Best Ugly Stik Rods for 2024: Unbeatable Durability and Surprising Performance

Shakespeare’s Ugly Stiks have won a hard-earned reputation for nearly unbreakable durability. Priced right, and tough enough for pretty much any situation, these budget-friendly rods deserve a second look.

And while they’re certainly not going to give your G. Loomis a run for its money or offer sensitivity that rivals a St. Croix, their fiberglass composite blanks have more fight in them than you might imagine, making them exceptional rods for a variety of situations.

If you’re ready to give Ugly Stiks a closer look, we’re here to help. Below, you’ll find reviews of the best Ugly Stiks out there, as well as a buying guide that explains why we chose these rods.

Quick glance at the best Ugly Stik rods:

Related:

Best Ugly Stik Rods Reviewed

Ugly Stik Elite Spinning

Shakespeare Ugly Stik 7’ Elite Spinning Rod, Two Piece Spinning Rod, 6-14lb Line Rating, Medium Rod Power, Fast Action, 1/4-5/8 oz. Lure Rating

Amazon 

USESP501UL 5' ULTRA LIGHT MEDIUM FAST 2-6LB 1 1/32-1/4 6
USESP562L 5'6" LIGHT FAST 4-8LB 2 1/16-3/8 6
USESP602M 6' MEDIUM FAST 6-14LB 2 1/4-5/8 7
USESP601MH 6' MEDIUM HEAVY FAST 8-17LB 1 1/4-3/4 7
USESP661M 6'6" MEDIUM FAST 6-14LB 1 1/4-5/8 7
USESP661MH 6'6" MEDIUM HEAVY FAST 8-17LB 1 1/4-3/4 7
USESP662UL 6'6" ULTRA LIGHT MEDIUM FAST 2-6LB 2 1/32-1/8 7
USESP662M 6'6" MEDIUM EXTRA FAST 6-14LB 2 1/4-5/8 7
USESP701ML 7' MEDIUM LIGHT MEDIUM FAST 4-10LB 1 1/8-1/2 8
USESP701M 7' MEDIUM FAST 6-14LB 1 1/4-5/8 8
USESP701MH 7' MEDIUM HEAVY EXTRA FAST 8-17LB 1 1/4-3/4 8
USESP702UL 7' ULTRA LIGHT MEDIUM FAST 2-6LB 2 1/32-1/8 8
USESP702M 7' MEDIUM FAST 6-14LB 2 1/4-5/8 8
USESP761ML 7'6" MEDIUM LIGHT MEDIUM FAST 6-12LB 1 1/8-5/8 9

Material: carbon fiber/fiberglass composite

Guides: stainless steel

Handle: full cork

I own and fish an Ugly Stik Elite spinning rod, and I can summarize my experience by stating that it was money well spent. A step up from the GX2, the Elite is more sensitive and better balanced than the Stiks of old while remaining just as tough as you’ve heard.

The Elite series features a blank with an increased ratio of carbon fiber to fiberglass, creating a rod that’s noticeably lighter and more sensitive than the GX2 while retaining the durability the Ugly Stik is known for.

The tip is clear and finely tapered to assist sensitivity. I’ve felt strikes from small fish with no trouble, but this isn’t a competitor with St. Croix in this respect. Keep in mind that this rod is a fiberglass composite that works well with treble and circle hooks but probably doesn’t provide enough hookset for worm fishing.

And I certainly don’t use my Stik for finesse techniques, reserving it for situations where I know the fish I’ll hook are going to be mean, strong, and destructive. And from pike to big Gilt-head, blue catfish to redfish, it’s proven that it can tame large, powerful fish without missing a beat. 

The backbone on these rods tends to be more parabolic than those made from carbon fiber, and you won’t meet the true iron in this blank until you get pretty close to the handle. Once you do, you’ll realize that you’ve really got a game changer in your hands, and I’ve put more stress on my Ugly Stik than I can reasonably justify.

It’s no worse for the wear.

Casting is very good, and I find the Elite loads easily under appropriately-sized lures and cut bait, launching my casts into the next area code when necessary.

