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Fishing as light has always been a thing for serious sports anglers.
Whether chasing small brook trout or jigging monster GTs, many sports anglers enjoy the thrill of the battle when the odds are against them.
Ultralight gear and tactics give anglers an edge when it comes to lure presentation.
Fishing ultralight also allows you to cast relentlessly for hours without fatigue.
With the explosion of soft plastics over the last couple of decades, ultralight fishing gear options have grown exponentially.
Let’s check out 5 of the best ultralight spinning rods suitable for any budget. All the rods featured below are designed to make fishing more fun.
5 Best Ultralight Spinning Rods in 2023
Last update on 2023-12-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
1. SHIMANO Salty Advance – Best Blue Water
The Shimano Salty Advance will appeal to the blue water angler fishing for bullet-style fish like Tuna and Trevally to 10kg.
Ideal for jigging a variety of lures, the Advance is perfectly built for dropping metal slices to 100 grams.
The rod weighs in at only 99 grams, taking a lot of the back-busting work from jigging over long sessions.
At 1.98 meters, many will consider the Advance the perfect length for leverage and convenience on the boat.
Fuji K guides deliver outstanding line management, durability, and excellent corrosion protection.
While lighter guides would have been possible, I think the strength over further weight reductions was a wise choice considering the targets.
The position of the Shimano Original reel seat suits me nicely. Those into jigging can be very particular about the position of the reel due to their specific shape and technique.
However, the ergonomics of the Advance are such that it will impress the fussiest of jigging sports anglers.
The solid tip is as strong as it is sensitive. I think Shimano has found the ideal balance with the Advance considering its intended targets.
The strength of the Advance is phenomenal – and it has to be. A GT of size will straighten a rod like this to the upper end of the grip.
The Advance is at an accessible price point and worth the fuss of time dealing with an import.
As a bonus, I strapped a 1000 Exist to this guy and found it cast well enough to offer great versatility for those wanting a land-based ultralight rig.
The Advance UL delivers great options for the creative angler.
- Very strong
- Delivery might take a little longer
2. Rosewood Ultralight Spinning – Best Budget
If you regularly hunt crappie, trout, bass, or pan fish from saltwater, the Rosewood Ultralight Spinning rod is an awesome option for the truly budget conscious.
Quality Ultralight spin rigs can end up being expensive. The main reason is that quality ultralight spin reels (500/1000/2000) often cost a bomb.
It’s important to remember you don’t need an Exist or Stradic to get the job done if you’re chasing pan fish.
Couple Rosewood with something like a Diawa Aird LT 2000, and you’ll have a class outfit with the finesse to target the smallest fish while maintaining enough power should a bass of size come along.
The rod is very light, sensitive, and reasonably responsive. It’s quite forgiving for a graphite rod and would be well suited to the beginner or those more experienced anglers trying their hand at finesse work.
The bend will surprise many anglers. You can pull the tip to the but with no trouble. Casting manners are suitable for the purpose, again, suiting the beginner and novice.
The experienced angler looking for a bargain will also enjoy the Rosewood.
While it lacks the high-end performance and construction quality of the top brands, the sensitivity is such that even the most experienced finesse anglers will get a surprise.
It’s important to remind yourself that this rod retails for under 40 dollars depending on where you purchase it.
If you align your expectations accordingly, you will no doubt be impressed.
I had a 2000 Ceymar attached, spooled with 6-pound mono. We cast light hard bodies (don’t recall weight – sorry) at pond bass to 2 pounds.
These guys were on the chew, and we cleaned up. OK, there were maybe 3 fish at two pounds.
Regardless of my fishing exaggeration, the performance of the Rosewood was solid.
I can’t speak to the longevity of this rod. Testing lasts a session or two, and I can only speculate on the feel.
The rod we tested looked in good order, with tight joins and connections, guides aligned, and no obvious defects.
I say this because things can be a little random at this price point regarding construction quality/consistency.
That said, the Rosewood is a brilliant option for a young angler keen on lightweight sports fishing yet low on funds.
- Accessible price point
- Very sensitive
- Ideal for fish 1 to 5 pounds
- Cork grip is not premium, but a great feel nonetheless
- Ideal for saltwater or fresh applications
- Quality inconsistencies might be a factor
3. Daiwa Spinmatic-SMD – Best Ultralight Travel Rod on a Budget
Breaking down into four pieces, the Daiwa Spinmatic is perfect for those anglers who want to fit a rig in their luggage or leave a rod tucked away in the car for moments when they want to fish.
We’re now spoiled for choice when it comes to travel rods, but the price for quality travel rods is right up there.
The Spinmatic bucks this trend, delivering high ultralight performance with all the convenience of a rod that fits in your luggage.
