Which Ultralight Spinning Rods are Best for Trout and Panfish?

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Written By Donny Karr

Donny Karr is a Tournament Angler with more than 20 years of fishing experience and a writer whose work has been featured in magazines for over a decade. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He enjoys bass and crappie fishing in the lakes around the south-eastern United States. He also fishes for trout in the streams and rivers of the Appalachian mountains. Donny has written for Georgia Outdoor News, Paddling Space, Man Can Outdoors, Alabama Outdoor News, and Bassmaster.


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The best performing ultralight spinning rods have a high level of sensitivity, are made from graphite, have a fast action, and durable guides.

The St Croix Triumph is my top choice because it has a extremely sensitive tip that can feel even the most subtle bites. It is made from superior SC II Graphite material with Batson Forecast aluminum oxide guides for improved durability. It is ideal for panfish anglers who want a super fast action rod that will never let them down.

Experienced anglers know that matching your fishing gear and equipment to the particular game fish species you plan to go after is essential. If you plan to catch smaller species, using an ultralight rod and reel will not only give you the best chance to land your catch, it will also present new and exciting challenges that anglers of all skill levels can enjoy. 

Light tackle is a specialized approach that requires one to use their wits and plan their approach before going in. Understanding which ultralight rod to start out may seem like a tall task for those unfamiliar with light gear, but we’ve taken the time to compile this list of the best 10 ultralight spinning rods to help anglers make the best selection. 

This article covers the best ultralight rods, different quality indicators, and characteristics you’ll want to look for when searching for a quality ultralight rod. 

Best Overall
St. Croix Triumph Spinning Rod

St. Croix Triumph Spinning Rod

  • SCII Graphite Material
  • Super Fast Action
  • Fuji Graphite Reel Seat
  • Cork Handle
Best Value for Money
Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod

Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod

  • Comfortable Cork Handle
  • Saltwater and Freshwater Ready
  • Stainless Steel Guides
  • Flexible with greater fiberglass content
Best for Trout
Okuma Celilo Trout Rod

Okuma Celilo Trout Rod

  • Made in USA
  • Aluminum Oxide Inserts
  • Stainless Steel Guides
  • Premium Graphite Material

1. St. Croix Triumph

St. Croix Triumph Spinning Rod
  • SCIII Carbon material
  • Premium Cork Handle
  • Flex Coat Slow Cure Finish
  • 5 Year Warranty

If you’re familiar with the St. Croix brand, you’re probably aware that they’re among the best quality in the fishing industry. This particular rod may not suit the price range for most beginners or novice anglers, but there’s little dispute that it’s among the best ultralight spinning rods. 

The St. Croix Triumph is characterized by its super fast action and lightweight feel that is well-suited for all-day fishing trips and having a high amount of control over your rod. This model also presents an exceptional level of sensitivity ideal for catching small game fish species that often require lightweight lures. 

If you have the budget, I strongly recommend choosing the St Croix Triumph as the best performing ultralight spinning rod.


What I Like About It

These rods are made with a superior SC II Graphite material that’s better than most other rods crafted from graphite blanks. It’s fitted with Batson Forecast aluminum oxide guides which also feature black double-chrome frames which are ideal for giving the rod added strength and offering very little friction when casting or reeling in your catch. 

The St. Croix Triumph is also made with a Fuji graphite reel seat and an elegant cork handle that gives it the classic look most anglers want in an ultralight rod. This rod is arguably the best on the market, but a few others match up quite well to the St. Croix Triumph in quality and value. 


  • Fuji graphite reel seat
  • Excellent sensitivity 
  • Lightweight 
  • Fast action 
  • Batson Forecast guides 
  • SC II Graphite


  • Expensive 

2. Ugly Stik Elite Ultralight Spinning Rod 

Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod
  • Comfortable Cork Grip
  • Graphite/Fiberglass Composite
  • Virtually Indestructible
  • Ugly Tuff Guides

Experienced anglers often argue that there is a fine line between quality and value when purchasing fishing rods and other angling equipment. The case can be made for the Ugly Stik Elite Ultralight Spinning Rod being the best of its kind on the market when one considers the price it’s offered at and the features that are all exceptional quality. 

