Man Fishing With a Combo Rod

Top 5 Best Ultralight Spinning Combos of 2020 Reviewed

Ultralight fishing gear can make a five-pound bass feel like a 15-pound monster. The rush is awesome and it’s flat-out the most exciting way to catch fish! 

But matching the right rod with the right spinning reel can be difficult —and if done wrong, it’s backlash city! Obviously, you want to sling lightweight lures with ease —not deal with line-tangles and poor casting. 

To simplify things, it’s easy to just go with an ultralight spinning combo. They’re a sure thing —a spinning rod and reel tandem with perfect synergy. 

Buying them as a set takes away the worry, plus it’s cheaper! But remember, a little research is the smartest way to find the best ultralight combo that works. 

So stick around and read my reviews on the best ultralight spinning combos. It might save you from buying one that sucks, you never know!

After considering all the options our top picks were…

Top Pick

Okay, without delay, here are my picks for the top ultralight spinning reel combos —

Editor’s Choice

Pflueger President Spinning Combo

The rod is made of I-M8 graphite, which is an upgrade over the Trion. It’s compatible with lightweight braid, which helps if you want to hunt bigger fish.

Pflueger President Spinning Combo

I’m not obsessed with Pflueger or anything —but this next pair is my personal favorite. It has everything you need to fish river nooks and shallows with super light lures—

This compact beauty comes with stainless steel rod guides and a sealed drag system. I snagged a 6 1/2 pound river-bass while hunting for warmouth using this sweet set-up, so I can attest to its ability! 

This compact beauty comes with stainless steel rod guides and a sealed drag system…

The smallest model wields a reel that weighs just 6.2 ounces and packs 7 ball bearings. The next-size-up weighs 7.5 ounces and boasts 10 ball bearings —so take your pick. 

The rod is made of I-M8 graphite, which is a slight upgrade over its cousin —the Trion. It’s my favorite combo for freshwater and inshore saltwater, but I’m a little biased because I snagged a hog using it! 

So there you have it —those are my highest ranked combos. I’d be happy to hit the pond, lake or beach with any of them!

I have a couple more rod and reel combo suggestions for you as well, but first there are some basics I should cover. You may already know all this like the back of your hand, but for novices here you go—

What Are Ultralight Rods and Reels Used For?

Masters of Lightweight Line 

Ultralight combos work extremely well with light fishing line —2 – 6 pounds. This gives you the power to cast ultralight lures further, and drop them into tight spots where fish hide. 

These set-ups also give you the power to use finesse tactics to catch stubborn bass. This technique can trigger them into biting when the water is cold or when the area is overfished.

You Can Feel Everything Better 

A lot of people love to go ultralight because the rod responsiveness is off the charts. The rods are highly sensitive —you can feel the slightest bump of the lure.

rod responsiveness is off the charts…

This helps when you’re targeting fish on the bed, or slow-biting bass. Most say they have fewer missed fish because they can feel exactly when to set the hook.

Brown Trout in a Hand Net Placed on Grass
Brown Trout in a Hand Net Placed on Grass

Trout, Bass and Crappie —Oh My!

One of the top ways to catch trout is with ultralight tackle. You’ll often have lots of luck snagging them on ultralight flies. 

If you roll with a fly, go with a six foot-rod. A slightly longer rod lets you follow the drift of the fly and sling lures over logs and fallen trees. 

As for bass and crappie, try using an ultralight jig, spinner, or topwater lure. And remember, nothing entices a largemouth to strike quite like a slow lure presentation. 

This is where finesse fishing is handly. Giving fish something different to look at can snap them into eating-mode pretty quick. I’ll explain —

So, What is Finesse Fishing?

It’s when you dramatically slow down your lure’s presentation. The rod sensitivity of an ultralight combo lets you make subtle, pinpoint movements that trigger bites. This type of fishing requires a degree of skill and patience. 

