ultralight fishing can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a frustrating experience if you’re not prepared, and don’t have the right fishing gear and tackle.

Even for experienced ultralight fishermen, there’s always a lot to learn. Let’s take a deeper dive into some of the most frequently asked questions about ultralight rods.

What is ultra light fishing rod?

Simply put, an ultralight fishing rod is a type of fishing rod that is designed for catching smaller fish. Most are spinning rods, and an ultralight spinning rod is typically smaller and lighter than your average spinning rod, and is made to be paired with a similarly downsized spinning reel.

What are ultralight rods good for?

The best ultralight rods excel at casting smaller, lighter lures longer distances. This is a major asset when pursuing smaller game fish species like panfish and trout, which tend to favor smaller lures.

Ultralight fishing rods are also meant to be pared with light line. They are usually designed with an especially sensitive tip, which helps the angler to detect light bites.

How long should an ultra light rod be?

Ultralight rods are available in a wide range of lengths, and there isn’t really a ‘best’ length. It’s more a matter of your needs and how you intend to use the rod.

Generally speaking, longer rods are better for casting long distances, but shorter ultralight rods often give you more power when fighting a larger fish. Most ultralight spinning rods are between 5′ and 7′, though longer and shorter rods are available.

Is an ultralight rod good for trout?

best ultralight fishing rods for trout

Ultralight rods are great for trout fishing. Not only do ultralight trout rods excel at casting the types of dainty lures favored by trout, but they also have the sensitivity to detect light bites.

Shorter ultralight rods are also great for fishing in tight spaces with a lot of overhanging trees, which is a common problem faced by trout anglers. Keep in mind though that if you’re fishing for larger tout, you might want to upsize to a light or medium-light rod.

What is the most sensitive spinning rod?

That’s a tough question to answer, but spinning rods with a graphite blank are generally considered to be more sensitive than fiberglass rods. That’s not a firm rule, but graphite construction usually means good sensitivity.

Ultralight spinning rods are, for the most part, thought to be more sensitive than heavier rods in general. That being said, there is also an old saying among fishermen that sensitivity is in the hands, not the rod.

Can you catch bass on an ultralight?

 ultralight fishing rods for bass

You can absolutely go bass fishing with an ultralight fishing rod! In fact, there’s a whole subsect of anglers who specifically target bass using ultralight fishing gear.

Ultralight rods are especially well suited to catching stream smallmouths, and for going after largemouths in small ponds, and they’re great fun for bass fishing from a kayak or a float tube. If you’re planning on bass fishing with an ultralight rod, look for one with fast action and a bit more power.

How big of a fish can an ultralight rod handle?

best ultralight fishing rods for big fish

That depends on a lot of factors, including your skill when it comes to fighting big fish! Realistically, ultralight rods are designed for bringing in smaller fish, typically weighing 2 lb. or less.

But at the end of the day, there’s no reason you can’t bring in a larger game fish if one should happen to strike. Plenty of anglers have brought in 10 lb. fish using light line and ultralight tackle… but it might take a while.

Conclusion

So, which ultralight fishing rod is the best?

It depends on what your needs are. We think the best overall is the St. Croix Panfish Ultralight Fishing Rod. If you’re looking for a heavy-duty reel that will stand up to tough abuse and last for years of use, we recommend the Ugly Stick GX2 Ultralight Fishing Rod. For those who want something more affordable with quality features without breaking the bank, try out the Shakespeare Ultra Light Micro Series Spinning Rod. Whatever your budget or skill level might be, there’s an ultralight rod perfect for you!

Before you head out on your next fishing trip with your new ultralight rod be sure to use this map to find a new fishing hole, boat ramp, or tackle store. It’s also important to protect our natural resources by purchasing a fishing license in your state, use this map to easily navigate to your state’s license page.