At 0.45 pounds and 6’6” assembled, I like this rod for backpacking around banks with plenty of overhanging trees or mangroves.
6’6” is just long enough for effective bank casting without the issue length created by overhanging bank-side trees.
It’s ideal for wading a long way into the shallows, where a longer rod can be a pain.
While most anglers choosing this rod will be freshies, I like it most for wading into salty estuaries/inlets chasing pan fish.
We tested the Spinmatic on a quiet beach casting sandfleas at whiting. I strapped a 2000 Stradic (old) to the Spinmatic and hit a feeding school that had collected about 50 feet from the beach in a slight gutter.
The Spinmatic handled brilliantly. Casting was easy and accurate, although it should be noted the fish were more or less at our feet.
A casual flick was all that was required – the fishing was effortless.
Fishing 6-pound mono, I’d never had so much fun catching whiting. Interestingly, the school stayed with us, so we had quite the session putting the Spinmatic through its paces.
The highlight of the day, and most telling, was when Pat (my fishing buddy) put a small Sugapen hardbody on to test casting performance.
He landed a striper of 4.5 pounds, which the Spinmatic handled brilliantly.
The Daiwa Spinmatic-SMD Rod is a quality ultralight travel rod with a variety of applications for the creative angler.
Of all the rods on this list, the Spinmatic probably takes the prize for value for money.
- Great performance across key criteria
- Convenient travel rod
- Quality fittings and construction
- Needs a robust travel bag
4. Daiwa Laguna Spinning Rod – Editor’s Choice
Usually, the editor’s choice hangs somewhere around the top shelf. But the Laguna wins for its no-nonsense quality construction, reliable performance, and versatility – all at a price that everybody can afford.
It’s also a great-looking rod – a feature often not mentioned but important to many anglers.
In many ways, it’s somewhat similar to the previous rod. However, this is slightly cheaper and comes in a 2 piece configuration.
This is a very affordable ultra-light rod. Better still, its composite construction ensures that it will last longer and handle the knocks better than full graphite.
At 6’6” is ideal for boats and kayaks but it also has plenty of land-based applications. I’ll use it to throw spinners at bass, minnows at crappie, fleas at pompano, and hard bodies at trout.
It’s advertised as a freshwater rod. I don’t really understand this – it has great saltwater qualities, not the least of which are the durable stainless guides.
The Laguna is an ideal model for kids and beginners.
There’s a level of forgiveness and durability that’ll see it through some pretty rough treatment – not a feature of most ultralight spinning rods.
Having said that, you shouldn’t mistake the entry-level price point for a toy or low-performance throw-away.
This is the sort of rod you’d give your kids, and they’re still using it into adulthood.
While my preference is for cork handles on ultralight rods, the EVA is comfortable and doesn’t overly diminish sensitivity. It still has a very connected feel.
The Laguna is a mangrove snapper special; they were our rod test target.
We strapped 1000 Shimano Nexave reels to the Laguna and cast fresh shrimp from a pontoon into a deep bank with overhanging mangroves.
We chose the Nexave to keep the whole rig at an entry-level price of well under one hundred dollars.
Casting needed to be pretty accurate, and the combination proved effective. I only cast into the mangrove once – lost all the tackle of course.
We ran a tiny running sinker down to a number 2 long shank hook. No leader, so the long shank provided protection from the snapper’s nasty teeth.
They loved the fresh shrimp halves we tossed at them, and bites were particularly aggressive – so much so that we didn’t really test sensitivity because they smashed our baits.
While not big (15 inches or so), we were fishing very light. The composite blank was very responsive and predictable under load and during the savage attacks.
I did lift a couple of these fish onto the pontoon. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it handled the dead weight quite well.
This is one of the reasons I like the composite. They’re a great go-to rod that you don’t have to handle with the same level of consideration as you do with other ultralight full graphite models.
Most importantly, the performance as a whole was excellent.
Considering the price, we spent a long time discussing why we pay so much money for top-shelf gear when a lot of the budget gear performs so well.
The Laguna is a very handy ultralight fishing rod suitable for all anglers at a price point that won’t hurt the tightest of budgets.
5. Okuma Celilo – Best Ultralight Spinnng Rod Series for the Money
This is a thoughtful and clever ultralight series where anglers needn’t worry about the power, only the length they prefer.
There are 10 options, 8 of which are UL with 2 light options. Anglers can select as short as 4′ 6″ with a rating of 1 ~ 4 LBS and a lure range of 1/32~3/16 ounces.
The longest rod is an 8′ 6″ rated 2 ~ 6 LBS with a lure range of 1/32~3/8 of an ounce.
My preference from the range is the 2-piece 7’6” rod with a rating of 2 ~ 6 LBS and a lure range of 1/32~3/8 ounces.