All-in-all, you’ll want to use an ultralight set-up for three main reasons —

  • To cast light lures with precision
  • To sling light lures further 
  • For a stealthier presentation to spook less fish

Of course, light gear is also easier on your wrists and shoulders. This is especially helpful if you’re into all-day trips. 

Okay, now that I’ve cut through some of the basics it’s time to get a little technical! As mentioned, not all combos make the grade. 

If you’re looking for a quality setup, there are some things you need to consider —

How To Choose the Best Ultralight Spinning Combo

How Important Are Ball Bearings in an Ultralight Reel?

The number of bearings affects how smooth it performs. However, it’s a heated debate among anglers just how much it matters. 

What matters most is whether the bearings are made of quality material…

What matters most is whether the bearings are made of quality material. I’d prefer a spinner with four stainless steel bearings, over a reel with fifteen chrome-steel bearings. 

The reason? Stainless steel stands up to corrosion a whole lot better than chrome-steel. When they rust and break apart, those 15 bearings will be pretty much worthless. 

Ideally, you want a reel with a decent number of bearings made from stainless steel or ceramic material…

Ideally, you want a reel with a decent number of bearings made from stainless steel or ceramic material. Both of these materials tend to last a long time and help reels perform at a high level.

Another thing to consider is whether the bearings are well-protected. Make sure your reel has some type of quality seal-technology that protects them.

NOTE

Typically, reels with high bearing counts are more expensive, so keep that in mind. But remember, quality over quantity is the rule when talking reel bearings. 

What Is a Good Gear Ratio for an Ultralight Spinning Reel?

A reel’s gear ratio is how many times the spool turns per full crank of the handle. Take the Pflueger President Reel for example —it has a 5.2:1 ratio. That means its spool turns 5.2 times per 1 full crank of the handle. 

One big plus of having a spinner with a high ratio is that it increases your retrieve rate. That means you can reel in more line with less effort. 

TIP

Believe me, it fatigues your wrist when you’re fishing on the bottom and have to reel up every 30 seconds.

A higher ratio also comes in handy when you’re running an ultralight spinner by weed-lines.

Can Ultralight Drag Systems Work for Big Fish?

Yes, You Can Land Lunkers

True ultralight reels don’t offer too much by way of powerful drag systems. But they do pack enough juice to handle nice-sized bass. 

You likely won’t find an ultralight drag of more than 7 – 10 pounds. But there’s a trick you can use to negate relying on the drag —it’s called backreeling

Backreeling

TIP

Some fishermen turn off the anti-reverse and keep the line tight, letting it out as needed. This trick takes practice but is a proven way to catch bigger fish on a micro combo. 

Okay, enough about reels for now. It’s time to spotlight the wielder of the lure —the rod! 

What Makes a Good Ultralight Rod?

The cool thing about snagging an ultralight rod and reel combo setup is that you know the rod is built for delicate work. Now that’s not to say that it’s dinky—in fact, most of these sticks can hold their own against larger fish.

But I want to tell you what to look for in a good rod, so let me touch on some key features

Rod Action 

This is basically how much bend your rod has —from tip to base. Fast-action rods are more sensitive and flexible towards the tip. They offer more “responsiveness” than medium or slow-action rods. 

Most ultralights are fast-action which is good for finesse fishing and targeting a wide range of fish. Fast action rods are flexible at the tip, but stiff enough to give the rod some backbone. 

Fast action rods are flexible at the tip, but stiff enough to give the rod some backbone… 

Other ultralights may be slow-action, which means the entire rod bends more. This type of rod makes a 4-pound largemouth feel like a 10 pound striper –so yeah, it’s a nice adrenaline rush! 

And in case you’re wondering, even though they are light, these rods aren’t wimpy — now’s the perfect time to debunk that myth, and explain why —

Rod Power

This is basically how much weight your rod can sustain at the tip —defined by the amount of force it takes to bend the rod. Although fast action ultralights are sensitive at the tip, that doesn’t make them weak. 

A lot of light rods like that Ugly Stik are made of strong graphite material that can stand up to big bass. It may feel like you’ve landed the Loch Ness Monster, but a good combo can handle a biggin’. 