This rod is crafted from high-modulus graphite blank material, which has a reputation for being exceptionally strong, lightweight, and limber enough to cast a lightweight lure out to a significant distance. Ugly Stik is famous for producing rods that are virtually indestructible and the Ugly Stik Elite is a rod that upholds that reputation among a litany of others in the fishing industry that can’t match up. 

I recommend the Ugly Stik Elite for anglers who demand the most durable and robust equipment. The Elite is almost indestructible.

testing ugly stik elite freshwater fishing

What I Like About It

This rod is an excellent balance between quality and value as it can be purchased in a range dictated based on the length and other specifications. In essence, the longer the rod, the higher the cost. The rod features Ugly Stik’s famous fiberglass tip, allowing added sensitivity and casting ability to an already premium rod. 

It also features Ugly Tuff stainless steel guides that can handle just about any game fish species you might encounter with a lightweight rod like the Elite. The rod is fitted with a cork handle and is widely considered the most popular option by many anglers familiar with ultralight spinning rods. 


  • Extremely durable 
  • Great sensitivity 
  • Ugly Tuff guides 
  • Moderately-priced 


  • One-piece construction 

3. Okuma Celilo

Okuma Celilo Trout Rod
  • Stainless Steel Reel Seat
  • Aluminum-Oxide Guides
  • Comfortable Cork Grip
  • Graphite Composite Blank

Since online shopping has taken the angling world by storm, many fishing enthusiasts have taken notice of the Okuma brand in the Western Hemisphere. This company is known for producing outstanding products at a price that most anglers of all skill levels can afford.

It’s hard to argue that this rod doesn’t pack an array of high-quality features into one product. It’s made with a premium graphite blank designed for optimal sensitivity compared to most other options. It’s available in various lengths, depending on each angler’s needs. 

The Celilo is my recommendation as the top ultralight spinning rod for trout.

okuma celilo reel seat

What I Like About It

The Celilo is fitted with aluminum oxide inserts and stainless steel guides that are made for added toughness and capable of holding up against almost any type of fish you might encounter with this rod. It’s also made with a quality stainless steel reel seat that maintains a durable reputation, as well as a cork handle that is also well-made. 

This rod is manufactured to the same high standards that Okuma products have become known for and offers an excellent choice for anglers looking to get a great ultralight spinning reel that’s well-suited for trout fishing, or catching any other type of smaller game fish. 


  • Lightweight 
  • Sensitive 
  • Quality graphite material 
  • Aluminum oxide guides 
  • Excellent value 


  • Not quite as durable as other premium brands

4. G.Loomis Trout Series Spinning Rod

G. Loomis GL2 Spinning Rod
  • Ultra-light Spinning Rod
  • Graphite, Fiber Blend
  • Comfortable Cork Handles
  • 1 and 2 Piece Designs

If price is not a deciding factor in your overall search for the best ultralight spinning rod, it’s hard to rule out the G. Loomis Trout Series Spinning Rod as the best overall choice. There is no denying that the G. Loomis brand is synonymous with premium quality in fishing rods and their standards easily outrank the competition in almost every aspect. 

The main downside—besides the price—for this rod is that it’s designed specifically for trout fishing and most novice anglers will possibly overlook it if they are searching for a rod that’s more suited for crappie fishing or other lightweight angling.

The G. Loomis Trout Series is an all-around ace in the ultralight spinning rod category; there’s almost nothing this one can’t do when matched up head-to-head with other brands. 

What I Like About It

It’s made from a super high quality carbon fiber blend blank for a high level of sensitivity and an incredibly tough design that feels much like a heavier rod in terms of durability. The Fuji single foot Alconite guides are among the best that money can buy and will significantly reduce friction, which creates a smoother casting experience with any fishing line. 

This rod can be purchased in one or two-piece models and also comes in a range of action selections, allowing each angler to get the right specifications they want down to the letter. 


