7 Best Ultralight Fishing Rods Reviewed

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Best Ultralight Fishing Rods

Bonjour! Welcome to my review of the best ultralight fishing rods!

Quality, lightness, sturdiness, durability, and affordability. These are what separate the best ultralight fishing rods from the rest. I relied on my 20 years of fishing experience to judge these ultralight fishing rods objectively using those criteria. 

You may have heard the myth that ultralight fishing rods are harder to make and thus cost more. That’s just not true. Choose any of these fishing rods for a fun-filled trout fishing trip without breaking the bank.

Before we go any further, in the interest of time, I’d like to direct your attention to our best overall pick – the St Croix Triumph Spinning Rod. It’s not only one of the lightest, but also the strongest and most durable ultralight fishing rod on the market.

If you’ve got a bit more time to read, or you’re looking for other types of ultralight fishing rods, let’s begin.

Our Top 7 Picks

  1. St Croix Triumph Spinning Rod (Best Overall)
  2. Okuma Celilo Spinning Rod (Best For Casual Anglers) (Best For Surf Fishing)
  3. Shakespeare Micro Spinning Rod (Best Budget)
  4. St Croix Premier Spinning Rod (Best Splurge)
  5. Troutboy Black Warrior Spinning Rod (Best For Travelling)
  6. Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod (Best 2-Piece Rod)
  7. KastKing Perigee II Spinning Rod (Best Ugly Stik Elite Alternative)

The 7 Best Ultralight Fishing Rods

Before we get started, I’d like to clarify that you may see a different range of rod lengths on the product page than listed here. That’s because I’m only including the ultralight options.

With that out of the way, let’s begin.


Best Overall

1. St Croix Triumph Spinning

  • Blank Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Guides: Aluminum Oxide
  • Handle Material: Cork
  • Rod Length: 5-5.5 ft
  • Warranty Period: 5 Years

For the overall best pick, the St Croix Triumph Spinning Rod was the obvious choice. Made with the finest components, it’s unbelievably sensitive, and somehow still manages to be both strong and durable.

Starting off with the components, it features aluminum oxide guides and cork handles. Aluminum oxide is one of the best materials for guides. Not only is it durable, its smoothness virtually eliminates tangles and provides great line control. The cork handles are no slack either. Cork handles provide secure grips and feel comfortable to the touch.

Now on to the rod blank. Carbon fiber guarantees maximum sensitivity so you can feel everything that goes on underwater. 

To top it off, St Croix’s exclusive Fortified Resin System (FRS) technology makes the rod 33% stronger than normal ultralight fishing rods. This means that compared to other rods, you’ll have the same sought-after sensitivity. But you’ll be able to take on larger fish.

As for durability, St Croix is unmatched. Durability depends on how well-built a rod is. Having been in business for more than 70 years, St Croix has a well-earned reputation for building quality premium rods. With such a reputation on the line, St Croix would never risk jeopardizing its good name. Rest assured your St Croix Triumph Spinning Rod will last as long as, if not longer, than any other rod on the market.

The last and arguably most important factor is price. No matter how good a rod is, if it’s too expensive, no one will buy it. Lucky for you, the St Croix Triumph has a very attractive price tag. If you’re looking for a top-notch ultralight fishing rod at a very reasonable price, look no further.


Best For Casual Anglers

Best For Surf Fishing

2. Okuma Celilo Spinning

  • Blank Material: Graphite
  • Guides: Aluminum Oxide
  • Handle Material: Cork
  • Rod Length: 4.5-8.5 ft
  • Warranty Period: 1 Year

Even as affordable as the St Croix Triumph is, it may still be a tad too pricey for your liking. It’s normal for casual anglers who don’t go fishing often to not want to spend so much on a fishing rod. If you’re one of them, the Okuma Celilo is perfect for you. If not, if you’re looking for an ultralight surf fishing rod, you’re still at the right place.

Crafted with graphite, it’s as sensitive as St Croix’s rods. And similar to St Croix’s rods, the Okuma Celilo comes with aluminum oxide guides and a cork handle. As mentioned earlier, aluminum oxide guides are top-of-the-line. Unfortunately, the cork handle is a different story. I found the Okuma Celio’s cork handle to be rather thick. There’s no need for a rod handle to be this thick. It just adds unnecessary weight. 

Another small issue is the product page. This isn’t a problem with the rod, but the product sales page is really unclear. Unlike normal fishing rod sales pages, it doesn’t let you choose options based on length and power. Instead, it lists model numbers and expects you to Google the models to find out yourself.