So, now you may be wondering —

Man Fishing in the Winter Using Combo Reel
Man Fishing in the Winter

How Long Should An Ultralight Rod Be?

The longer the rod, the more it weighs. For that reason, most ultralights are about 5 to 6 feet in length. 

Some people think you have to fish for panfish with rods this size —but like I said, you can bring in nice-sized fish on a smaller rod. 

NOTE

If you want to go after bigger fish, then you can go a little longer —maybe 6 1/2 to 7 feet. But remember, the rod and reel need to match up and work with each other —so if it’s too long it may not be ideal for delicate work. 

There’s one more thing to look for in a good rod —

Choosing “Guides” on an Ultralight Rod

The “guides” are the hoops that the fishing line goes through. They run from the base to the tip of the rod. Some people refer to them as the “eyes” of the rod. 

On a spinning rod, the eyes are located underneath because a spinning reel always hangs downward. On this setup, the eyes are important because they help shoulder the pull of the fish and promote smooth casting.

TIP

It’s crucial to get a rod that uses quality guide material. Most combo rods come with guides that will withstand repeated use and heavy loads. 

The main materials used for rod “eyes” are —

  • Stainless steel
  • Chrome
  • Titanium
  • Silicon carbide 

Most combos come with stainless steel guides. Silicon carbide is said to be the toughest, but there’s no doubt that stainless is quality material.

I prefer to go with stainless because it’s strong and affordable. Titanium and silicon carbide are light and strong but are usually more expensive. 

Well, now you have some insights on the best combos, plus some need-to-know information. Now I can officially dive into the other combos I like —

Daiwa Mini System Ultralight Combo

If you’re looking for an ultra-compact spinning rod and reel –here you go! The Daiwa Mini Combo’s rod is just 4 ½ feet long and comes with a carrying case for travel.

Daiwa Mini System Ultralight Combo

If you’re looking for an ultra-compact spinning rod and reel –here you go! The Daiwa Mini Combo’s rod is just 4 ½ feet long and comes with a carrying case for travel.

The rod breaks down into 5 pieces and can easily fit inside luggage or a backpack.

But don’t let the size mislead you –this little baby is very capable of snagging bass and trout in the 4 – 10 pound range.

However, if you snag a true monster you may have some problems hauling it in. The reel has a weak max drag of 1 pound –so you’ll have to master the art of backreeling.

TIP

If you decide to go after bigger fish, use a heavier line weight. Try spooling it with 8 – 10 pound braided line if you’re looking for the rush of snagging a lunker. 

But remember, this rod is 4 ½ feet long with ultralight power. That means you’ll get plenty of bend in the slow-action tip, and less length to work with. Hauling in a hawg will prove more challenging on this set-up, and some skill and patience will be necessary. 

This setup comes packing an MS-S500T reel with a tough multi-disc drag system and a 5.1:1 ratio. It’s GyrosSpin balancing system and Twist Buster technology help ensure smooth casting and eliminate line tangles.

One of the best things about this combo is that it can be taken pretty much anywhere you travel. But realize that it’s not for saltwater adventures –freshwater only. Also, be forewarned –some buyers say the carrying case can be a little hard to pop open.

Specs

Pros

  • Perfect for traveling fishermen
  • Rod breaks down and fits into hard carrying case (included)
  • Embedded with anti-tangle and balancing technology
  • Threaded handle that can go on left or right side
  • Smooth ball bearing drive for easy casting
  • One of the lightest combo set you can get your hands on
  • Rod and drag are built to handle more than just panfish

Cons

  • Mediocre gear ratio
  • Weak max drag of 1 pound
  • Not built for saltwater angling –freshwater only
  • Shorter slow action rod can bend more at the tip and make grabbing the fish difficult
  • Has a lower ball bearing count than some of the other combo reels
  • The carrying case can be difficult to open

Abu Garcia Black Max Spinning Combo

The reel contains machined brass and pinion gears, and the rod has a solid graphite construction. These components are great for performance, but they also make the set-up weigh more than others on my list.

