Fishing with ultralight equipment is fun and challenging. However, shopping for an ultralight rod can bring up some unexpected questions.
Light tackle is specialized. For most anglers, it's one part of a larger gear collection, and many fishermen have more familiarity with conventional weight rods. If you've purchased a medium-heavy baitcasting rod for jig fishing and a sturdy spinning rod for topwater action, for example, you know about different fishing rod types, but you may find that buying ultralight gear will take a little extra research.
That's where this article can help. We'll dig into all the important details and give you the information you need to choose the right ultralight rod.
- Best Overall - Okuma Celilo
- Best Value - Shakespeare Micro
- Best Premium - KastKing Pedigree II
This section contains our top picks—seven of the best ultralight spinning rods available. If you're in the market for an ultra-light rod, these reviews will steer you toward some very solid options.
Best Overall - OKUMA Celilo Ultralight Graphite Trout Spinning Rod
The OKUMA Celilo is a top-notch fishing rod at an affordable price. It's made using an extremely sensitive graphite blank, a high-quality handle, and a sturdy stainless-steel reel seat, all of which gives you the solid feel you'll want when battling fish on ultralight tackle. This rod's aluminum oxide guide inserts are corrosion-resistant and slick to give you total line control. All rods in the OKUMA Celilo line are made with front and rear grips of premium cork, so they have the same look and feel as high-end rods.
For close quarters like tree-lined streams or ponds surrounded by brush, one of the shorter rods in the Celilo lineup, the 4 1/2' or 5' model, for example, may be ideal. If you want to have a little more room to work with or if you know you'll be going after larger fish, the extra reach and control that comes from a longer rod may steer you towards the 6' or 6 1/2' model. No matter which length you choose, you'll get awesome action and sensitivity at a great price when you chose an OKUMA Celilo ultralight trout fishing rod.
Best Budget - Shakespeare Micro Ultralight Spinning Rod
Getting fishing gear that can handle lighter line and tiny lures doesn't have to cost a lot. Our budget pick is the Shakespeare Micro Spinning Rod. Coming from a company that has a well-earned reputation for manufacturing high-quality fishing rods, all the Micro Spinning Rods are made using the finest components. A strong graphite composite blank gives you the perfect blend of sensitivity and power. The premium cork handle incorporates a solid reel seat with cushioned hoods. This rod's stainless-steel guides are durable and corrosion-resistant, while smooth stainless-steel inserts ensure your line shoots through with ease.
When you need to reach out over current in a fast-moving stream or steer a big fish away from trouble, having a longer rod in your hand can really help. The longest rod in the Micro Spinning Rod series measures 7 1/2' in length, which can give you a lot of control, even with a bendy rod. A shorter rod may be a better choice if you will be fishing in areas where it's hard to cast; in that case, the 4 1/2' or 5' model might be better for you.
Best Premium - KastKing Perigee II Spinning Rod
If you're OK with spending a little bit more on an ultralight rod, there are many great options, some costing hundreds of dollars. Our top pick for a premium ultralight spinning rod is the KastKing Perigee II, and it does not come with a three-digit price tag.
You'll find amazing quality and craftsmanship in the whole line up of KastKing Perigee II Fishing Rods. A highly engineered carbon fiber blank produces an ideal action while giving the rod remarkable strength and sensitivity. The finest components are used in this rod's construction, including premium Fuji O-Ring guides, a solid graphite reel seats, and high-density EVA grips.
You can choose from four rod lengths, including a compact 4 1/2' model that can come in handy when there's not a lot of room to cast, and a classic 6-footer that can help you in a huge variety of fishing situations.
A KastKing Perigee II costs only a little more than the other two ultralight rods we discussed here, but when you pick up one of these rods, you'll understand that it's a cut above many other midrange rods in terms of quality.
Berkley Lightning Trout Casting Rod
If you haven't tried a Berkley rod before, I'll have you know that you're in for a treat with the Lightning Trout rod. This ultralight two-piece rod is outstanding when casting and it seems to handle quite a wide range of lure weights really well.
Created specifically with trout fishing in mind, the Berkley Lightning has durability and sensitivity as its two key factors. It features high-quality aluminum oxide inserts that prevent slippage which can sometimes happen with light lines.
The stainless steel guides and the 24 ton multi-modulus carbon blank ensures excellent strength - even in a 2-piece setup!
The rod is available in several lengths including 6'6", 7' and 7' - all with ultra light or light power, ideal for dough baits.
