Ultralight Rods That Are Heavy on Fun: Best Ultralights Reviewed

Catching perch, crappie, trout, and bass on an ultralight will put a smile on your face every time. When you hear your drag start to complain and you know you’ve got a fight on your hands, there’s an adrenaline rush that only comes with light tackle.

If you’d like to give ultralight a try, we’d like to help. Below, you’ll find a guide to ultralight rods and reviews of a few of our favorites.

Heres a quick glance at the best ultralight rods available today:

Premium Rods

Practical Rods

Budget Rods

Best Ultralight Rod Reviews

Premium Rods

St. Croix Premier PS60ULFOur Pick!

St Croix Premier Spinning Rod, PS60ULF
Available at Amazon  | FishUSA

Specifications

Pros

Cons

Length: 6’
Material: graphite
Power/action: ultralight/fast
Lure size: 1/32 oz. to 3/16 oz.
Line weight: 2 to 6 #
Handle: 12.25” split cork/spinning
Guide material: aluminum oxide
Piece: 1
  • Fantastic sensitivity
  • Excellent casting
  • Quality handles
  • Awesome guides
  • Expensive

Summary

St. Croix’s rods are quickly outstripping their premium competition, including the trusted Fenwick name. That’s not because Fenwick’s rods aren’t excellent–they are–but rather because St. Croix just keeps getting better and better. If you’ve got the money to spend, this is probably the best ultralight rod on the market.

The Premier ultralight features a fast action, and as a combination, it provides the sensitivity you want with the cushioned hookset you need for fish like crappie. Strong, supple, well-balanced, and light, this rod is everything you’re looking for. Whether you’re angling for bass, walleye, or trout, this rod can handle them all with no worries–and your line will break long before the Premier does.

The premium-quality aluminum oxide guides will pamper your line. In our view, these are among the best available. Casting is outstanding with this rod as well, irrespective of lure size.

Quality cork furnishes this rod’s long handle, and you’ll find plenty of room for even the biggest hands to cast comfortably. If you prefer split handles, and some anglers do, you might look to the Fenwick as the most capable alternative.

If you’re willing to pay for an awesome rod, the St. Croix is very hard to match. For my money, I’d say that this rod edges out premium competition like the G. Loomis by virtue of the fast action, but that’s largely a matter of personal preference.

Fenwick Elite Tech River Runner ERR69UL-FS-2

Fenwick Elite Tech River Runner Spin
Amazon  | FishUSA

Length: 6’ 9”
Material: graphite
Power/action: ultralight/fast
Lure size: 1/32 oz. to 3/16 oz.
Line weight: 2 to 6 #
Handle: split cork/spinning
Guide material: titanium

Fenwick’s rods are legendary, and if you pick one up, you’ll know why. Among the most expensive of the options we’ve reviewed, you can be sure that you’re getting premium quality for your money.

The River Runner ultralight features a fast action, and I prefer this in an ultralight as it gives me more control during a fight. I also find that this combination of power, action, and length works well for everything from bluegill to bass.

Unsurprisingly, this Fenwick casts like a dream and is plenty strong to boot. Big perch and small walleye won’t have a chance, and I’d trust this rod with a pretty impressive largemouth.

In short, you should feel confident putting it to the test with pretty much anything that takes your lure!

Its titanium guides are about as good as they come; expect no trouble here.

If you’re a fan of split handles and high-end cork, the Fenwick has you covered. It also offers a unique rod seat design that encloses the mechanism, yielding a continuous cork grip. That’s a nice touch, and we really like that feature.

Pros:

  • Fantastic sensitivity
  • Excellent casting
  • Quality handles
  • Great guides

Cons:

  • Expensive

G. Loomis Classic Trout/Panfish SR661 GL3

Classic Trout Spinning, SR661 GL3
Amazon 

Length: 5’ 6”
Material: graphite
Power/action: ultralight/moderate
Lure size: 1/32 to 3/16 oz.
Line weight: 2 to 6 #
Handle: 11”split cork/spinning
Guide material: N/A
Pieces: 1

G. Loomis is a legend in the rod-making community, and from quality control to materials, you can expect a very, very fine rod if you’re willing to swallow the price tag.

Their Classic Trout/Panfish rod is in many respects the standard of excellence. Intentionally short to facilitate super accurate casts and give you room to make them while fishing small streams, this rod is both strong and sensitive.

G. Loomis’s blanks are among the best on the market, hands-down, and you’ll feel it in every cast and fight. Designed to cast very light lures on two to six-pound line, it can handle serious brook and brown trout and is simply murder on bluegill and crappie.

The long, premium cork handle is as beautiful as it is comfortable, and guide quality is as awesome as you’d expect.

If you prefer a moderate action ultralight and your budget can afford to take a hit, this is probably the best rod you can buy. That said, we prefer a fast action for heavier fish like bass and walleye, though the G. Loomis is definitely up to the task.

