Shakespeare’s UglyStik has built a reputation for bomb-proof toughness, and if you’ve ever felt the heart-wrenching pain of a broken rod, you can understand just how important that can be.
They also price their rods for the rest of us, putting them within easy reach of the vast majority of anglers.
But inexpensive rods often just don’t make the cut, and below $60 or so, there’s more trash than treasure.
The Elite is UglyStik’s attempt to deliver good quality at an affordable price, and in this review, I’ll be putting their 7-foot casting rod to the test.
How does it stack up to the competition?
Keep reading to find out!
Table of Contents (clickable)
UglyStik Elite Casting Rod Review
Blank material: graphite/fiberglass composite
Lure size: 1/4 oz. to ¾ oz.
Line weight: 10 to 20#
Handle: 15.15 “ continuous cork
Guide material: 8 +1/stainless steel
The heart of any rod is its blank, and in this case, Shakespeare has chosen to upgrade their usual fiberglass with a graphite core.
The idea is to combine the no-nonsense toughness fiberglass UglyStiks are rightly famous for with the improved sensitivity and stiffness of graphite.
Out of the shipping tube, this blank retained a bit of bend toward the tip. That’s really not an issue: most blanks will have some warp during manufacture, and often, fiberglass rods will straighten with time in any case.
As far as performance is concerned, this blank is better than I expected on a rod at this price point.
It’s very sensitive at the tip, something you can expect on UglyStiks generally, and this will help you detect everything from light strikes to the suck as a bass engulfs your worm.
When you do hook a big fish, expect the blank to find its backbone about 1/3rd from the tip. At that point, you’ll discover tremendous muscle and enormous strength. To quickly put this to the test, I spooled it up with 20-pound Stren mono and tied on a 5kg (11-pound) weight.
I wasn’t looking to break the rod or do anything stupid, but rather just to get a sense of what dead weight would tell me about the blank. The rod took the strain with ease, bending in a nice parabolic arc for the first half or so, and leaving me with plenty of oomph on my end.
What does this tell me?
When you hook a real brute, you’re going to have plenty of control. A large bass is not going to out-muscle you–for sure–and even a large pike, big red, or small shark is going to be forced to reckon with this blank.
In short, I wouldn’t hesitate to use this rod on any fish my line can take.
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this blank when the rod was delivered. I generally prefer graphite blanks, though I see the advantages fiberglass offers for crankbaits.
But having broken one rod, I really appreciate that this is one tough Stik! And the sensitivity and backbone are impressive, especially when compared to other rods for the money.
Guide quality often suffers on reasonably priced rods–that’s a simple fact.
To keep costs down, rod manufacturers cut corners on guide quality, skipping the silicone oxide inserts and the Fuji name brand to reach a price-point most anglers can hit.
In this case, that’s certainly true. And while you get eight guides, including the tip, they’re not as robust as the ones you’d find on higher-end rods like those from G. Loomis or St. Croix.
Expect polished one-piece stainless steel–what Shakespeare calls Ugly Tuff technology. They’re massively strong and well-wrapped; they’ll take a beating and stay put.
As you can see here, they’re not perfectly aligned–but that’s purely cosmetic. In practice, unless alignment is truly awful, it doesn’t affect anything.
My testing revealed that they’re better than you’d think:
- There are enough guides to evenly distribute weight and stress.
- They’re small to improve sensitivity–always a good thing.
- They can take a beating on the water, in your boat, and in the bed of your truck.
- And I sawed at the largest guide with 6-pound mono. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get the line to fray from friction.
Pretty? No. They’re pretty Ugly…
But on the water, I’d have every confidence that these Ugly Tuff guides will get the job done and protect my line in a hard fight.
Count me as surprised and impressed!
If Shakespeare cut corners on the cork handle, I can’t see where. Fully 15 inches (and some change…) long, there’s plenty of room to cast and fight. For the purposes of this rod, that’s important, and I really can’t fault it at all.
When I tested this rod with heavy dead weight, I found plenty of territory for two hands, and ample room to jam the end into my abdomen to really pull.
If you prefer split handles or EVA foam, this is probably not your best bet, but the cork looks pretty good, and the slight contours are a nice touch.
The trigger is a cheap-looking plastic but feels strong and smooth in my hand.
The UglyStik Elite wearing the excellent Shimano Curado HGK.
My verdict: better than you’d expect!
The reel seat on the UglyStik Elite is made from plastic, some of which is dressed-up to resemble polished metal.
I wasn’t impressed at first blush–trust me. But when I topped with my Shimano and cranked it down, there was no wiggle–not even the slightest tremor!
In truth, though it looks pretty cheap, it’s been as secure and tight as any I’ve used. And though it’s clear that this is a place where Shakespeare is shaving dollars off the price tag, as the bard himself says, “All’s well that ends well!”
Again, count me as impressed.
You’re not going to mistake the UglyStik Elite for a high-end rod–but then, neither will your wallet.
And let’s be realistic, a lot of us–myself included–are on a tight budget, and dropping a few hundred dollars on a rod is just not in the cards. And for anglers who need to buy a whole slew of rods, whether that’s to equip a family or outfit a guide boat, a bargain-priced rod that can deliver the goods is just the thing.
I wasn’t sure how the Elite would stack up until I put it through its paces, but honestly, you can count me as a fan.
Give it a chance, and I think you’ll feel the same.