Best Ultralight Rods

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

24 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
368 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best ultralight rods

Last Updated December 2019

Ultralight fishing rods have been favored by trout and bass anglers for decades. They are now gaining popularity with backpackers who angle in high mountain streams and small glacial lakes, as well. Because ultralight rods weigh so little and don’t take up much space in a backpack, they are perfect for traveling, hiking, and camping. They’re also suitable for people with mobility issues, shoulder stiffness, and back pain.

Ultralight fishing isn’t just for people who want to travel light, though. It’s for anyone who is interested in casting off much of the weight found on traditional rods and reels. When you engage in ultralight fishing, everything from your lure to your line to your rod is lighter than average. Liberated from the extra weight, you may find yourself reeling in lots of smaller fish —  and you can still catch big ones, too.

Read on to learn more about ultralight rods and the benefits they provide. When you are ready to purchase, check out our top choices.

Ultralight fishing rods, because they are shorter and lighter than traditional longer rods, are easier to manage when fishing in a location with dense brush.

Key considerations

Benefits of using an ultralight rod

Ultralight rods are not toys, but they sure deliver a lot of fun on the water.

  • An ultralight rod allows the angler to make quiet, delicate fly or lure presentations, feeling the fight from a small to medium-size trout, bass, or crappie.
  • Ultralight rods are lighter in overall weight, and repetitive casting is therefore easier on the body. They’re also easier to pack and carry.
  • The flexibility of an ultralight spinning rod makes casting smooth, easy, and precise.
  • The agile tip makes fighting an energetic trout all the more fun.

 

The combination of graphite and fiberglass in this ultralight rod offers precision placement with superb casting balance. The cork handle is easy on the hands, too. Owners have used it to catch both light panfish and heavy trout.

Types of ultralight rods

There are two types of ultralight rods: fly rods and spinning rods. Ultralight fishing rods are typically made from lightweight fiberglass or graphite. While it’s true that you could feasibly catch nearly any small fish with any size or type of fishing pole, if you want the best equipment possible for your game, it’s important to choose the right fishing rod.

Ultralight fly rods

Traditional fly rods are labeled 5wt, which means that a 5wt line is recommended for the rod. Ultralight rods are shorter and lighter. They are labeled as 3, 2, 1, aught (0), double-aught (00), and triple-aught (000) weights. When looking at an ultralight rod, keep in mind that that this numbering system does not represent the weight of the rod. Rather, it reflects the size or weight of fishing line the rod is designed to cast.

Experienced trout guides suggest that an ultralight fly rod is the best type of fly rod for angling in small streams. If you are considering an ultralight rod, drop down at least two weights lighter than the lightest fly rod you own. Unsure where to start? Begin with a 3wt.

Ultralight spinning rods

Ultralight spinning rods are rated by action, or the point where the rod flexes along the blank. Rods that are rated ultra-fast, or “fast action”, are the best choice for enhanced tip sensitivity and better accuracy when casting lures.

Ultralight spinning rods are typically less than six feet long, which is shorter than traditional gear. Ultra-fast and fast spinning rods do not bend at the base: all of the flexibility is in the tip. Flexibility in the butt end signifies a slower-action rod. Rods with moderate action tend to flex in the middle.

EXPERT TIP

It takes more skill to land a big fish with an ultralight rod, as the rod and line are more likely to break if they aren’t carefully manipulated.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Rod power

Fishing poles or rods are classified by rod weight, or “power value.” The thickness of a rod, as well as the material with which it’s made, determine rod power.

Rod power is defined by the rod’s ability to lift from the tip of the blank. In other words, it is a measurement of the amount of force required to bend the rod. Saltwater fishermen use extra-heavy rods for surf or deep-sea fishing, while ultralight fishing rods are best for catching panfish in small streams.

Rod material

Blank: The body, or blank, of an ultralight fishing rod is typically made of graphite, fiberglass, or a combination of the two.

Handle: Many lightweight fishing rods have handles or grips made of cork. Cork is easy on the hands and doesn’t contribute much weight to the rod.

Guides: The guides are very small and usually made of a quality material like stainless steel, aluminum oxide, chrome. Because of their tiny size, they don’t add much weight to the rod. For the sake of durability, look for a rod made with quality guides that won’t corrode or rust.

Reel seat: The reel seat is where the reel is mounted. Stainless steel is a common material. Just like the guides, it won’t add much to the weight, but a reel seat made of a reliable material is important for the durability of the rod.