  • Superior quality 
  • Highly durable 
  • Fuji single foot Alconite guides
  • Variety of options 
  • One or two-piece construction 


  • Expensive 

5. Fenwick Elite Tech River Runner Spinning Rod

Fenwick Elite Spinning Rod
  • Graphite Blend Material
  • Extremely Sensitive
  • Excellent Durability
  • Titanium Guides

This is another option on our list of the best ultralight spinning rods that’s not at the top because it’s slightly outside of the price range for average anglers. For those who are more skilled and might be open to spending a bit more on a higher quality rod, the Fenwick Elite Tech River Runner Spinning Rod is an excellent choice that offers plenty of great features. 

Fenwick enjoys a stellar reputation among many brands in the fishing industry for their superior quality and customer service. This rod is made from a graphite blend material that offers excellent durability.

The main reason so many anglers choose a product like this is due to the incredible level of sensitivity compared to other models. 

If you are looking for a rod that can detect even the most subtle bites, you can’t ignore the Fenwick Elite Tech River Runner.

What I Like About It

The Elite Tech River Runner is made to serve as an all-around workhorse of an ultralight rod that’s capable of tackling anything from crappie and other panfish to trout or virtually anything else you want to go after that’s not too heavy. It’s made with nine titanium guides for durability, as well as a TAC and cork handle which is made for anglers to feel the most subtle bites. 

One of the main downsides to this model is that it’s only available in one single length option that’s 6’9” long and might be a bit too much for some anglers. However, it breaks down into a two-piece construction that’s easily carried and transported wherever you need to go. This is another great option and is among the top choices of ultralight spinning rods. 


  • Great sensitivity 
  • Good durability 
  • Two-piece construction 
  • Titanium guides 
  • TAC and cork handle 


  • One length option 
  • Expensive 

6. Shimano Stimula

Shimano Stimula Spinning Rod
  • Custom Cork Handles
  • 2 Piece for Transport and Storage
  • Composite Blank Construction
  • Handy Hook Keeper Feature

Shimano is another brand that’s right at the top of the fishing industry, especially regarding rods and reels. The company has a loyal following among seasoned anglers because it produces outstanding quality rods backed up by solid warranties. The Shimano Stimula 2-Piece Spinning Rod lives up to the standard that Shimano products have become known for and is a great choice for anglers looking to buy a truly great ultralight spinning rod. 

What I Like About It

This particular rod is best known for its sensitivity as it is made from a graphite composite material which is not quite as durable as other brands, but still holds up quite well. It comes in one single 5’6” length, which might be a downside for anglers looking for a longer option. The rod does, however, break down into two pieces which allows for easier transportation. 

It’s short stature is indicated in its namesake as river rods are generally made in shorter lengths to avoid being snagged on overhanging branches and brush along the banks of most rivers. It features a cork handle that’s also fitted with comfortable EVA foam grip material which is designed for a solid grip when wet or dry. 


  • Great sensitivity 
  • EVA foam handle 
  • Two-piece construction 
  • Quality components 


  • One length 
  • Expensive 

7. Berkley Lightning Trout Rod

Berkley Lightning Trout Rod
  • Designed for Trout Fishing
  • Multi-Modulus Composite
  • Versatile Options Available
  • Good Sensitivity

The Berkley name has been among one of the top brands in the fishing industry for decades as the company has established a reputation for quality products that are available at affordable prices. The Berkley Lightning Series has been a popular choice among anglers of all skill levels for a long time.

The Trout Rod edition is an excellent choice for fishing enthusiasts who might not be looking to invest a sizable amount to purchase their first ultralight spinning rod. 

This rod is made from a multi-modulus composite blank capable of delivering high levels of sensitivity and good durability that can stand up to larger-sized trout in most cases. This rod can cast a huge variety of lure sizes and weights as many anglers report being able to throw heavier rigs when necessary. 

What I Like About It

As the name indicates, the Berkley Lighting Trout Rod is made especially for trout fishing. The high-quality aluminum oxide guides and inserts are made to allow a smooth cast and exceptional durability against the hardest pulling fish. 