The guides may be humble stainless, but they’re well-polished, and when I’ve sawed at the stripper guide with light mono (6-pound test), it prevented friction, and the line didn’t break. On my rod, the guides line up well, and I’ve no complaints about fit and finish for the price.

The Elite Stik isn’t going to win any beauty pageants - that’s not its reason for being. That said, the full cork handles are plenty attractive, and they work remarkably well for hard casts and even harder fights.

I fish the 6’6” medium as an all-around beast slayer, and armed with an appropriately-sized reel, this is a great rod for the price, especially if you’re rough on your gear or expect to tie into a fish that’s outsized for your tackle.

I can all but guarantee that your line will give long before the Elite says quit!

Perfect for inshore species that will snap more delicate blanks, and perfect for catfish, pike, and other freshwater bruisers, I wouldn’t hesitate to use the light-power rods with rooster tails on smallmouth, cast to walleye with the medium, or fight steelhead with the medium-heavy.

Pros:

  • Extremely durable composite blank
  • Excellent range of lengths, powers, and actions
  • Good fit and finish
  • Excellent full cork handles
  • Great casting
  • Excellent backbone across the range

Cons:

  • Fiberglass composites aren’t going to be as sensitive as carbon fiber
  • Fiberglass composites aren’t going to provide super-sharp hooksets

Ugly Stik Elite Casting

Ugly Stik 6’6” Elite Casting Rod, One Piece Casting Rod, 10-20lb Line Rating, Medium Heavy Rod Power, Fast Action, 1/4-3/4 oz. Lure Rating

Amazon 

USECA661M 6'6" MEDIUM EXTRA FAST 8-17LB 1 1/4-5/8 8
USECA661MH 6'6" MEDIUM HEAVY FAST 10-20LB 1 1/4-3/4 8
USECA701M 7' MEDIUM EXTRA FAST 8-17LB 1 1/4-5/8 9
USECA701MH 7' MEDIUM HEAVY FAST 10-20LB 1 1/4-3/4 9
USECA702UL 7' ULTRA LIGHT MEDIUM FAST 2-6LB 2 1/32-1/4 9

Material: carbon fiber/fiberglass composite

Guides: stainless steel

Handle: full cork

I own and fish an Ugly Stik Elite casting rod, and it’s my primary “big fish” stick. For me, that means pike, with a few saltwater species thrown in for good measure. And just like the spinning version of this rod, you can count me as impressed.

Of course, these rods are equipped with the same carbon fiber/fiberglass blank as their spinning brethren, and they’re probably the most durable, hardest-fighting sticks I’ve ever fished - at any price.

What I mean by that is that I’ve pulled harder, lifted more dead weight, and generally put more stress on the blank of my medium-heavy Elite than any other rod I’ve ever fished, without ever worrying that the rod would break. My heavy braid may give - heck, even my reel may suffer - but the rod? 

Never.

The tip is pretty sensitive, and I find my Ugly Stik Elite to be capable with spoons, rooster tails, top water lures like spooks and torpedoes, and pretty much anything else that sports a treble hook. With cut and live bait, I run circle hooks, and I’ve never had a problem.

Would I fish this rod with worms? Probably not, but it’s a real pike tamer, that I can tell you!

On my rod, the guides are not lined up very well, with the second guide being kicked over to the left a bit. And while that probably has a miniscule impact on casting distance, I’ve never really noticed a problem on the water. And having tested those stainless guides with 6-pound mono, I can tell you that they work to cushion your line in a hard fight.

They can become damaged by heavy braid, as the pressure of abrasive line can wear grooves into the stainless rings.

Casting is excellent in my book, and these rods load well, enabling you to keep your distance if need be.

The handles are nice-looking full cork affairs that provide plenty of real estate for hard fights.

I really like my 7’ medium-heavy, and when paired with a strong reel, think this is an excellent combination for big catfish, pike, musky, and mean inshore fish.

Priced right and offering plenty of bang for your buck, give the Ugly Stik Elite casting rods a chance and you’ll be impressed by how well they fight. 

