For the angler looking to advance beyond the beginner’s level without shelling out for the more expensive equipment out there, the so-called ‘spinning combo’ – a balanced and coordinated spinning reel and rod – makes for an excellent choice. There’s an impressive array of ultralight spinning combos out there and, when deciding what to go for, deciding first of all what you want to catch and where you plan to catch it is the place to start.
Our Top Pick:
What makes the best ultralight spinning combo for you might be quite different from the next angler. For example, if you hope to catch small trout, a low power rod might give you the ideal dexterity, but if you’re after heavier bass, you’ll need a higher power rod to match. Similarly, if you’re fishing in a small, tightly packed area, you’ll want the accuracy of a shorter rod, but for those wide-open rivers, it’s the range of a long rod that you’ll need. With that in mind then, read on for our list of the ten best ultralight spinning combos.
- The Top Ultralight Spinning Combos:
- 1. Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 4’8” Ultralight | Durability at a low price
- 2. Penn Battle II Medium Heavy | Best for Saltwater Power
- 3. Pflueger President Ultralight | The Best for Sensitivity and Smoothness
- 4. Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 7’ Ultralight | The Best for Sensitivity over a Large Area
- 5. KastKing Crixus Light | The Best All-rounder
- 6. Daiwa Mini System Mini Spin | The Best for Portability
- 7. Cadence CC5 Lightweight | The Best for Sensitivity in Bass Fishing
- 8. Southbend ML210 | The Best Bargain Combo
- 9. Cadence CC4 | Best Combo for Inshore Fishing
- 10. Abu Garcia Ike Dude | Best Bargain Medium Combo
- Why Buy a Spinning Rod Combo?
The Top Ultralight Spinning Combos:
1. Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 4’8” Ultralight | Durability at a low price
Ugly Stik has long been known as a premier beginner’s brand, yet one which is liable to be traded in for something more professional before long. With the GX2 spinning combo model, however, Ugly Stik has offered something more versatile and lasting that remains exceptional value for money. The GX2 is a spinning combo which could well see use from more professional anglers as well as beginners, and it’s all to do with durability – this rod is virtually unbreakable. The rod, made from graphite and fiberglass, is also lightweight and balanced.
There are heavier and higher-power models available, but the ultralight is where this rod excels, being the perfect spinning rod for trout and panfish. Coming as a neat one-piece model, it’s the perfect rod for accurate angling over about 100 yards. The reel itself does have a habit of going out unevenly – and this combo does seem to lean towards the quality of the rod – but such durability at such a price can’t really be argued with!
2. Penn Battle II Medium Heavy | Best for Saltwater Power
This is a spinning combo that offers that extra power needed for the likes of saltwater bass fishing. The reel is composed of a full metal body with carbon fiber washers to provide smoothness to the cast. And for all the strength in the reel, the 7’ rod provides a serious sensitivity even over the comparatively long range needed for this type of fishing. The reel can admittedly be a bit heavy (it’s a 6.2:1 ratio), leading to the whole combo feeling a bit off-balance, but it certainly does the job when pulling in larger fish.
Some have reported that the rod could be more durable, and with this particular model coming in a 1 piece set, you can’t swap out the reel to another rod. This is a shame because it’s a great, smooth and powerful reel.
3. Pflueger President Ultralight | The Best for Sensitivity and Smoothness
With this rod, it’s all about how the super lightweight graphite rod combines with the extremely smooth action of the seven stainless steel bearing reel to create a sensitivity that yields optimal dexterity. This one might cost a bit more (although you should be able to pick it up for still well under 100 bucks) but this is arguably worth it for the accuracy you’ll wield when freshwater fishing for the likes of trout and panfish.
With a graphite body on the reel and the aforementioned corrosion-resistant stainless steel bearings, this is also one of the best spinning combos for keeping corrosion and wear at bay. This also operates at a ratio of 5.2:1, which means there’s a healthy dose of power to go along with that smoothness although it has been reported that the rod could be a little more durable, but such is the price you pay for a rod as light and sensitive as this!
4. Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 7’ Ultralight | The Best for Sensitivity over a Large Area
This is the second Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 model which has appeared on our list, this time the considerably longer 7’ ultralight spinning combo. Just like its cousin, this is a rod that combines a lightness of touch with serious durability. And again, this is what makes these GX2s such excellent beginner rods or rods for those who perhaps don’t have so much of a “lightness of touch” in their angling technique!
This rod, however, is significantly longer and as such is ideal for when your fishing environment combines a larger area with smaller target fish like trout and panfish. Where, admittedly, you might lose out in the accuracy of your cast, the sensitivity of the rod and smoothness of the reel will help you reel in those two to six lbs catches from quite a long way away.
Related: Best Ultralight Spinning Rods
5. KastKing Crixus Light | The Best All-rounder
If you’re looking to find a spinning combo that combines the strength and durability needed for larger fish and wider areas with the delicacy needed for the opposite, then this is the combo to go for. Admittedly, such wide applicability does mean that it lacks true excellence in either of these fields but if you find yourself often fishing in different locations and for different fish (as is very often the case for anglers at this level) then this rod is ideal.
The IM6 graphite of which the rod is composed is remarkably strong for its weight and the reel action is very smooth. It is also a very comfortable rod to hold although more than a few left-handed anglers have reported the problem of repeatedly receiving the right-handed version when ordering online.
