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Best Ultralight Rods That Are Heavy on Fun: 2024's Top Ultralight Rods Reviewed

Ultralight rods up the ante on fishing fun, testing your skill and turning every fight into an adrenaline-fueled battle to remember.
Reviewed by: Pete Danylewycz
Last Updated:

TOP 3 ULTRALIGHT RODS

Ask any angler who’s fished ultralight tackle, and they’ll tell you that it’s easy to make memories on the water when you’re holding a whip-thin rod that tests your skill and bends under the weight of a panfish.

 

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Pros & Cons
Product Review
Product Specification

Pros:

  • Excellent blank that is supremely sensitive
  • Great casting: distance and accuracy
  • Plenty of hook-setting power for treble-hooked lures
  • Select-grade cork handle
  • Fuji reel seat
  • Great guides

Cons:

  • ???

If you want to treat yourself to what may be among the very best ultralight rods out there, take a close look at the St. Croix Premier.

As its name suggests, St. Croix uses premium-grade components throughout.

The blank is manufactured from SCII carbon fiber that has the added advantage of advanced IPC tech, eliminating transition points along the blank and creating astounding sensitivity. I doubt you’ll find a more sensitive rod at any price, and in cooler water - winter, spring, and fall - that can make a huge difference.

The guides, Fuji reel seat, and select grade cork handles are as good as you’ll find at any price, and one look at this rod tells you everything you need to know.

I like the 6’ 6” model as it provides great accuracy, allowing me to put my lure right where I want it, while also allowing for reasonably long casts with small crankbaits or in-line spinners.

I’ve made the mistake of wringing every yard of casting distance from this rod before, and I can promise you that it loads and launches like you wouldn’t believe. But when you hook a big smallie or largemouth at a distance, and nearly get spooled in the process, you’ll learn to keep your casts short and precise!

More expensive than the Triumph, and built for longer casts, the extra length of this rod is also helpful when you hook a big one.

Length: 6’ 6”

Material: premier SCII carbon fiber with advanced Integrated Poly Curve tech

Power/action: ultralight/fast

Guides: aluminum oxide

Line weight: 2 - 6 lb.

Lure weight: 1/32 - 3/16 oz

Handle: select-grade continuous cork

Pieces: 2

Pros & Cons
Our Review
Specification

Pros:

  • Excellent blank that is die-hard durable
  • Great casting: distance and accuracy
  • Plenty of hook-setting power for treble-hooked lures
  • Nice cork handle
  • Effective guides

Cons:

  • Not quite as refined as the St. Croix by a long shot
  • Nowhere near as durable as the Ugly Stik Elite

I love Bass Pro’s Micro Lite rod, and the 7’ model is very, very hard to beat for the price.

The blank is constructed from high-modulus graphite, and it’s really sensitive while providing all the backbone I’ve ever needed. I’ve never had any trouble detecting light strikes or shy bites - and I’ve fished this rod a lot.

It casts well when you want to toss a crankbait or in-line spinner down a dock, and it’s short enough to provide sufficient precision for tight-quarters. I’ve used this rod to pitch tiny lures up under overhanging vegetation and to toss slip floats to crappie huddled up in a forest of submerged stumps.

My terminal tackle went where I wanted it, every time I did what was needed.

The stainless guides are fitted with titanium oxide inserts, and they really work to cushion your line in a hard fight. I’ve wrangled a few big bass into my kayak with this rod, and had 4- and 6-pound test survive the experience.

The split grip is well-executed and comfortable, and if the St. Croix rods on our shortlist would set your wallet back too far, take a close look at the Bass Pro Micro Lite.

I’m sure you’ll love it.

Length: 7’

Material: IM6 graphite

Power/action: ultralight/fast

Guides: stainless steel with titanium oxide inserts

Line weight: 2 - 6 lb.

Lure weight: 1/16 - 1/4 oz.

Handle: split cork

Pieces: 2

Pros & Cons
Our Review
Specifications

Pros:

  • Excellent blank that is die-hard durable
  • Great casting: distance and accuracy
  • Plenty of hook-setting power for treble-hooked lures
  • Nice cork handle
  • Effective guides

Cons:

  • Not as refined as the St. Croix by a long shot

 

I’ve broken a few ultralight rods in my fishing career, typically because I did something stupid like forget to set the drag properly or close a car window on the rod tip.

So I can really appreciate a bomb-proof ultralight rod that’s sensitive, strong, and durable - and that’s exactly what Shakespeare offers with the Ugly Stik Elite.

The Elite features a composite blank with plenty of graphite, increasing sensitivity, while backing this with tough, strong, never-say-die fiberglass.

The result isn’t as sensitive as the St. Croix rods, but it’s massively more durable, and if you’re fishing with 6-pound mono, running 2 pounds of drag, and tie into a really nice bass - I’ve been there! - it’s good to know that you can give your drag knob a nudge and put your line to the test without worrying about your rod breaking.