This rod is available in three sizes that include a 6’, 6’6’’, and 7’ model which allows anglers to select the length that’s ideal for their own personal needs. It’s also available in light or ultralight power and is ideal for beginners and novice anglers. 


  • Great value 
  • Durable construction 
  • Specially made for trout
  • Multiple lengths 
  • Good sensitivity 


  • Some issues with reel seat
  • Can crack or break under heavy pressure 

8. Daiwa Spinmatic Spinning Rod

Daiwa Spinmatic Spinning Rod
  • SG Graphite Material
  • High Level of Sensitivity
  • Quality Cork Handle
  • Stainless Steel Reel Seat

Daiwa is another name in a long line of excellent fishing brands that are known for producing quality rods that will last for season after season when properly cared for. The Daiwa Spinning Rod is an excellent choice that can be purchased in an ultralight option. This ultralight spinning rod can be paired with a quality reel for an overall solid combination. 

The company has been known for many years among anglers who prefer using ultralight rods to catch species like crappie, perch, and other lightweight fish typically found in clear freshwater rivers and lakes. It’s made with a strong SG graphite material that might not be as durable as some of the models on our list of the best ultralight spinning rods, but it holds up quite well against various fish species. 

What I Like About It

These rods are available in various lengths and all come in fast action for the highest level of sensitivity when fishing for various types of species that require high levels of concentration on the part of anglers. It features high quality stainless steel reel seat that is designed for durability while also sporting an elegant cork handle and overall aesthetically pleasing look. 

This rod will serve as a great choice for beginner anglers who might not want to spend a fortune on a single rod, but still want to get a quality option that can be useful in a variety of situations. 


  • Great value 
  • Durable blank construction 
  • Variety of lengths 
  • Quality handle and reel seat 


  • Lower sensitivity 
  • Less durability 

9. Shakespeare Micro Spinning Rod

Shakespeare Micro Spinning Rod
  • Graphite Composite Material
  • Comfortable Cork Handle
  • Stainless Stel Guides
  • Very Durable Build

Shakespeare is another name brand in the fishing industry that’s highly popular with anglers of all skill levels. This brand is known for making good quality rods and other components that are typically right on the money for most anglers regarding budgetary constraints. The Shakespeare Micro Spinning Rod is an excellent starter pick for young or even beginning anglers who might not be ready to invest a sizable amount in single rod purchases. 

This rod is made with a graphite composite rod blank material more geared toward durability than anything else. It might not be as sensitive as other brands that are on our list, but one can be assured that this rod will effectively catch almost any type of freshwater fish that are usually targeted with ultralight spinning rods. 

What I Like About It

It comes in various lengths and the price will vary depending on the size of the rod in most cases. Anglers will find that the Shakespeare Micro Spinning Rod can handle various lure weights and can cast light or heavy lures out to a considerable distance in most cases. 

This rod features a cork handle, tough reel seat, and stainless steel guides that combine for a great selection for new anglers looking for their first ultralight rod. 


  • Great value 
  • Durable construction 
  • Cork handle 
  • Capable of casting light or heavy lures


  • Less sensitivity 
  • Lacks durability against heavy pressure

10. KastKing Perigee II Bass Fishing Rod

KastKing Perigee II Fishing Rods
  • Strong, yet balanced graphite and fiberglass construction
  • Durable one-piece stainless steel guides
  • 7-year warranty
  • Comfortable EVA handle

Don’t let the name fool you, the KastKing Perigee II Bass Fishing Rod is more than capable of catching a wide variety of game fish species, including many types of bass. The KastKing brand is an up-and-coming company known for making surprisingly good quality selections that climb higher yearly in the fishing industry. 