Rod length

Ultralight fishing often entails a shorter rod. You may find them as short as four feet long, but some ultralight rods are nine feet long. The average ultralight rod is somewhere between five and six feet long.

EXPERT TIP

Pair your ultralight rod with ultralight lures and line for best results. The goal is to keep the weight down.


Staff  | BestReviews

Accessories

If you are going fishing, you want to catch fish and have a good time doing it. An ultralight fishing rod is but one of several pieces of equipment you will want to take on your trip to have the best outdoor fishing experience possible.

Fishing reel: The balance of the rod and reel should feel comfortable in your hand and easy to manage and cast. You’ll want to choose an ultralight reel specifically designed to pair with an ultralight rod. We like the smooth-rolling Okuma Helios Lightweight Spinning Reel for its lightweight construction, ease of use, and appealing low price.

Ultralight lures: For ultralight fishing, you need ultralight lures — otherwise, you defeat the purpose of cutting weight from your rod and reel. If you’re just starting out, we recommend filling your tacklebox with a set of ultralight lures like those found in this Ultra-Lite Kit from Rapala. This versatile set gives you something to use in just about every ultralight fishing scenario.

Fish fillet knife: A finely sharpened fillet knife is a must on any fishing expedition. One of our favorites is the Fishing Comfort Fillet Knife from Morakniv. The stainless steel blade is available in two sizes; choose based on your need. The right fillet knife can be a fisherman’s favorite tool.

LED lantern: LED lanterns, headlamps, and flashlights are available in a wide range of lumens to facilitate safety at night. An LED lantern can light up a camp or boating area, making it easier to navigate unfamiliar territory. Coleman is a top name in outdoor gear, and we really like the ultra-bright light provided by the Coleman Quad LED Lantern.

EXPERT TIP

Ultralight rods allow the angler to cast with precision, especially when fishing in smaller waters, on stream banks, or in confining waterways.


Staff  | BestReviews

Ultralight rod prices

In the lower-price range, ultralight fishing rods cost from $19 to $39. Great for children and beginning anglers, these products typically include the rod only — no reel, line, or carrying bag,

Medium-priced ultralight rods sell for $49 to $99. In this price range, you will find well-crafted ultralight rods with cork handles for comfort and durable stainless steel or aluminum reel mounts and line guides.

Specialty graphite or titanium ultralight rods in the higher price range cost anywhere from $100 to $300.

Tips

  • Make sure your hooks are ultrasharp, especially with ultralight fishing. Due to the lightweight nature of rod, reel, and line, you need that sharp hook to set in order to land the fish.
  • You must be a master of your drag when reeling in a fish on an ultralight line. The line could simply snap if you pull too much. Adjust the drag so the fish wears itself out before you reel it in.
  • Keep extra line on hand in case yours breaks. Store it in your fishing tackle box so you never have to go back home unexpectedly after a line break.

Responsive rod

This affordable rod from Okuma boasts sensitivity and terrific action. If you want something for occasional use, the price and product quality simply can’t be beat.

Other products we considered

A lightweight, flexible Toray graphite rod for easy packing into the brush, the Enigma Fishing Phenom with graphite blank offers a sensitive, flexible tip for landing fighting fish, a comfortable easy-grip handle, and long-lasting titanium fittings. The KastKing Speed Demon is another great ultralight rod. It’s made of highly flexible S-glass and graphite and is a dream to use — the slightest nibble is conveyed easily, and it casts with precision and grace. The KastKing is a fantastic rod for catching any small panfish.

Ultralight fishing rods work better than traditional fly rods for cutting through the wind on a blustery day.

FAQ

Q. Are ultralight fishing rods more sensitive than traditional fly fishing rods?
A.
If you are used to fishing with traditional fly fishing tackle, such as a nine-foot fiberglass or graphite rod, you will be impressed with the high sensitivity of your line and rod tip when casting with an ultralight rod designed for maneuverability in narrow streambeds. Try an ultralight rod, and you will readily understand why it is so easy to become addicted to this type of game fishing. You will feel the tiniest tug and the slightest nibble.

Q. What weight line should I use with my ultralight fly rod?
A.
Choose a lightweight, tapered, floating, forward weight line for gentle presentation and ease of casting. Experienced anglers suggest choosing a fishing line that is one size smaller or one size larger than the number of the rod you plan to use with the line.

Q. When camping, what is the best way to cook a trout caught on my new ultralight rod?
A.
Trout are best prepared lightly floured with a touch of seasoning, fried in butter in a cast iron skillet over the campfire.

The team that worked on this review
  • Marlene
    Marlene
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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