Pros:

  • Extremely durable composite blank
  • Excellent range of lengths, powers, and actions
  • Good fit and finish
  • Excellent full cork handles
  • Great casting
  • Excellent backbone across the range

Cons:

  • Fiberglass composites aren’t going to be as sensitive as carbon fiber
  • Fiberglass composites aren’t going to provide super-sharp hooksets

Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning

Ugly Stik 6’6” GX2 Spinning Rod, Three Piece Spinning Rod, 6-15lb Line Rating, Medium Rod Power, Moderate Fast Action, 1/8-5/8 oz. Lure Rating

Amazon 

USSP461UL 4'6" ULTRA LIGHT 2-6LB 1 1/32-1/4 5
USSP481UL 4'8" ULTRA LIGHT 2-6LB 1 1/32-1/4 5
USSP501UL 5' ULTRA LIGHT 2-6LB 1 1/32-1/4 5
USSP502UL 5' ULTRA LIGHT 2-6LB 2 1/32-1/4 5
USSP561M 5'6" MEDIUM 6-15LB 1 1/8-5/8 6
USSP562L 5'6" LIGHT 4-10LB 2 1/8-1/2 5
USSP5101M 5'10" MEDIUM 6-15LB 1 1/8-5/8 6
USSP5102M 5'10" MEDIUM 6-15LB 2 1/8-5/8 6
USSP602M 6' MEDIUM 6-15LB 2 1/8-5/8 6
USSP602L 6' LIGHT 4-10LB 2 1/8-1/2 6
USSP601MH 6' MEDIUM HEAVY 8-20LB 1 1/4-3/4 6
USSP662M 6'6" MEDIUM 6-15LB 2 1/8-5/8 6
USSP662L 6'6" LIGHT 4-10LB 2 1/8-1/2 6
USSP702M 7' MEDIUM 6-15LB 2 1/8-5/8 6
USSP902M 9' MEDIUM 4-20LB 2 1/8-3/4 8
USSP491H 4'9" HEAVY 8-20LB 1 1/4-3/4 5
USSP601H 6' HEAVY 8-20LB 1 3/8-1 6
USSP661MH 6'6" MEDIUM HEAVY 8-20LB 1 1/4-3/4 6
USSP701MH 7' MEDIUM HEAVY 8-20LB 1 1/4-3/4 6
USSP503L 5' LIGHT 4-10LB 3 1/16-3/8 5
USSP604M 6' MEDIUM 6-15LB 4 1/8-5/8 6
USSP664M 6'6" MEDIUM 6-15LB 4 1/8-5/8 6
USSP702UL 7' ULTRA LIGHT 2-6LB 2 1/32-1/4 6
USSP701M 7' MEDIUM 6-15LB 1 1/8-5/8 6

Material: graphite/fiberglass composite

Guides: stainless steel

Handle: full EVA foam

Hardcore Ugly Stik fans know and love the GX2. Ultra durable, tough as nails, and fight ready, these rods are priced to please your budget while offering performance that’s created a cult following.

What’s so great about the GX2?

While its particular mix of fiberglass and graphite doesn’t result in the Elite’s comparatively light weight and stiffness, the GX2 is nearly impossible to break.

I’m not kidding about that!

You can fight fish that are completely outsized for your tackle with this rod, and as long as your line and hook holds, your GX2 isn’t going to let you down. I’ve seen these rods bent nearly double and watched as they ripped lures from snags without a complaint. Tough doesn’t even begin to describe the GX2.

The backbone on these rods doesn’t really strut its stuff until you’ve loaded the blank along its full length; at that point, you can apply amazing force without damaging it.

It also loads well under lures and cut bait, making long casts easy.

The tip is plenty sensitive to detect light strikes, but as with all fiberglass composites, don’t expect amazing hooksetting power. I wouldn’t fish this rod with single hooks unless they were a self-hoking style, but I’m sure thousands of anglers have.

The GX2 wears Ugly-Tuff stainless steel guides, and despite that humble material, they’re well-executed and work ably to prevent friction from causing a catastrophic line failure.

Expect full, long, comfortable EVA foam handles.

Overall, the GX2 spinning series make great rods for a variety of purposes, and there are models in nearly every length and power just ready for your next fishing adventure.