This particular rod is geared toward delivering a high-performance model that is lightweight and sensitive for anglers who prefer a smaller setup for fishing freshwater lakes and rivers. The rod is made from 24-ton carbon matrix material that’s highly durable and provides a good degree of sensitivity that allows anglers to feel even the most subtle bites when fishing with lightweight lures. 

kastking perigee 2 fishing rod

What I Like About It

It comes in either a one or two-piece construction depending on whether or not the user wants to have a more portable version of the rod. The KastKing Perigree II Bass Fishing Rod offers Fuji O-ring guides that are made to be highly durable for bass fishing or any other type of species you happen to catch. 

This rod sports a comfortable EVA handle and comes with KastKing’s lifetime warranty that combines for a surprising rod model that might fly under the radar of most anglers looking for the more prominent brands. 


  • Great value 
  • Fuji O-ring guides 
  • 24-ton carbon matrix material 
  • One or two-piece construction 
  • Lifetime warranty 


  • Less sensitivity 

Ultralight Spinning Rod Buyer’s Guide 

The fishing industry is filled with new and advanced products every year as companies work hard to out-do one another and produce the best equipment for their customers. This high level of competition creates some outstanding new models that any angler can appreciate. 

Most anglers understand what to look for when purchasing a conventional rod or even one specifically purposed for baitcasting. When it comes to ultralight rods, however, there are some key aspects that you’ll want to pay close attention to to make sure you’re getting a quality product that will last several seasons if taken care of properly. 

Ultralight spinning rods are designed to cast lightweight lures and baits in a way that bigger, heavier tackle can’t match. The types of material these rods are made out of goes a long way in whether or not they’ll be capable of launching a small lure out to considerable distances and possess the ability to catch and land the species you’re after. 

Here are some key factors to consider when shopping for the best ultralight spinning rods available. 

Construction Material 

Traditionally, ultralight rods have been made of a material that is either fiberglass or composite structure. In recent years, companies have been seeking to manufacture rods with considerable strength, yet are remarkably lightweight compared to other materials. Most of the top brands in the fishing industry now produce ultralight rods made of graphite material as it is incredibly strong, but still able to cast a lightweight lure out to a considerable distance. 

These graphite rods are made through a meticulous process that involves wrapping sheets of graphite fiber material on top of one another and heating it to produce a hardened blank that is both limber and strong enough to handle most moderate-sized fish.

Most popular rods on today’s market are produced in this manner with either a graphite body, or a combination of certain materials that offer the same stiffness and strength levels that can combine for an ideal combination. 

These rods must also be fitted with high-quality components that combine to give them the ideal strength and resilience that anglers look for in a solid ultralight rod capable of catching just about any small to medium-sized fish in fresh and saltwater. Manufacturers are now using guides made of material capable of handling friction in a way that doesn’t dampen the rod’s ability to cast any type of fishing line, including braid. 

The reel seat is another important part of any good ultralight fishing rod that must be paid attention to by anyone looking to get a quality product. A rod that features a graphite reel seat is considered standard in today’s market and anglers should be wary of other materials that might seem to be cheaply made to cut corners. 

Rod Length 

Another main factor that should be considered by anyone looking to get their hands on a quality ultralight fishing rod is the length of each product. Many anglers consider rod length to be the most important factor when dealing with ultralight equipment as they are typically using very lightweight lures that are required to cast out a significant distance. 

When selecting a quality ultralight rod based on the length, it’s important to consider how far you’ll need to cast to attract a fish and entice them to bite without being too close and spooking them away. The consensus is that longer rods can make much longer casts and shorter rods are more ideal for short pitching casts or even nymphing for species like trout. 

Longer rods will also be an advantage against hard-fighting fish as they provide extra leverage that can cause fish to tire out more quickly and shorten the time you’ll need to play them carefully before landing your catch. Shorter rods are more suitable for fishing small streams and areas where anglers might need to have greater accuracy in casting as they allow for precise throws into tight corridors. 

Another main point to consider when observing the length of your potential ultralight fishing rod is the type of lure you’ll be casting. If it’s very small and light, go for a longer rod unless you plan to be limited in space. 