Fenwicks Eagle Spinning Rod
The Fenwicks Eagle is a very versatile spinning rod available in a wide range of sizes. While some models are larger in size and with medium heavy power, the EA56L-MS-2, 5'6" rod version with ultra light power truly is one of the lightest spinning rods you'll find. 3.7 lbs - that's crazy!
Built with a burled cork handle and a solid yet sensible graphite blank, comfort and control is in the high seat with the Fenwick Eagle rod.
With SS304 chromium-plated inserts and stainless steel guides, you get a light solution which is only half the weight of aluminum-oxide guides.
Top all these goods off with piece of mind thanks to Fenwicks 5-year warranty on their Eagle rods. They back their products because they know they'll last.
Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod
The Ugly Stik Elite spinning rod is one of the most popular options out there. With a solid graphite and fiberglass combo blank that Ugly Stik describe as "virtually indescructible", the foundation for greatness is laid.
The rod is available in a variety of different sizes with different power and action ratings and there are both 1-piece and 2-piece selections available, should you have a favorite.
Geared with lightweight one-piece stainless steel guides and the Ugly Stik Clear Tip design, you get excellent strength in a rod that'll allow you to feel the slighest hooks.
All in all, the Ugly Stik Elite is a very versatile rod that can do just about any job, but the lightweight models are particularly good for responsiveness and fishing with light lures.
St Croix Trout Freshwater Spinning Rod
Lastly we have the St. Croix trout freshwater spinning rod. It is the most expensive rod on this list but the quality follows.
The St Croix Trout spinning rod features what is arguably the most advanced blank on this list. It's made from a carefully designed SCVI and SCII graphite blend, resulting in extreme strength, performance and durability.
Due to the use of a fortified resin system (a process in which the blank is baked in a computer-controlled oven to prevent micro buckling), this rod is measurably stronger than its competition.
Even though the strength is incredible, flexibility and sensitivity are also key factors that are present in this utlralight St Croix spinning rod.
If you're willing to splurge a bit on your purchase, the St. Croix Trout freshwater rod is an excellent selection.
Why Use Ultralight Rods?
We all like loading up with heavy-duty gear and targeting huge fish. Catching big fish is one of the most exciting things about the sport of fishing, but it's not the only thing.
Sometimes it's fun to down-size your gear. It can make fishing really enjoyable because even small fish will put a serious bend in a whippy ultralight rod, and lighter gear can make battling with feisty panfish considerably more challenging than when you just horse them in.
There are also a couple more practical reasons that people use ultralight gear. In some situations, it's the only type of gear that will lead to success. When you're targeting heavily pressured fish, it's often necessary to switch to light line and small lures to attract a strike.
In another case, ultralight tackle is the only way to cast a lure that weighs almost nothing, and some fishing scenarios call for the lightest lures you can imagine. When you need to get a 1/32 oz spinner across a stream or into the middle of a pond, having an ultralight rod in your hand is one of the only ways to do it effectively.
Whether you'd like to level the playing field with smaller fish or you want to size down your presentation to attract stubborn fish, having an ultralight rod when you need one is a great idea.
Factors to Consider Before Buying
When an angler shops for ultralight gear, even an experienced rod shopper, it's common to encounter factors that don't apply when buying conventional gear. For example, an early decision any angler must make is whether to buy a casting rod or a spinning rod. That's simply not relevant when you're shopping for ultralight rods.
When it comes to ultralight, you may as well rule out casting equipment.
They do make ultralight casting rods and small reels to go on them, but they don't come close to the whippy, super sensitive, versatile ultralight spinning equipment that dominates the category. Plus, casting reels don't handle really light baits a well as spinning reels do - there's really no comparison.
So, we can focus exclusively on spinning rods, and that fact alone helps a lot when trying to select from a huge array of rod options. With the rod type decided, in this section, we'll look at the considerations that matter when selecting a great light fishing rod.
Weight and Action
When you shop for a fishing rod, one of the main things you have to concern yourself with is the rod's weight and action. With ultralight rods, those two factors are basically locked in. Virtually every ultralight rod will have a fast action, and as for the weight, that's right there in the category name - it will be "ultralight" as opposed to light, medium, or heavy.
If you're not familiar with this terminology, now is a good time for a couple of definitions.
- A fishing rod's "weight" refers to its stiffness, or how easily the rod bends.
- A rod's "action" describes the location in the rod's length where the bend occurs.