Pros:

  • Unbelievably durable composite blank
  • Excellent range of lengths, powers, and actions
  • Good fit and finish
  • Nice, full EVA foam handles
  • Great casting
  • Excellent backbone across the range

Cons:

  • Fiberglass composites aren’t going to be as sensitive as carbon fiber
  • Fiberglass composites aren’t going to provide super-sharp hooksets

Ugly Stik GX2 Casting

Shakespeare Ugly Stik 6’6” GX2 Casting Rod, One Piece Casting Rod, 10-25lb Line Rating, Medium Heavy Rod Power, Moderate Fast Action, 1/4-3/4 oz. Lure Rating, BLACK

Amazon 

USCAP561M 5'6" MEDIUM 8-20LB 1 1/4-5/8 6
USCA601M 6' MEDIUM 8-20LB 1 1/4-5/8 7
USCA601MH 6' MEDIUM HEAVY 10-25LB 1 1/4-3/4 7
USCA661M 6'6" MEDIUM 8-20LB 1 1/4-5/8 7
USCA661MH 6'6" MEDIUM HEAVY 10-25LB 1 1/4-3/4 7
USCA662MH 6'6" MEDIUM HEAVY 10-25LB 2 1/4-3/4 7
USCA661H 6'6" HEAVY 20-50LB 1 1/2-1 1/2 7
USCA701M 7' MEDIUM 8-20LB 1 1/4-5/8 8
USCA701MH 7' MEDIUM HEAVY 10-25LB 1 1/4-3/4 8
USCA761ML 7'6" MEDIUM LIGHT 6-17LB 1 1/4-3/4 8
USCA702M 7' MEDIUM 8-20LB 2 1/4-5/8 8
USCA702ML 7' MEDIUM LIGHT 8-20LB 2 1/4-3/4 8
USCA562M 5'6" MEDIUM 6-12LB 2 1/8-5/8 6
USCA602M 6' MEDIUM 6-12LB 2 1/4-5/8 6

Material: graphite/fiberglass composite

Guides: stainless steel

Handle: full EVA foam

The GX2’s range of casting models is no less impressively durable, making them a smart choice for abusive environments and big, hard-fighting fish.

As inshore monster tamers, they’re hard to beat, as nothing short of snagging a passing boat is going to threaten your rod. And they’re no less able with treble-hooked lures when fishing for bass, pike, or musky.

As with the spinning variants, expect a mix of graphite and fiberglass that leans heavily toward maximum durability, making these rods nearly unbreakable. Sensitivity and hook-setting power suffer, of course, but I’ve never found any Stik to have trouble transmitting vibration to my hands.

When paired with a powerful reel, these rods are ideal for big spoons trailing mean trebles, rooster tails and other in-line spinners, and a variety of topwater options.

And armed with cut bait like shrimp carefully rigged on circle hooks, medium-power rods like the 7’ model are very hard to beat for reds and specks.

There’s a time and place for everything on the water, and when you’ve put your beautiful G. Loomis to bed, reach for your Stik.

You won’t be disappointed that you did.

Pros:

  • Unbelievably durable composite blank
  • Excellent range of lengths, powers, and actions
  • Good fit and finish
  • Nice full EVA foam handles
  • Great casting
  • Excellent backbone across the range

Cons:

  • Fiberglass composites aren’t going to be as sensitive as carbon fiber
  • Fiberglass composites aren’t going to provide super-sharp hooksets

Ugly Stik Carbon Spinning

Ugly Stik 7’ Carbon Spinning Rod, One Piece Spinning Rod, 6-12lb Line Rating, Medium Rod Power, Fast Action, 3/16-5/8 oz. Lure Rating, Red/Black

