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Light vs Ultralight Rod for Trout: Expert Breakdown

Light vs Ultralight Rod for Trout: Expert Breakdown

I’ve spent quite a few hours in the pro shop staring down rods, reels, and all kinds of lures. I’ve also spent a few hundred thousand words explaining the criteria behind choosing the best fishing rod.

When it comes to light and ultralight rods for trout, this is an area that many anglers don’t truly understand. You know that you need one of these options, and you might think the differences are minimal.

While that is the case, choosing the right one can make a difference in your trout fishing. My goal is to help you truly understand which is the better choice. Let’s get to it.

Understanding the Difference Between Light and Ultralight: Action and Power

There are two technical features of every fishing rod that all anglers need to understand: power and action.

rod power


A rod’s “power” is its ability to handle pressure. So, we can assume that an ultra-light rod cannot handle a lot of pressure, whereas a heavy rod can.

Ultralight rods are designed for smaller fish and lightweight lures. But, when put under heavy pressure, an ultralight rod will bend a lot more than a medium or heavy rod.

A light-power rod offers slightly more strength in the rod, making it a better choice for larger species like lake trout.

rod action


Action refers to the location on the rod where it bends when pressure is applied. It also determines the time it takes for the rod to return to its original position. 

The material used and the shape of the rod will determine this.

Rod action ranges from slow to fast. Slow-action rods bend all the way down the blank, while fast-action rods only bend at the tip.

That said, a slow or medium-action rod is the better choice for larger freshwater fish because it’ll flex more to handle the excess pressure and longer battles.

A fast-action rod only bends at the tip, increasing its sensitivity, so you can feel smaller nibbles when fishing for bass, trout, and panfish.

Expert Tip: Keep in mind that action and power usually come packaged together to create certain styles of rods. For example, you’ll typically find that an ultralight rod always has a fast action, and a medium-heavy rod always has a medium action. Each rod is designed this way to help anglers target specific species and size ranges.

Light vs Ultralight Rods for Trout: Making the Right Choice

Now that we understand what light and ultralight mean, how do we choose one for trout fishing?

Suppose you’re purchasing a rod specifically for targeting trout. In that case, I’d recommend using an ultralight rod because you’re likely working small jigs and tubes, and a lightweight rod will provide you with the most accuracy.

Ultralight rods maximize sensitivity by stiffening up the blank and reducing the amount of flexibility in the rod. Since they only bend at the tip, this means that you’ll feel the pressure down at the butt of the rod each time a trout nibbles on the bait.

This increases your chances of getting a good hook set and pulling a trout into the boat.

Choosing the Best Ultralight Rods for Trout 

Comparing light vs. ultralight rods for trout is great, but let’s take a look at some examples and break down why they’re the right choice for trout fishing.

St. Croix Triumph Spinning Rod 

This is a 5.5-ft carbon fiber rod that is both sensitive and durable. It features aluminum oxide guides, so the line slides smoothly through the eyes, and a comfortable cork handle to help you bring the fish in.

Carbon fiber is the best blank material for ultralight rods because it guarantees the most sensitivity, so you don’t miss any opportunities to hook a trout.

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2

The Ugly Stik is one of the most popular trout fishing rods because of its affordable price and ease of use for beginners. 

It comes in two-pieces which makes it a great choice for traveling, and it ranges in size from 5-7-feet. 

This rod uses a graphite fiberglass hybrid construction reducing the sensitivity a little bit compared to the St. Croix. What it loses there, it makes up for with the clear glass tip that helps improve sensitivity and guide the shock down the blank so you can feel each nibble. 

Make sure to pair any of these rods with a high-quality and lightweight reel too.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best length for an ultralight rod?

The best length for an ultralight rod is typically between 5-6-feet. Most rods with this power will fall into this range, but you can go for a 7-foot rod if you plan to target larger trout or bass. 

Does a light rod cost more than an ultralight rod?

A light rod is usually cheaper than an ultralight rod simply due to its popularity. Rods that fall in between ultralight and medium power aren’t as popular because they don’t have a dedicated target species. Of course, the brand will impact the price more than anything.

Do ultralight rods break easily?

Your ultralight rod will not break if you use it properly and take care of it. Since the rods are lighter and the blanks are thinner, they will be damaged easier. If the rod gets a nick or crack in it, it will create a weak spot and can cause it to snap under pressure.

Can you catch bass on an ultralight rod?

You can definitely catch bass on ultralight tackle! I’ve caught plenty of bass using ultralight rods, and I find them to be the preferred choice for finesse-style fishing and working quick-moving lures like soft plastic worms and buzzbaits.

Final Thoughts

In the battle of light vs. ultralight rods for trout, the ultralight wins. It’s more sensitive and provides better casting accuracy when using lightweight lures.

I’ve used both of the rods recommended in this guide, so either of them will work. You can choose the one that works into your budget and helps get you out on the water catching trout as fast as possible.

Good luck out there!