If you’re unfamiliar with just how tough Ugly Stik Elite is, I’ve doubled these guys over with dead weight with no problems: no damage, no issues, no complaints.

The Ugly Tuff guides are polished stainless steel, and while not expensive or high-tech, they work surprisingly well to protect your light line.

The cork handles are nicer than you’d think, too.

If you’re hard on your tackle or like to push your fishing gear to its limits, check out the Ugly Stik Elite.

Length: 7’

Material: graphite/fiberglass composite

Power/action: ultralight/fast

Guides: Ugly Tuff stainless steel

Line weight: 2 - 6 lb.

Lure weight: 1/32 - 1/8 oz.

Handle: continuous cork

Pieces: 2

Pros & Cons
Our Review
Specifications

Pros:

  • Excellent blank that is supremely sensitive
  • Accurate casts
  • Plenty of hook-setting power for treble-hooked lures
  • High-grade cork handle
  • Great guides

Cons:

  • Not a long-range caster
  • Not as tough as the Ugly Stik Elite

Long-time readers of USAngler will know that I’m a huge fan of St. Croix rods, and there’s no question that the 5’ 6” ultralight Triumph is an amazing rod.

The blank is manufactured from very high-grade carbon fiber, making it ultra-sensitive and very stiff for its diameter. On the water, that makes it exceptional for detecting shy strikes, gentle nudges, and almost impactless hits.

As you’d expect, St. CRoix has outfitted this rod with excellent aluminum oxide guides that will really help to reduce friction on your light mono, preventing line damage and breakage if you do your part by setting the drag correctly.

It’s rated for light lines and lures no heavier than 3/16 ounces, and despite its short length, it loads and casts reasonable distances. But that’s not really this Triumph’s forte.

Instead, I like to take advantage of its precision and subtlety, launching tiny creature baits near pilings and other vertical structure for cold-water crappie or throwing tiny in-line spinners to smallmouth hunting tiny eddies or still pools.

Accuracy and sensitivity are the name of the game in these situations, and the Triumph is nothing short of perfect for this type of fishing.

And when a fat slab or two-pound smallies engulfs your bait, you’ll know about, find plenty of hooksetting power, and have enough backbone to play that “big” fish and really test your skill!

Length: 5’ 6”

Material: premium SCII carbon fiber

Power/action: ultralight/fast

Guides: aluminum oxide

Line weight: 2 - 6 lb.

Lure weight: 1/32 - 3/16 oz.

Handle: continuous cork

Pieces: 2

Pros & Cons
Our Review
Specifications

Pros:

  • Excellent blank that’s supremely sensitive and capable of long, accurate casts
  • Plenty of hook-setting power for treble-hooked lures
  • Awesome Winn Dri-Tec handle
  • Excellent guides

Cons:

  • Not a long-range caster
  • Not as tough as the Ugly Stik Elite

Lew’s rods are well known to anglers across the country, and this rod goes a long way to explaining why so many people are fans.
Lew’s Lite sports a blank manufactured from high-modulus HM50 graphite. It’s both very sensitive - rivaling the Triumph for detecting light strikes and shy bites - while loading and casting like a dream with light lures.

Lew’s doesn’t specify the guide material, but there’s no question that these are top-notch components and more than capable of cushioning your light lines in a hard fight.

If your go-to handle style is the split grip, you’ll love Lew’s Winn Dri-Tac design, which promises all-day comfort and control.

Lew’s promises that this rod is “tour grade,” and I believe them.

Length: 7’

Material: high-modulus HM50 graphite

Power/action: ultralight/fast

Guides: ?

Line weight: 2 - 6 lb.

Lure weight: 1/16 - 3/16 oz.

Handle: Winn Dri-Tac

Pieces: 1

Why Fish an Ultralight Rod?

As anyone who’s tried ultralight fishing can tell you, it’s heavy on fun. Sure, you can use a light or medium power rod for panfish, trout, perch, bass, and small walleye, and you won’t see pros throwing lures with an ultralight. But that’s because they fish to win; it’s their job, and they’re really not trying to maximize their fun on the water.

But you probably are!

Ultralights are just that--ultra-light--and you won’t be muscling big fish with them. Hook a two-pound smallmouth, and you’ll hear your drag whining, see your rod bow, and have a real fight on your hands. Tie into a decent sized perch or a nice brookie, and you’ll know you’ve got something on your line!

And isn’t that why you took to fishing in the first place?

Because ultralight set-ups use very light tackle--rod, reel, line, and lure--they transform small fish into big ones, and big ones into true monsters. A day catching smallmouth with a medium rod and eight-pound line won’t be much fun; try the same thing on an ultralight with four-pound test and you won’t be able to stop showing teeth through your grin!

Need to pair your rod with a reel? Check out our buying guide for the best ultralight reels

And nothing replaces an ultralight when you need to detect a light strike. Indeed, ultralight rods provide far more feel and sensitivity than heavier alternatives, and if you’re casting light lines and lures, there’s simply no competition.