Pros:

  • Fantastic sensitivity
  • Excellent casting
  • Premium handles
  • Awesome guides

Cons:

  • Expensive!

Practical Rods

Cadence Fishing CR5 562S-ULMFOur Pick!

Cadence Fishing CR5 Spinning Rods | 30 Ton Carbon | Fuji Reel Seat | Stainless Steel Guides with SiC Inserts | CR5-662S-LMF
Amazon 

Length: 5’6”
Material: graphite
Power/action: ultralight/moderate-fast
Lure size: 1/32 to 1/8 oz..
Line weight: 2 to 6 #
Handle: 12” cork and EVA foam/spinning
Guide material: stainless steel with SiC inserts
Pieces: 2

Cadence Fishing offers serious rods at bargain prices, and if you’re looking for a dedicated panfish rod, this is a great choice. Our favorite is the 5’6” with a moderate-fast action.

Due to a combination of length, action, and power, this CR5 will provide excellent, accurate casting. And like other short rods, this would be among my first choices for trout fishing on a small stream.

I think that the moderate-fast action is strong enough to turn bigger fish in a bad fight while still offering the use of very light lines under high stress. This rod will flex along much of its length, absorbing force that would otherwise simply be transferred to your line.

This CR5 ultralight is very strong, and catching largemouth or walleye up to the line’s limit should be no problem. While maybe not the best rod for controlling a real brute, I’d be happy to have one on the end of this rod!

Guide quality is excellent, and the handle is of premium quality and just the right length.

Overall, this is a strong contender for our top spot and a fantastic rod for panfish.

Pros:

  • Fantastic sensitivity
  • Quality handles
  • Great guides
  • Soft hooksets are pretty much guaranteed
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • ???

Bass Pro Shops Micro Lite Graphite MIL66ULS-2

bass pro micro lite spinning rod ml66uls-2 bass pro micro lite rod reel seat

Available at Bass Pro

Check Out Our Full Bass Pro Micro Lite Graphite Rod Review

Length: 6’ 6”
Material: graphite
Power/action: ultralight/fast
Lure size: 1/32 oz. to 1/4 oz.
Line weight: 1 to 6 #
Handle: 13”cork/spinning
Guide material: stainless steel
Pieces: 2

Bass Pro Shop’s house-brand ultralight rod is an excellent choice when you want to maximize your fun catching bluegill, crappie, smallmouth, and trout. Economically priced, you get a lot for what you pay.

The six-and-a-half-foot ultralight we prefer is available in fast action, but due to the rod’s power, it offers a fantastic combination of sensitivity and finesse. I own and fish with this rod, and I find that it casts very well, even with 1/32 and 1/64 ounce lures. It’s been sensitive enough for me to feel the lightest strikes, too, and it can handle some respectable largemouth with aplomb.

The cork handles are smooth, comfortable, and spacious, providing plenty of room for anglers with big hands. They’ve stood the test of time for me, and I’ve heard no complaints from others.

Some anglers, though, have found that the guide quality has suffered in newer models, especially when using tough fluorocarbon line. The result is that the guides have been notched by friction, rather than the line breaking, however. I typically fish mono, and I’ve experienced no trouble at all.

One other niggle: there’s no hook keeper.

Pros:

  • Fantastic sensitivity
  • Gentle hooksets
  • Excellent casting
  • Quality handles
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Guide quality issues with fluorocarbon?
  • No hook keeper

Ugly Stik Elite USESP662UL

Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod 5' - Ultra Light - 2pc
Available at Amazon  | FishUSA

Length: 6’6”
Material: Ugly tech (graphite/fiberglass)
Power/action: ultralight/medium
Lure size: 1/32 to 1/8 oz.
Line weight: 2 to 6 #
Handle: cork
Guide material: stainless steel
Pieces: 2

Shakespeare’s Ugly Stiks have built a reputation for being bomb-proof, if a bit low-end. Some of that reputation is well-deserved: these rods are notably tougher than any others I’ve fished, bar none. Given that I’ve broken a few ultralight rods over the years, though always by mishandling, I’d have to give a nod to these rods’ practicality.

But not all of that rep fits this rod. The Elite isn’t just tough–it’s also a surprisingly refined rod for how sturdy it is. It casts well and provides plenty of sensitivity at the tip. Its handle is well-designed, too, and plenty comfortable for all-day fishing.

The Elite offers high-quality guides, which only makes sense given the bruising this rod can take.

Indeed, where this rod really shines is as an all-arounder. When you’re throwing a small lure, a big fish can take an active interest. When it does, it’s nice to know you’ve got a rod that can handle it, and the Ugly Stik Elite has you covered!

Check out this monster smallmouth!

