Are Ugly Stik Rods Good? Our Verdict on This Popular Brand

Ugly Stik GMX vs Elite Feature Image

Ugly Stik fishing rods are among the most affordable on the market, yet they have a reputation for being the most durable rods for freshwater and saltwater fishing. Ugly Stik rods are available at all major retailers for a fraction of the cost of other graphite rods.

What Are Ugly Stik Rods?

The famous Ugly Stik rod has been around since 1976 when William Shakespeare, Jr. found a way to manufacture a lighter rod that was extremely durable and had an ultrasensitive flexible tip. This ugly stick was priced for the everyday working man, who could not afford expensive rods.

The secret to the success of the classic Ugly Stik is the ultra-light, graphite wrapped fiberglass blank. The patented construction process creates a fishing rod that is practically unbreakable, yet sensitive enough to catch fish at the first bump of the hook.

Today’s Ugly Stick rods are built with the same durability and lightweight construction as the original, but new technologies have allowed improvements in weight and balance. The Ugly Stik Gx2 is the upgraded classic model. Slight changes in the graphite have created an even better rod, that is ultra-light and super sensitive. These improvements have taken a good rod and turned it into a better rod.

Shakespeare now manufactures a wide range of Ugly Stik fishing rods, from the inexpensive spinning rod to the Bigwater heavy-duty surf fishing model. Each rod is designed to perform as well as a high-end rod you might only find in a specialty fishing store.

The Ugly Stik fishing rod stands up to misuse and abuse. The stainless steel line guides will not rust, even when left out in moist conditions and are strong enough to stand up to the finest braided line. The exposed blank reel seat lets you change reels easily, yet holds the reel securely in place.

A variety of options are available for grip styles and materials and most people will find one that fits their hand comfortably. Shakespeare also offers the Ugly Stik in different lengths, action levels, and weight classes, making it a versatile fishing rod. Additionally, they offer a line of ladies’ fishing rods which are more lightweight and designed for smaller hands. The hot pink wrap is attractive, as well.

Are Ugly Stiks Good Rods? Our Review

Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Fishing Rod
Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Fishing Rod
Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Fishing Rod
Our Score

Ugly Stik rods are great for the experienced angler or for a kid growing out of their three-foot child’s model fishing rod combo. The wide variety of models available makes it easy to find the right rod for your needs. The lightweight construction, one-piece line guides, and flexible clear tip make this a great rod.

  • Graphite and fiberglass construction is strong and flexible
  • More long-lasting than a comparably priced cheap rod
  • Fast action to moderate action is well suited for most anglers
  • Ugly Stik rods are available in spinning rods and casting rods.
  • It is a durable rod for a few bucks, so you can buy more than one model.
  • You can choose a composite or cork grip for comfort on a long day of fishing.
  • People think they are of lower quality than higher-end rods
  • Casting with lightweight lures is not quite as accurate as other rods

Ugly Stik Rod FAQs

What Are Ugly Stik Rods Best For?

Ugly Stik GX2 Ultralight Spinning Rod and Reel Combo

Ugly Stik rods are made for anglers who want affordable gear made for fishing.  The sensitive tip alerts quickly, whether you are fishing onshore or in a boat. Paired with compatible reels, they offer a decent cast with live bait or lures. The Ugly Stik GX2 spinning rod is a favorite among largemouth bass anglers. Paired with Shimano reels, these rods let you pull in big fish securely on braided line or monofilament.
The durable, one piece graphite blank will bend and twist, but won’t break. So you will put more fish in the boat. Because it is so tough and durable, the Ugly Stik fishing rod is perfect for bass fishing in thick cover.
If you prefer a great casting rod, the Ugly Stik Elite casting rod is longer and stronger than the GX2 spinning rod. It has the same great sensitive tip and single piece construction that Ugly Stik fishing rods are known for, but features a long cork grip and medium action so you can muscle up the fish.

Why Are They Called ‘Ugly’?

These ugly sticks got their name when they were first manufactured in 1975. Rather than spend time and money to make an attractive rod, Shakespeare concentrated his effort on making great rods that wouldn’t break, no matter how much abuse they took.
The first ugly sticks were big and clunky, with an uncomfortable metal grip and loosely wrapped cores. Originally crafted with a fiberglass core wrapped in fiberglass impregated black and white striped tape, the ugly sticks stood out from other rods because they were so unattractive.
As the brand grew, the rod was redesigned to a more attractive yellow and black diamond pattern wrap over a highly glossed black graphite and fiberglass blank. Ugly Stiks today still wear this brand defining pattern.

Are Ugly Stiks Unbreakable?

The Ugly Stiks were designed to be unbreakable, but are they really? Numerous trials and tests have been conducted by consumer protection activists in an effort to see what it takes to destroy these durable rods. In truth, Ugly Stiks can break, but not under normal fishing conditions. Successful break tests involved such extremes as attaching the hook to a moving vehicle and hoisting power tools into the air. In almost all cases, the line broke before the rod did. If you can only have one fishing rod, make it an Ugly Stik GX2. It is a good rod for all your fishing needs. It is available in spinning and casting models and a wide range of lengths. The best thing about this fishing rod is you can toss it in the boat or the bed of your truck and not worry about stepping on it and breaking it. 

Do Any Bass pros use Ugly Stik Rods?

Rumors of professional anglers such as Bill Dance and Jimmy Houston using Ugly Stik rods have been around for years, but Ugly Stik has actually never endorsed a competitor until this past year. In 2021, Matt Robertson became the first Bassmasters Elite Series angler to sign an endorsement deal with Ugly Stik fishing rods. This sponsorship helps prove that Ugly Stik casting and spinning rods are good rods, made for serious fishing.

Who Makes Ugly Stik Rods?

Ugly Stik rods are made by Shakespeare, a subsidiary of Pure Fishing, Inc. Other companies under the same umbrella include Spiderwire, Abu Garcia, Penn, Berkley, St. Croix, and Pfleuger-a company best known for trout fishing fly rods.

Where are Ugly Stik Rods Made?

Ugly Stik fishing rods, like many others, are made from component parts manufactured in Taiwan, China, and Korea.

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Teresa Taylor is a keen kayak fisher and lover of all types of fishing. She writes about a range of fish species for Tackle Village and reviews lures and gear.
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