In the long run though, these are small issues. The rod handle just takes some getting used to, and you’ll spend at most a few minutes Googling the model number. 

More importantly, this is one of the few good quality ultralight fishing rods that go up to 8 ft. Since 8 ft is the perfect length when surf fishing for panfish, the Okuma Celilo is well-suited for surf fishing.

As a whole, despite its tiny flaws, the Okuma Celilo Spinning Rod is a pretty well-made and good quality ultralight rod. It provides great value for casual anglers and is the best for surf fishing. At roughly 1.5 times cheaper than the St Croix Triumph, it’s a steal.


Best Budget

3. Shakespeare Micro Spinning Rod

  • Blank Material: Composite
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Handle Material: Cork
  • Rod Length: 4.5-5 ft
  • Warranty Period: 1 Year

If you still found the Okuma Celilo to be out of your budget, I’ve got just the rod for you – the Shakespeare Micro Spinning Rod. For literally the price of a few cups of coffee, and more than half the price of the Okuma Celilo, you can have yourself an actual working ultralight fishing rod.

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room. How can the price be this low? 

Well for starters, fiberglass is cheaper than graphite. Since composite replaces some graphite with fiberglass, it’ll be cheaper than pure graphite. Stainless steel guides are also cheaper than aluminum oxide guides. All these add up to significant reductions in costs. 

Compromises were also made in the rod assembly to keep costs down. It isn’t very durable, and I’m quite sure after a few months of usage, at least one of the parts will break. On the bright side, the 1-year warranty will cover these broken parts.

If you’re just looking to have a bit of fun with ultralight rods, this will do just fine, although your happiness will be short-lived. Despite the lower quality, it’s sensitive enough to give you the full ultralight experience.

Here’s a fun fact. William Shakespeare Jr founded the Shakespeare brand. It’s been around for more than a century, and more or less all anglers know it.

All things considered, the Shakespeare Micro Spinning Rod is decent, and dirt cheap. It’s the lowest possible price you can get for a functioning ultralight fishing rod.


Best Splurge

4. St Croix Premier Spinning

  • Blank Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Guides: Aluminum Oxide
  • Handle Material: Cork
  • Rod Length: 4.5-7 ft
  • Warranty Period: 5 Years

If you were impressed by the St Croix Triumph, prepare to be mind blown by the St Croix Premier. It has the exact same first-rate components, but lighter, handcrafted, and with a coveted extra feature. You’re in for a treat with the St Croix Premier.

My favourite part about it is that in addition to the FRS technology, it’s handcrafted in the USA. The excellent craftsmanship is what allows it to be lighter than the St Croix Triumph, while still being every bit as sensitive, strong, and durable. I measured both rods’ 5.5 ft options and found that the St Croix Premier was about 10% lighter.

Aside from that, it’s also equipped with a Kigan hook-keeper. This will secure the hook and protect your rod from being damaged during transportation and storage. 

With these sweet upgrades, it should come as no surprise that it’s about 1.5 times more costly. In my opinion, the St Croix Triumph’s lightness will already more than suffice. A hook-keeper is also more of a want than a need. That’s why I ultimately chose the St Croix Triumph as the best overall pick. It already has everything you need. 

Nonetheless, if you want nothing but the best, and have the money to spare, St Croix Premier is the rod for you.


Best For Travelling

5. Troutboy Black Warrior Spinning

  • Blank Material: Composite
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Handle Material: EVA Foam
  • Rod Length: 5.8-11.8 ft
  • Warranty Period: 6 Months

When it comes to telescopic ultralight fishing rods, the Troutboy Black Warrior Spinning Rod dominates the category. Even though telescopic fishing rods are notorious for slow action, the Troutboy Black Warrior is sensitive enough to be an ultralight fishing rod. It’s also durable, portable, and well-made.

I found the rod’s action and power to be borderline ultralight. This is commendable since composite is less sensitive than graphite.

It comes with pretty good stainless steel guides and a comfortable EVA handle too. 

What I liked most were its durability and collapsing smoothness. Over the years, telescopic fishing rods have gotten a bad name for having short lifespans. But the Troutboy Black Warrior is built properly and will last for years. I also had no problems extending and collapsing, further proving that it’s constructed well.

Like all telescopic fishing rods, it’s also portable. It collapses down to a mere 18.8 inches for the 5.83 ft option, and 26.3 inches for the 11.83 ft option.