Amazon 

USCBSP562L 5'6" LIGHT MODERATE FAST 4-8LB 2 1/16-1/4 7
USCBSP661M 6'6" MEDIUM FAST 6-12LB 1 1/8-1/2 8
USCBSP681M 6'8" MEDIUM FAST 6-12LB 1 1/8-1/2 8
USCBSP6101ML 6'10" MEDIUM LIGHT FAST 6-10LB 1 1/8-1/2 8
USCBSP662M 6'6" MEDIUM FAST 6-12LB 2 1/8-1/2 8
USCBSP701ML 7' MEDIUM LIGHT FAST 6-10LB 1 1/8-1/2 8
USCBSP701M 7' MEDIUM FAST 6-12LB 1 3/16-5/8 8
USCBSP701MH 7' MEDIUM HEAVY FAST 8-14LB 1 1/4-3/4 8
USCBSP702UL 7' ULTRA LIGHT MODERATE 2-6LB 2 1/32-1/8 8

Material: 100% graphite

Guides: stainless steel

Handle: WINN EVA foam

Ugly Stik has built a reputation around fiberglass composites that deliver unparalleled durability and fighting power. So what happens when they build a Stik out of graphite, eliminating fiberglass entirely?

The answer is the Ugly Stik Carbon.

These rods rely on graphite, carefully manufactured to maximize strength in such a way that these Stiks are reliably 37% stronger than traditional graphite alternatives. That goes a long way toward closing the durability gap with the GX2 and Elite, while offering feather weights and excellent sensitivity.

In comparison with the Elite, these blanks are noticeably lighter, stiffer, and more sensitive, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use the medium-light models as finesse rods for bass or the 7’ medium-heavy for inshore fishing with cut bait or lures.

Hooksets will be powerful and sharp with these rods, essentially turning Ugly Stik performance on its head. I’d leave the trebles to the Elite, and work single-hooked lures and soft plastics with these stiff blanks.

You’ll find the backbone on these rods much closer to the tip than on the Elite or GX2, and I’m not sure I’d force the Carbon through some of the abuse I’ve subjected to my Elites. It is graphite, after all, no matter how tough.

The guides are Ugly Stik’s typical well-polished stainless steel, offering plenty of protection for your line.

Expect WINN handles and lots of comfortable EVA foam.

My only complaint about these Carbon Stiks is that they’re priced competitively with rods like St. Croix’s Mojo Bass. Frankly, you’re not getting anywhere near as nice a rod from Ugly Stik in terms of guides, reel seats, handles, or other components, nor are you going to rival the sensitivity and hook-setting power of the St. Croix.

But for Ugly Stik fans who’ve been waiting for a graphite rod, here’s your chance!

Pros:

  • Tough 100% graphite blank
  • Excellent range of lengths, powers, and actions
  • Good fit and finish
  • Nice, full EVA foam handles
  • Excellent backbone across the range
  • Excellent hook-setting power
  • Excellent sensitivity

Cons:

  • Not as refined as rods at similar price points

Ugly Stik Carbon Casting

Ugly Stik 7’ Carbon Casting Rod, One Piece Casting Rod, 12-20lb Line Rating, Medium Heavy Rod Power, Fast Action, 1/4-1 oz. Lure Rating, Red

Amazon 

USCBCA661M 6'6" MEDIUM FAST 8-17LB 1 1/4-5/8 8
USCBCA662M 6'6" MEDIUM FAST 8-17LB 2 1/4-5/8 8
USCBCA701M 7' MEDIUM FAST 8-17LB 1 1/4-5/8 8
USCBCA701MH 7' MEDIUM HEAVY FAST 12-20LB 1 1/4-1 8
USCBCA610ML 6'10" MEDIUM LIGHT FAST 6-12LB 1 1/8-1/2 8

Material: 100% graphite

Guides: stainless steel

Handle: WINN EVA foam

If you’ve been waiting for a light, stiff, sensitive Ugly Stik for bass fishing, you need to give their Carbon lineup a try.

As with the spinning variants of this blank technology from Shakespeare, you’ll find that these 100% graphite rods are very stiff, offering both excellent sensitivity and awesome hook setting. I wouldn’t hesitate to use the 7’ medium-heavy as a worm rod, and it’s more than up to the task of pitching or flipping fat creatures into thick cover.

The lighter rods in this series work well for everything from inshore fishing to casting to walleye, and you’ll immediately feel the increase in sensitivity the Carbon delivers over the other Stiks.