A rod with a slow action bends all the way down to the handle whereas a fast action rod bends in only the top third of the blank.
As mentioned above, the weight of an ultralight rod is ultralight - that means it's not very stiff. The action of ultralight rods is generally quite fast, putting the greatest bend near the tip.
These two factors, weight and action, can drive a rod shopper crazy when shopping for conventional fishing rods, but ultralight equipment is fairly consistent across manufacturers — all the rods in the category will be the opposite of stiff and they'll all have a fairly fast action.
Rod length can be one of the most important factors when you select an ultralight rod. The length you choose should be based on where and how you'll be fishing, including the lures you plan to use and the techniques you will employ.
In general, longer rods allow for longer casts and they move line fast, which allows for great sweeping hooksets. A longer rod can also give you the upper hand when fighting a fish because it will allow you to put more pressure on the fish and move it away from cover.
Anglers often find that shorter rods allow them to make more accurate casts and execute trick casts like skipping lures under docks.
When you're picking out a lightweight spinning rod, if you consider the lures you'll use and think about where and how you'll be fishing, making the rod-length part of this decision should be easy!
Matching the Rod to Your Reel
If you already own an ultralight spinning reel, it's important to select a rod that's a good match. Try to choose a rod that will result in a rig that feels balanced and be sure the rod and reel both have the same line weights recommended by the manufacturer.
Most modern rods are made from graphite. Parallel graphite fibers are formed into sheets with resin and the material is subjected to high heat during the manufacturing process, which gives the resulting blank strength and stiffness.
That defines the basic structure of a modern rod. Some may be made with additional layers using materials like carbon fiber or fiberglass. This is done primarily in high-end rods and is a technique that manufacturers use to fine-tune the weight and action.
While they may not be high-end rods, the ultralight rods we reviewed here are all made using conventional graphite blanks that result from advanced manufacturing techniques. Not only are the blanks made to exacting standards, they are also fitted with high-quality hardware.
Most rod manufacturers take the attached hardware as seriously as they do their blanks, selecting strong, durable materials to construct real seats and guides. These components have a lot to do with the proper functioning of a rod, so they're important to pay attention to when you're shopping for an ultralight rod.
You can find ultralight rods that cost hundreds of dollars, but, for most of, ultralight fishing gear is somewhat secondary in our gear collection. It complements our conventional fishing rigs and it's fun to use when the situation calls for it, but it may be hard to justify spending a ton of money on a feather-weight rod.
The good news is you don't have to spend a lot to get a really good ultralight rod. The materials and manufacturing techniques involved in rod making have gotten extremely sophisticated, and manufacturers are able to employ state-of-the-art processes when making even their moderately priced rods.
Especially for budget-conscious anglers, it's advisable to limit your ultralight rod shopping to low- and mid-priced options. You can get some awesome ultralight gear at extremely affordable prices!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best length for an ultralight rod?
While there isn't a single right answer, a 5'6" to 6'6" rod is a great starting place for getting into ultralight tackle. This size interval is the most versatile, so it will be useful for various situations whereas shorter or longer UL rods will be specialized for more specific angling scenarios.
Are ultralight rods worth it?
While you can often get good results with regular rods, ultralight ones excel at precision casting in smaller, more shallow waters. They'll allow you to feel bites of smaller species more easily and be highly responsive with lightweight lures.
Can you catch big fish with an ultralight rod?
While it is possible to catch decently-sized fish with an ultralight rod, it is simply not strong enough to properly handle the fight with bigger fish. There's a high chance you won't be able to control the fight, and your line may break more easily. Worst case scenario, your rod may crack or even break as it is under more stress than it is built for.
When you're just headed down to the creek to catch some bluegill or catfish, you can grab any old fishing pole, but some techniques and fishing scenarios require specialized equipment.
Ultralight fishing is a technique that, when employed at the right time, can be extremely satisfying and productive. Whether you want to have more fun loading your cooler with panfish, you need to scale down your equipment to satisfy finicky fish, or you want to be able to cast practically weightless lures, ultralight gear can be the answer.
If you've been shopping for an ultralight rod, there's no doubt you'll be able to find one that's perfect for the type of fishing you have planned, but there are some important features you'll want to look for, and there's no reason to settle for a rod that doesn't have them.
We hope this article has provided you with all the information you need to make an informed decision and purchase the ideal ultralight rod to suit your needs.
We recommend checking out our guide to the 10 Best Spinning Rods for further reading and a more general angle on spinning rods.