Abu Garcia Black Max Spinning Combo

It’s hard to get through a list of top spinning combos without mentioning Abu Garcia. The Black Max combo is available in several rod sizes. To make sure I keep things “ultralight” I’m going with the 6 foot rod setup.

This combo includes a tough Black Max rod and Black Max 40 spinning reel. The reel contains machined brass and pinion gears, and the rod has a solid graphite construction.

These components are great for performance, but they also make the set-up weigh more than others on my list. 

if you’re looking for the best ultralight rod with a backbone –this is your huckleberry. It’s tip is medium-fast action, so you get a little more stoutness for fish closer to 10 pounds…

But if you’re looking for the best ultralight rod with a backbone –this is your huckleberry. It’s tip is medium-fast action, so you get a little more stoutness for fish closer to 10 pounds. That’s probably why it’s a bass-favorite among loyal Abu Garcia fans.

On the flipside, you sacrifice a bit of rod sensitivity when you roll with this set. The medium-fast may help you pull in bigger fish, but getting them to bite may be more challenging. 

Although this setup is solid, the reel boasts a mere two ball bearings. I’m not really crazy about the low ball bearing count.

But the good news is that they are stainless steel, and offer a surprisingly smooth cast and retrieve.

The reel is built to last, with a 24 ton graphite frame and rotor –so it will stand up to saltwater…

The reel is built to last, with a 24 ton graphite frame and rotor –so it will stand up to saltwater. Just make sure you stay inshore and don’t go snagging a shark or something beyond its capabilities.

With rocket line management technology infused into every cast, the chances of getting tangles and backlash are slim. Couple that with an Everlast bail system and rocket lip design, and you’ve got a combo that can land 2 – 10 pound fish all day.

Specs

Pros

  • Quality Abu Garcia parts
  • Nice rod length built to stand up to big fish
  • Stainless steel guides with aluminum oxide inserts
  • Rocket line management to cast further and avoid wind knots
  • Everlast bail system

Cons

  • Low ball bearing count
  • A little heavier than some ultralight combos
  • Tip is medium-fast action, less sensitive than similar rods

Best All-Rounder

Pflueger Trion Spinning Combo

The Trion combo is built to fling light lures with pinpoint accuracy. The combo has models that are 5 ½ – 6 ½ feet long, with a reel packing 5 bearings for a smooth retrieve.

Pflueger Trion Spinning Combo

The Trion combo is built to fling light lures with pinpoint accuracy. The combo has models that are 5 ½ – 6 ½ feet long, with a reel packing 5 bearings for a smooth retrieve.

If you roll with the next-size-up you get a 5 ½ foot long rod, and 7 bearings in the reel. Both rods are slow-action and highly responsive –that’s why it’s my best all-around ultralight combo. But keep in mind, this combo is a little more expensive than the others –so it may not fit your budget. 

Each model is a beast for finesse fishing and both can handle nice-sized fish. The rod is made of rigid graphite, and the reel is aluminum. But as mentioned, it’s an ultralight combo –so it’s not made to handle a 20-pound striper!

The rod is made of rigid graphite, and the reel is aluminum…

The lightest model has a reel that weighs 5.9 ounces, and the next-step-up weighs 7.1 ounces —perfect for all-day bass and crappie angling. But like I said, if you want to stay truly “ultralight” then roll with the 5.9-ounce model.

Both models boast a 5.2:1 reel ratio with a max drag of 8 pounds, which is a little above average. They each have an instant anti-reverse bearing to help keep you in control with a fish on the line. The downside to this bearing is that it can screw you up if you’re trying to backreel. 

NOTE

Overall, this setup has everything you need to catch freshwater panfish and bass –plus you can go after inshore ocean fish.

Both reel and IM-6 graphite rod can stand up to saltwater corrosion. So if light saltwater fishing is your favorite, the Trion Combo is a smart choice.