In short, it’s the best telescopic ultralight fishing rod available. You’ll also be glad to know that it’s extremely affordable. In fact, it costs roughly the same as the budget pick. It’s less sensitive than the budget pick but more portable. If you value portability in a rod, there’s no better ultralight rod than this.


Best 2-Piece Rod

6. Ugly Stik Elite Spinning

  • Blank Material: Composite
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Handle Material: Cork
  • Rod Length: 6.5 ft
  • Warranty Period: 7 Years

Some people prefer 2-piece rods over telescopic rods. It’s faster to set up 2-piece rods more and they’re definitely less hassle. If this sounds like you, you’ll want the Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod. 

There isn’t too much to say, but in short, the Ugly Stik Elite is durable, portable, and of good quality. Ugly Stik rods are known for being unbreakable. Their special “Ugly Tech Construction” makes their rods tough as nails. This rod also has good quality components like stainless steel guides and a cork handle. Safe to say, it’s one of the best 2-piece ultralight fishing rods on the market.

It’s somewhat heavier than the higher-end rods on this list, but aside from that, it’s got few other flaws. Check out the Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod for a modestly priced, portable, and good-quality 2-piece ultralight fishing rod.


Best Ugly Stik Alternative

7. KastKing Perigee II Spinning

  • Blank Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Guides: Fuji O-Ring
  • Handle Material: EVA Foam
  • Rod Length: 4.5-6 ft
  • Warranty Period: Limited Lifetime

For the final contender, the KastKing Perigee II exists only as an alternative to the Ugly Stik Elite. It’s just like the Ugly Stik Elite, good-quality and portable. However, it’s lighter and less durable.

It comes with top-grade Fuji O-ring guides and great EVA handles. Both are excellent for fishing rods.

For its rod blank, carbon fiber is actually lighter than composite. This allows the KastKing Perigee II to be lighter than the Ugly Stik Elite. Alas, you can’t find Ugly Stik’s special technology anywhere else except at Ugly Stik, so Kastking’s Perigee II is less durable.

All in all, the KastKing Perigee II is 15% less costly, but lighter and less durable. If you value lightness and you’re willing to give up some durability, you’ll love the KastKing Perigee II.


Comparison Table

St Croix TriumphOkuma CeliloShakespeare MicroSt Croix PremierTroutboy Black WarriorUgly Stik EliteKastKing Perigee II
Blank MaterialCarbon FiberGraphiteCompositeCarbon FiberCompositeCompositeCarbon Fiber
GuidesAluminum OxideAluminum OxideStainless SteelAluminum
Oxide
Stainless SteelStainless SteelFuji O-Ring
Handle MaterialCorkCorkCorkCorkEVA FoamCorkEVA Foam
Rod Length (ft)5-5.54.5-8.54.5-54.5-75.8-11.86.54.5-6
ActionRanges from Moderate to FastModerateFastRanges from Moderate to FastFastModerate FastRanges from Moderate to Moderate Fast
Warranty Period5 Years1 Year1 Year5 Years6 Months7 YearsLimited Lifetime

Why Do People Use Ultralight Fishing Rods?

It’s definitely possible to catch trout and other smaller species even with light rods. With light rods, you can also target larger fishes than ultralight rods can. So the question is, why would anyone want an ultralight rod over a light rod? 

One word – fun.

Sure you could reel in trout with a light rod, but it’s way more fun with an ultralight rod.

Ultralight rods aren’t just more sensitive. They also enable you to work with lighter lines and lures. 

You’ll be able to cast lighter lures further and with more precision. In other words, you can cast almost weightless lures a good distance.

With lighter lures and lines, when trout, or anything smaller bites, you’ll also be able to feel it more strongly. 

Combined with the increased sensitivity, when reeling small fishes in, you’ll have more of a challenge, making it much more enjoyable.

Choosing The Right Ultralight Fishing Rod

By now, you should have decided on which ultralight fishing rod you want to get. The thing is, the ultralight fishing rod you have in mind might have multiple options. It could and likely will have different lengths and even different power choices.

Here’s how to choose the right option for you.

Rod Power and Action

First off, no I’m not tripping. Yes, your ideal ultralight fishing rod can have different power options.

It goes without saying that since you’re buying an ultralight fishing rod, your rod power should be ultralight. However, oftentimes aside from ultralight, rods have other options too, like light and moderate light. As such, you’ll want to make extra sure you choose the ultralight option.

Next, for rod action, since the point of ultralight fishing rods is to have the best time fishing for smaller fish species, you’ll want your rod to be as sensitive as it can be. This means you’ll want fast action or even extra fast action for your rod. Basically, you’ll want the action to be as fast as possible.