Ultralight rods will bend like marsh grass in the wind, providing a bit more cushion to your line and assisting the drag in its work of preventing failures when you do tie into an impressive fish. And though they’re delicate, they’re also strong. Properly fished, you can catch some pretty big bass and walleye with an ultralight.

And you’ll have a tale to tell when you do!

What We Consider When Selecting an Ultralight Rod

An excellent ultralight rod offers a winning combination of action, power, length, and quality.

Check out our buying guide for the best spinning rods

Action

A rod’s action describes where along its length it will begin to bend under load. Fast action rods are stiff for most of their length, bending near the tip. By contrast, slow action rods begin to give closer to the handle and reel seat, curving over a much greater percentage of their length.
Ultralight rods are most often built with a fast or moderate action. What that means is that they offer a delicate, sensitive tip that bends very quickly. But as the load increases, you’ll feel the strength of their blank kick in.

When that happens, a fast action ultralight rod will still bend beyond the tip, but it’ll provide enough control to help you play even a reasonably large fish.

Power

Power describes how much force is required to bend a rod. Together with its action, a rod’s power tells you a lot about how it will perform.

Ultralight tells you pretty much everything you need to know: the blank’s power is ultra-light, meaning that it will bend under modest loads. Even with a fast action, a two-pound fish is going to get your attention.

Now, you might be thinking that ultralight means “weak.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Length

Most rod manufacturers don’t make ultralight rods longer than 7 feet in length, because that’s about as long as you want to go for casting accuracy.

Generally speaking, the longer a rod is, the further you can cast with it, but the less precise those casts will be. Shorter rods are deadly accurate, but casting distance will suffer.
Ultralight rods tend toward the shorter end, and the reels they’re designed to seat can’t hold much line. They’re not distance demons, but are geared toward precision and finesse instead. If you need to cast for maximum distance, look for rods closer to 7 feet, and consider slightly stiffer ultralights. That stiffer backbone and longer length will help you reach out a bit more.

I usually fish with a rod that’s six-and-a-half feet long, and that’s probably the best length to start with if you’re unsure of your specific needs.

Line and Lure Weight

The slender, whip-like ultralights take light lines and tiny lures. Look for rods designated with line weights between two and six pounds, with lure sizes ranging from 1/64 of an ounce to as much as ¼ to 1/2.

Guides

Light line provides a unique challenge for rod manufacturers. Because friction can quickly destroy two, four, and six-pound test, ultralight rods need to have pretty serious guides.

Now, you may be thinking that the fish you’ll target with an ultralight really can’t put your rod’s guides to the test, but take a look at the video below. It doesn’t take much friction and heat to break even heavy line, and I guarantee you that low-quality guides will lose you more than one fish!

The best way to test guide quality is also demonstrated below. Just try sawing the line you use against a large guide. If the line breaks quickly, that’s a sign to give that rod a pass.

video demonstrating how fragile line really is and how quality guides can be tested

Material

Modern fishing rods can be made from a variety of materials, including carbon fiber, graphite, and fiberglass. Some feature composite construction, using more than one material in the blank that provides their backbone.

Graphite is strong, stiff, and ultra-light. Due to its high stiffness, it’s also quite sensitive, and it makes a great, durable choice for a rod.

Fiberglass is heavier than graphite and usually less expensive. It’s not quite as sensitive or as stiff, but it can be incredibly strong, earning it a place in your angling arsenal.

Especially for crappie, this is not necessarily a disadvantage, as cushioned hooksets are ideal.

Carbon fiber is the stiffest, strongest, lightest, and most expensive material used for rod blanks. Its performance is unparalleled, but so is its price!

Handle

Much about which handle to choose is a personal decision, and what’s comfortable to me may be misery for you. Generally, there are two primary handle materials: cork and EVA foam.

Cork is warmer and more attractive, but less forgiving of rough treatment.

EVA foam is softer and cooler to the touch, and it’s pretty tough stuff.

Final Thoughts

We can’t tell you which ultralight rod on our shortlist is the best choice for you, but we can guarantee that one of them will fit the bill and put a smile on your face the next time you hit the water.

As always, we’re here to answer any questions and field any comments you might have, so please leave us a message below!

About The Author
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.
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Mike
Mike
3 years ago

How would the new Ugly Stik Carbon in 5'6" fit into this? I'm thinking hard about a lightweight rod and reel to fish brook trout. Excellent article BTW
Cheers, Mike

William Dunn
William Dunn
4 years ago

Thanks so much for the information! Very helpful!

Nicholas J Zarb
Nicholas J Zarb
4 years ago

Interesting article, but I would include the following two rods:

34 PSR advancement 66: 0-1.8g. Solid tip.

Clear Blue Finder 56: 0-1.3g. Solid tip.

These two rods are quite something else. They are extremely sensitive and generally used with 0.3-0.6g jigheads.

David
David
4 years ago

Nice indeed the perspective. Cheers

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