Power and Action 

Two of the most misunderstood categories of fishing rods pertain to the power and action of any blank. Beginners and novice anglers might have a tough time understanding what these two words mean when it comes to fishing rods and how they perform. Still, it’s fairly easy to remember once you’ve had some experience shopping for rods and using them on the water. 

Simply put, the power of a fishing rod refers to the overall stiffness and to what degree it can bend from top to bottom. A ‘light’ powered rod can bend considerably when pressure is put on the end of the line. A ‘heavy’ rod will have a much greater level of stiffness and less bending ability. 

Fishing Rod Power Sliding Scale

Regarding action, this refers to the specific area of the rod where this bend occurs. Fast action rods will bend closer to the tip while slow action rods will have a more gradual bend throughout the entire length of the rod. 

Fishing Rod Action by Species

Most anglers will want a fast-action choice for ultralight fishing rods since this will give them enough stiffness to handle their catch and make a decent cast when needed. Ultralight rods derive their name from their power, which is considered to be ‘ultralight’ or capable of bending to a more significant degree than other types of rods. 

The ultralight capability is more important for the rod’s ability to cast a lightweight lure out to a farther distance than you would be able to with a heavier option. If you try throwing a rooster tail with a heavy rod, then throw the same lure with an ultralight rod, you’ll quickly gain a more full understanding of this concept. 


Lastly, when buying your first ultralight spinning rod, the price is one of the main factors to consider. For anglers who don’t know much about ultralight rods, you can rest assured that the consensus of any fishing tackle and gear is still true with ultralight rods. 

You get what you pay for. 

In other words, a more expensive rod will almost always present a higher quality level than a cheaper option. In rare instances, you can find good deals on quality products priced at a discounted rate. If this is the case, don’t pass up a great deal! 

How We Rate Products

Russ Egan and Donny Karr have over 40 years of combined fishing experience. We know the difference between a high-quality reel and a poor alternative.

I thoroughly review all products to measure their performance, durability, and value for money. I conduct bench and field testing to check how the product performs. Each reel is tested for at least 8 hours, with a full test taking 2 weeks. This testing results in an overall score that I give to all products. All metrics are scored out of 5.


The performance score is how well this product fulfills its primary purpose. Does it have all the features and optional extras you need to catch the target species? I also interview expert anglers on their experience to build a more comprehensive view of the performance under multiple conditions.

I take all reels down to my local freshwater lake for bass, or inshore fishing off the beach for redfish.

  • Test 1: I confirm that the max drag meets the manufacturer’s specifications using a calibrated scale.
  • Test 2: I test the maximum casting distance using a 1.0-ounce lure.
  • Test 3: I test the accuracy by casting 10 times into a 3 ft diameter circle at 30 yards.
  • Test 4: I check the versatility and the ability to handle multiple uses by field testing with 3 different lures and baits, by actually going fishing.


Durability refers to how long the product will continue functioning. I twist, bend, and break all the products to check their longevity. This score is for the construction materials, the workmanship quality, and the servicing requirements. There are also bonus points for manufacturers’ warranty.

For products I can’t test for long enough, I also consult experts who have been using them for decades to judge their longevity.

  • Test 5: I pull it apart to check the grease and oil levels, how difficult it is to maintain, and whether sand or salt has deposited after use in saltwater.

Value for Money

The final aspect of the scoring system is the price or, more specifically, the value for money. Value for money is a comparison against the closest alternative products, both by the same manufacturer and other brands.

Overall Score

Finally, I average the three scores of performance, durability, and value for money to give the overall score of each product reviewed.

To see more details, please read the complete guide on how I test and evaluate fishing products.


Selecting the correct weight fishing rod for your specific needs is crucial to getting top performance.

Getting into the world of ultralight spinning rods might seem daunting, but considering the points and rods mentioned in this article, you should get a decent head-start in the game.

Remember that in most instances, you’ll get a better quality product the more money you’re willing to invest. When selecting the best ultralight spinning rods, it pays off to consider the top brands, as well as those that might not get as much praise, but still offer quality components. 

I recommend the St Croix Triumph as the best performing ultralight spinning rod.

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