Expect to find the backbone on these rods pretty quickly once the tip starts to bend, and you’ll be rewarded with plenty of iron to turn big bass and other hard-fighting fish.

Casting is excellent as well, and these blanks load easily under properly-sized lures.

The guides, as you’d guess, are stainless. But like all Ugly Stiks, these relatively modest affairs are well-executed, performing far better than you’d think.

The handles are split-grip EVA foam, further lightening the overall weight of these rods while offering plenty of space for your hands.

Like the Carbon spinning, if you're a fan of Ugly Stiks, you’re going to be delighted with these rods. And the great news is that they’re very moderately priced - far below their spinning cousins. At this price point ,they’re a real bargain, and any angler can afford to give one a try.

Pros:

  • Tough 100% graphite blank
  • Excellent range of lengths, powers, and actions
  • Good fit and finish
  • Nice, full EVA foam handles
  • Excellent backbone across the range
  • Excellent hook-setting power
  • Excellent sensitivity

Cons:

  • ???

Buying Guide: Why Did These Ugly Stiks Make Our Shortlist?

Durability

Now, I’m not suggesting that you should go out and torture your Elite, GX2, or Carbon, but I’m pretty sure that if you did, you’d find that the Elite and GX2 are ridiculously robust. And even the Carbon, made from 100% graphite, is going to be tougher than other carbon fiber rods.

We’ve all broken rods, and from trying to rip a lure free from a snag to shutting a tail gate or door on their tips, I’ve been there and done that.

I haven’t even come close to damaging my Elite Stiks, and I’m not sure what actual fishing application could deliver enough force to worry me about their composite blanks.

Backbone

Backbone can mean the difference between dragging a fish out before it can tangle your line around a piling, tree, or stump and getting hopelessly wrapped up. And trying to wrangle a fish toward your boat with a delicate rod that just doesn’t have the power you need is an exercise in frustration.

I’ve never found that Ugly Stiks lack fight-winning backbone. In fact, I’d say that they’re the hardest-fighting rods I’ve ever fished. No doubt due to that tough composite, you can apply pressure that I wouldn’t dream of with my St. Croix, and even the Carbon can fish way above what you’d expect.

Basically, if your line will hold, your Stik will never say quit.

Sensitivity

Fiberglass and fiberglass composites trade cushioned hook sets and durability for absolutely stiffness and the sensitivity that creates.

That said, I find that the Elite and GX2 offer plenty of sensitivity at the tip for the techniques they’re designed for. Would I choose spinning versions of these rods for finesse bass techniques?

No.

But I’d fish any treble-hooked lure out there with them, run cut bait with a circle hook, and know that I’m not going to miss a strike.

The Carbon changes-up this formula, offering the sensitivity you need for Neko rigs and other finesse techniques, as well as the hook-setting power necessary for worm fishing.

Casting

Casting with any of the Ugly Stiks is very good, with distance and precision following the same inverse relationship with length that you’ll find with any rod, ever.

Guides

Polished stainless steel is as humble as guides come these days, and in comparison to Fuji K or Kigan Master guides, well, Ugly Tuff isn’t in the same league.

But - I’ve really tested these simple guides and found that they work remarkably well without the need for expensive inserts. I’m not saying that they’re as good as the top-end components you’ll find on St. Croix or G. Loomis rods, but they get the job done in the hardest fights - and that’s all you can ask from your guides.

Final Thoughts

Often overlooked by anglers as merely rough and ready, I think a fair argument can be made for the Elite, GX2, and Carbon as far better products than their price point suggests, especially if you’re rough on your tackle or need a rod that can take fish way beyond reasonable limits.

And there’s no question that the Ugly Stiks on our shortlist are ready for a hard day’s fishing, legendary fights, and no-questions asked performance - without breaking the bank.

We can’t tell you which Ugly Stik is the best choice for you, but we can say that you’ll be amazed by what these ros can do on the water.

We hope this article has helped you make the right choice for your needs and budget, and we’d love to hear from you if it has.

Please leave a comment or question below!

About The Author
Pete Danylewycz
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. Whether he's casting a line in a quiet freshwater stream or battling a monster bass, fishing is his true passion.