6. Daiwa Mini System Mini Spin | The Best for Portability
Sometimes the angler can be something of a rover. Rivers, lakes, and bays have invaded every landmass on Earth and there’s scarcely an angler out there who won’t have a whole world of fishing opportunity open up for the price of a tank of gas. If you’re the type that likes to travel around to fish, this is a very convenient combo, being collapsible and coming with a durable hard case with built-in tackle compartments. But is it any good? Well, when off the beaten track, you’ll want a good all-rounder to deal with the vast range of fishing locations you might come across.
This combo is an ultralight model with a very light rod and a reel, so don’t expect peak performance with heavier fish. That said, for the majority of inland fishing, this combo will perform well; the rod is plenty durable and impressively sensitive. They have been reports of some wobbliness with long-distance casts, but short of the very largest rivers and the open sea, this is a great set to stow in your backpack for a fishing adventure!
7. Cadence CC5 Lightweight | The Best for Sensitivity in Bass Fishing
When it comes to hooking those larger basses, optimal sensitivity and responsiveness are important, but usually fall down the list of priorities behind the right gear ratio, a good amount of drag power and range and fast action. Bass can touch lightly as well however and responding early to a bite can make all the difference.
This Cadence spinning combo is excellent in this department, having a rod which is at once lightweight, the firm where it matters and with a super-sensitive tip to along to feel that first tap of interest from the fish. This is also a very ergonomic combo, with a comfortable carbon-composite frame featuring an oversized handle knob. And for an ultralight rod, the 10lbs max drag is pretty respectable. The only drawback might be that, given the wide spaces associated with bass, the length and cast accuracy over distance might prove subpar. But once it’s in the water this is a really excellent combo, especially for the price.
8. Southbend ML210 | The Best Bargain Combo
The world of fishing tackle has many excellent bargains to entice the cost-conscious angler. There are also many deals that are simply too good to be true, leading to many a sour-faced fisher saddled with a load of rubbish. The price of this Southbend spinning combo would seem to suggest the latter, but the truth of the matter is it’s actually an amazingly good combo for the money. The handle is made of cork, which is surprisingly comfortable and naturally lightweight.
Ultimately, this combo amounts to one of the best budget rods for trout and panfish – at a price significantly lower than the other “budget” models. Of course, you’re not going to get a world-class combo for this price, and the reel, for example, has only two bearings. It’s limited to its but performs well within it.
9. Cadence CC4 | Best Combo for Inshore Fishing
Common wisdom has it that many that the rods and reels used for medium-sized to large freshwater catches will perform well in the inshore environment and that would seem to be the case with the second Cadence offering on our list. If you’re after inshore fish like speckled trout and flounder, this rod will perform exceptionally well, combining sensitivity and strength for precisely this task.
The rod is durable but the combo will require a rinse after saltwater fishing, as the corrosion resistance is not absolute. However, this is hardly a taxing task and, for the performance quality of this combo amid the gentle currents of the inshore environment, hardly a drawback at all. It’s another victory for ergonomics as well, making for a very comfortable hold.
Related: Best Ultralight Spinning Reels
10. Abu Garcia Ike Dude | Best Bargain Medium Combo
In the interests of providing for the cheaper end of the market, here’s another ridiculously cheap combo that performs considerably better than one would expect. Just like the Southbend ML210, it should be used within its limits and doesn’t perform terribly well outside of them. This medium lightweight rod is for your heavier bass and other freshwater fish. With a sturdy and durable rod, it has a surprisingly sensitive tip and quite a smooth action over short to medium ranges.
If the angler wishes to be canny, they can purchase this and the Southbend and still spend less than if they were to purchase some of the other rods on this list. Such a “combo of combos” will open up a good range of fishing opportunities. This is for the smart ones out there.
Why Buy a Spinning Rod Combo?
A good spinning rod combo is naturally all about balance. They may be easier to operate than the likes of a baitcaster (and therefor more beginner orientated) but a finely tuned spinning combo can be a potent fishing tool.
Related: Interested in baitcasting? Check our article about baitcaster lines!
When out hunting for your spinning combo, you will inevitably run into several options which are clearly designed for the beginner market, offering a low price but not often the best in performance. But don’t be fooled by this into thinking they’re only for beginners or only ever offer limited fishing opportunities; with the right criteria, you can find a spinning rod combo that will seriously do the job – all without breaking the bank.
How to Pick One
As with nearly every choice you’ll have to make when buying tackle, it all comes back, ultimately, to what you want to catch and where you want to catch it. A common professional tip for buying spinning combos is to “work backward”. What this means is that you should first settle on the fish you want to catch, consider lures, consider what line you should use and only then settle on the rod and line in the form of a combo. Working this way, you can ensure you won’t get ripped off as each choice will be aligned with the one you made before it.
Rod and Reel Criteria
For your rod, it’s important to consider how big the fish you want to catch is. For heavier fish, go with a heavier rod of a higher power. A long rod is what you want for wider spaces and the short rod is preferable for accuracy in small spaces. In terms of what your rod is made of, you’ll want a combination of durability and sensitivity – this should be pretty much always what to aim for. More often than not, this will entail a graphite rod, but don’t rule out other materials.
For your reel, look for a spool that keeps your line even when it is loaded on – it should appear flat from the top to the bottom of the spool. Bearings are very important and when it comes to reels a simple rule of “the more the better” applies; more bearings mean smoother crank. In terms of frame material, you’ll need to consider your priorities. Go with graphite for a lighter overall combo and more resistance to corrosion, and go with aluminum for a stronger crank.