I like the 7’6” length as it’s an ideal rod for the land-based angler, fishing everything from river banks, jetties and wharves, estuaries, and wading the shallows casting at mud flats, sand flats, grass, and weed beds.
The Celilo is ideal for a huge range of fish, including bass, crappie, whiting, pompano, trout, perch, mangrove snapper, and a large range of panfish.
The full graphite blank is very light yet has a solid backbone, capable of punching above its weight.
It’s beautiful to cast and will suit reels from 1000 through to the lightest of 3000 reels. My choice for this rod was the Certate 2500 packed with 200 meters of PE 0.6.
I cast a small paddle tail with a 1/32 jig head. The main purpose wasn’t necessarily to catch fish from this pond but to test casting with the lightest rig short of weightless soft plastics.
There was a slight breeze, and the casting was excellent.
The rod length was perfect for navigating the reed-filled bank, making water access difficult, if not dangerous.
Not expecting to catch fish (everything was wrong), I couldn’t believe the first cast registered the slightest of bights.
It was a very disinterested inquiry, but such was the sensitivity of the Celilo it was an unmistakable bite.
The next cast landed a bass just pushing 3 pounds. I shouldn’t have lifted it, but I did, and the rod handled it well. There was no way I was going walking through those reeds.
Given the bite was on, I traveled the bank looking for better access to the water – I had no net. (unprepared).
I got a real kick out of casting the Celilo. Even though I was fishing super light in a reasonable breeze I was getting plenty of distance.
Problem was that the fish were hanging much closer to my feet. The strike happened 15 feet from the bank.
I didn’t catch anything like the first one; the next half dozen fish barely hit the pound mark. However, had time permitted I could have fished this rod all day.
I still have the rod, and I’m making time to hit the surf for some ultralight pompano/whiting/striper action.
After one use, I could easily tell this would be an excellent ultralight surf rig.
Importantly, it also has the fishing comfort and construction quality to see it as a go-to for many years to come.
- Power-to-weight ratio
- Excellent fishing comfort
- Great ultralight rod for trout
- Awesome comfort
- Ideal for an ultralight surf rod
- Versatile series
- One-year warranty only
What To Consider When Choosing The Best Ultralight Rod?
The reel needs to balance with the rod. Generally, ultralight rods will suit spinning reels of 1000 to 2500.
These days, some very light 3000 reels will balance with longer (7’+) ultralight rods.
Ultralight rods tend to have 8 to 10 guides. Look for corrosion resistance if you’re fishing the salt.
Top-shelf models will have lightweight guides, so it will pay to take good care to avoid impacts.
Typically, ultralight rod lengths are 6’ to 6’6”. These are ideal for a range of applications but are limited to a variety of land-based options.
I like 7 and a half to 8 feet for most land-based applications, including the surf.
Rods smaller than 6’ are good for boats and kayaks but have limited versatility on land.
Rod Power and Action
All ultralight rods have limited power. However, many are surprised by the unbelievable power of blue water jigging models that can handle fish of 10 to in the right hands.
Generally speaking, you are hunting panfish 1 to 2 pounds, but you will have enough power in your average ultralight rod to catch a 5 to 8-pounder if you’re skilled enough.
Of course, a landing net is a must.
I like medium to fast actions. You’ll find that most ultralight blanks have medium to fast actions.
What is an Ultralight Spinning Rod Good For?
Ultralight fishing rods are excellent for sport fishing. You don’t need marlin to test your skills when you fish ultralight.
A crappie, small trout, or whiting show you all their power when fishing light. You need all of your fish-playing skills when fishing ultralight.
Ultralight fishing is ideal for small fish and pan fish as it gives you the best setup for maxing lure performance and fresh bait presentation.
It’s a brilliant option for locations where the bight is timid and the fish are line-shy. Remember, presentation is everything.
You can fish ultralight, everywhere from the blue water for GTs and tuna to the high mountain streams for trout.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Catch Bass with An Ultralight Rod?
Ultralight fishing for bass is awesome fun and can deliver great results, especially in the quieter months when the bite is a little slow.
Is an Ultralight Rod Good for Trout?
Sometimes, going ultralight is the only way to go for trout. Trout can be moody and finicky; fishing ultralight is a great way to get around this.
What’s the Heaviest Fish that Ultralight Rods Can Handle?
Generally, you’ll be chasing fish of half to 2 pounds when inshore, but handling 8 pounds or more is certainly possible.
Offshore is a different story with some ultralight rods capable of punching through 40 pounds of pelagic.
How Long Should an Ultralight Rod Be?
It’s a personal preference, but I like 6 to 6 and a half feet for the boat and 7 and a half to 8 feet for land-based applications.