Rod Length

The length of your rod will determine how far you can cast. The longer your rod, the further you’ll be able to cast.

For ultralight fishing rods, 7 ft is a great starting point because it casts far enough to accommodate most fishing styles. 

If you feel you won’t be needing the extra casting distance, you can always opt for a shorter length which will be lighter and easier to handle. Vice versa, if you need to cast further, for something like surf fishing, then you’ll need a longer rod.

Line Guides

Nowadays, it’s rare to find bad guides on rods. The fishing industry has come a long way since a century ago. Even the worst guides now are at least good enough for a decent fishing experience. Whatever the case, this is good news. 

Some of the better materials for line guides are aluminum oxide, stainless steel, titanium alloy, and ceramic. These tend to be the smoothest, most durable, and corrosion-resistant. In particular, titanium alloy is the most resistant to rust.

Materials

As any experienced angler would know, graphite, aka carbon fiber is the most sensitive and lightweight material. As you would expect, it’s the most expensive. 

Conversely, fiberglass is less sensitive and heavier, but also stronger and more durable. 

Composite is when you throw both graphite and fiberglass into a rod, making it a well-balanced mix of sensitive, light and strong. 

For ultralight fishing rods that have to be the most sensitive, clearly graphite is the ideal choice. You’ll be catching really small fish, so you won’t be needing the strength that fiberglass provides. Thus, graphite tends to be the best material for ultralight fishing rods. 

As for the other materials, fiberglass is definitely out of the question. It’s just too stiff for ultralight rods. On the other hand, composite is still a feasible option.

Composite will be less sensitive than pure graphite to some degree. But it’s strong enough for you to take on larger fish than trout, and still sensitive enough to be an ultralight rod. Overall, it will be a little less sensitive than graphite, but you’ll be able to target a wider range of fish.

FAQs

Ultralight fishing rods are a whole different breed. No other fishing rod has to be made so precisely.

Being so different from normal rods, people often have many questions about it. Here are the most common ones.

What Is An Ultralight Fishing Rod?

For seasoned anglers, this may seem redundant. When I first heard the term “ultralight fishing rods” though, I thought it meant a rod that was super light in weight. For those just starting out, it’s normal to not know exactly what ultralight fishing rods are.

The ultralight in ultralight fishing rod actually refers to the rod’s power and not its weight.

Rod power, in layman terms, refers to how hard it is to bend a rod.

Ultralight fishing rods are the easiest to bend and are the best rods for light lines and lures. The optimal pound test for ultralight fishing rods is 1-6 pounds, and the optimal lure weight is 1/32-1/4 oz.

Can you catch bass with an ultralight rod?

Bass are a good deal larger than trout, so you won’t be able to catch all the species of bass. Even so, there are species like the yellow bass that don’t go over 2 pounds.

Ultralight fishing rods will hold up against smaller bass species like yellow bass.

What’s the heaviest fish that ultralight rods can handle? 

For most ultralight fishing rods made with pure graphite, you’ll be sacrificing toughness for sensitivity. This means your rod will be more flimsy.

As such, 2 pounds is the max for usual ultralight fishing rods. For ultralight fishing rods made with composite, you can go up to 3 pounds.

Alternatively, for special cases like St Croix with advanced technology, you can also go up to 3 pounds. These are also not hard and fast rules.

At times, you may exceed the weight limit by a little and it’s fine, but go too overboard and you’ll end up with a broken rod.

Why don’t I see any ultralight baitcasting rods?

If you’re asking a question like this, chances are, you haven’t used baitcasting rods before.

Baitcasting rods do not work well with lines lighter than 10-pound test, so there really isn’t much to explain. Baitcasting rods simply cannot be ultralight.

My Verdict

Ultralight fishing rods open up a world of possibilities. They allow you to feel the smallest fishes, and make any form of fishing more fun.

As a general rule of thumb, the more sensitive an ultralight rod is, the better. Still, there is no one size fits all ultralight fishing rod. Some people prefer less sensitivity for more strength, and others prefer more weight for further casting distance.  

Notwithstanding that, you can’t go wrong with the St Croix Triumph. It’s the perfect balance of lightness, strength and durability. I found it to be my favourite ultralight fishing rod, and I think you will too.

P.S. For those looking for a good reel to pair with your ultralight fishing rod, here are the best ultralight spinning reels.

Photo of author

AUTHOR

Reuben went on his first fishing trip when he was 9. That's when he fell in love with fishing. When he's not fishing, he's searching for new gear and ways to fish better.