Pros:

  • Great sensitivity
  • Quality handles
  • Great guides
  • Incredibly tough
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Generally less refined than the competition

Budget Rods

Okuma Celilo CE-S-662UL-1

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

Length: 6’6”
Material: graphite
Power/action: ultralight/moderate
Lure size: 1/32 to 3/8 oz.
Line weight: 2 to 6 #
Handle: cork
Guide material: stainless steel with aluminum oxide inserts
Pieces: 2

Okuma offers a lot of rod for just a bit of money with the Celilo. Our favorite is the 6’6”, and while it’s not going to give the St. Croix, G. Loomis, or Fenwick a run for their money, we wouldn’t feel seriously outgunned, either!

The blank on this rod bends pretty easily to about 1/3rd from the tip, at which point the backbone will start to resist a touch. I say “touch” because this is an ultralight, and a serious fish will quickly bend this rod into an arc. That’s not a criticism by any means, and especially with two or four-pound test, this feature can save you from a line failure.

The Celilo casts well at this length, while still remaining accurate with light lines and lures. Guide quality is impressive at this price point, rivaling far more expensive options. The handle is large and comfortable, too.

For the money, this is an impossibly good rod, and I’d recommend giving one a try! That said, I’d hesitate to put this rod to the test against walleye or largemouth, as I doubt it’ll stand up to as much abuse as alternatives with more expensive blanks.

Pros:

  • Great sensitivity
  • Gentle hooksets
  • Superb casting
  • Excellent guides
  • Quality handles
  • Budget priced!

Cons:

  • May be fragile

Berkley Lightning Rod BSLR662UL

Berkley Lightning Rod Trout Rod
Available at Amazon  | Available at Bass Pro

Length: 6’6”
Material: graphite
Power/action: ultralight/moderate
Lure size: 1/32 to 1/4 oz.
Line weight: 2 to 6 #
Handle: cork
Guide material: Stainless steel with aluminum oxide inserts
Pieces: 2

Berkley’s Lightning Rods have been a favorite for generations of anglers, and I’ve used one for many, many years of hard fishing. Their 6’6” ultralight is priced right, and it won’t let you down.

I found my Lightning Rod to cast well. Of course, more expensive blanks tend to have an advantage on this front, but for this price point, you can count me as impressed! Like the Okuma, guide quality is excellent, rivaling far more expensive rods.

Berkley’s rod is plenty sensitive, and I never felt underpowered when fighting largemouth, even up to two to three pounds. I knew there was a real fish on the line, but even with a moderate action, I was able to fight back with six-pound test and a properly set drag.

The cork handles are nicely designed, although for cost savings, they’re made from tiny pieces of cork bound by epoxy. Is that a problem? Not at all!

Give this inexpensive rod a chance to shine and you won’t be disappointed.

Pros:

  • Great sensitivity
  • Gentle hooksets
  • Superb casting
  • Excellent guides
  • Good handles
  • Budget priced!

Cons:

  • Budget materials with the exception of the guides

Our Top Picks: The St. Croix Premier PS60ULF, The Cadence Fishing CR5 562S-ULMF, and The Okuma Celilo CE-S-662UL-1

There’s a world of difference between a $200 rod and a $20 alternative, and our top picks reflect that. But from the incredible performance of our premium options to the budget-minded alternatives, all will get the job done and then some.

What makes rods like the St. Croix, Fenwick, and G. Loomis stand out is that every detail is what you’d expect. Offering exceptional blanks, they’re probably stronger than the competition, a touch more sensitive, farther casting, and just generally a bit better all around.

But that quality doesn’t come cheap.

Affordable rods like the CR5, the Bass Pro, and the Ugly Stik aren’t quite as refined, but they’re mighty fine additions to pretty much every angler’s arsenal. I fish the Bass Pro a lot, and I’ve never been disappointed! That said, the CR5 edges it out by a hair, offering impressive sensitivity, strength, and casting in a reasonably-priced package.

And the budget offerings from Okuma and Berkley will really surprise you, especially if you were expecting a grossly inferior product. Far from it: the Okuma performs like a much more expensive rod. But the difference between components really will separate premium and budget rods on the water, and you will be able to feel a difference in your hand.

Does that make a $200 rod ten times better than the Okuma? I don’t think I’d go that far! And as fishing tech improves, some “practical” rods are giving their premium competition a run for their money.

Let us know what you think of our recommendations, and please leave a comment below.

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!

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.

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.

By contrast, a moderate action ultralight will bend along its length even more before the blank begins to resist. This can often extend to the point of a parabolic arc, helping to cushion your light line in a heavy fight. You’ll sacrifice some control, but you’ll gain shock absorption.

Which is best for you is largely a matter of preference.

describing power and action

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, as this gentleman’s bass demonstrates:

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.

Reel Selection

Ultralight rods are almost always paired with spinning reels. That’s because they handle light line far better than baitcasters or closed-face reels can.

Why?

A spinning reel offers less friction than alternatives.

As line leaves a baitcasting reel, it must spin the spool. No matter how well made, and no matter how many bearings the reel includes, that friction will kill casting distance.

Closed-face or “spincasting” reels fair a bit better, but line friction with internal design and the housing will generally mean that spinning reels are slightly superior.

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