Specs

Pros

  • Has a decent ball bearing count (5 or 7 bearings depending on the model you choose)
  • Instant anti-reverse drag
  • Braid-line ready to target bigger fish
  • Nice ratio of 5.2:1
  • IM-6 graphite rod that holds up under severe pressure
  • Reel with aluminum construction
  • Aluminum spool

Cons

  • Costs a little more than other similar combos
  • Some anglers say it takes a little time to learn to cast it properly
  • Instant anti-reverse bearing feature can make backreeling difficult

Best on a Budget

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Combo

Infused with Ugly Tech Construction, this rod is legendary among anglers. It’s made of a graphite/fiberglass mix that just won’t break.

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Combo

Infused with Ugly Tech Construction, this rod is legendary among anglers. It’s made of a graphite/fiberglass mix that just won’t break.

Infused with Ugly Tech Construction, this rod is legendary among anglers…

Two models have “ultralight” rod power, and one model that has “light” rod power. Each are tailored for super light finesse fishing and are up to the challenge. 

The cool thing about this setup is that one of the true ultralight models is 7 feet long. That means you get more leverage to handle big bass and inshore fish without losing rod sensitivity. 

The reel packs a Shakespeare gearing system and 4 stainless-steel bearings. This is a rather average number of bearings –some reels have more than twice this amount.

Gear Ratio

On the bright side, its 5.2:1 gear ratio is a notch above some of the alternatives. It gives you a fairly fast retrieve rate which is helpful if you’re fishing bottom in deep ponds or lakes.

But to be fair, some fishermen don’t care for the reel placement on this combo –saying it’s too close to the base. 

All-in-all, the Ugly Stik rod is known among anglers for its balance, strength, and sensitivity. It can handle panfish, catfish, largemouth bass and inshore ocean fish. It makes a great centerpiece to this combo. 

Specs

Pros

  • New and improved components
  • Anti-reverse feature
  • Excellent balance
  • Redesigned single-piece stainless steel guides
  • Comes in 3 lightweight models

Cons

  • Some anglers say the reel is awkwardly placed on the rod
  • Has a rather mediocre number of bearings

Editor’s Choice

Pflueger President Spinning Combo

The rod is made of I-M8 graphite, which is an upgrade over the Trion. It’s compatible with lightweight braid, which helps if you want to hunt bigger fish.

Pflueger President Spinning Combo

With stainless steel rod guides and a sealed drag system, this is my pick of the bunch. As mentioned, I snagged a lunker river-bass with one!

The smallest model boasts a 6.2 ounce reel and packs 7 bearings. The next-size-up weighs 7.5 ounces and boasts 10 bearings — personally I like the extra bearings, but the price is a little higher!

It has a sealed drag system to preserve the gears, plus sealed drag washers. Its oscillation system is slow –which is good. That means smoother line-flow off the spool when casting ultralight lures.

It’s compatible with lightweight braid, which helps if you want to hunt bigger fish…

The rod is made of I-M8 graphite, which is an upgrade over the Trion. It’s compatible with lightweight braid, which helps if you want to hunt bigger fish. But bear in mind, there has been at least one report of the rod tip breaking from overpressure. 

The ultralight and lightweight rod lengths range from 5 feet to 6 ½ feet. If you want more leverage to pull in bigger gamefish, then roll with the 6 ½ footer. Like with any combo, you have to use the right technique and common sense. 

It’s my absolute favorite spinning combo for freshwater and inshore saltwater fishing. The price is a little higher than all the others on my list –but well worth it. Oh, and a tip from one angler to another –some buyers reported shipping damages when ordering directly from Pflueger. I advise ordering from a third party vendor. 

Specs

Pros

  • High bearing count for smooth performance
  • Super water-tight seal around bearings and gears
  • Improved I-M8 graphite rod for strength and durability
  • Extremely responsive rod tip for stellar finesse fishing
  • Braid-ready spool
  • Aircraft-grade aluminum handle
  • Comes with hook-keeper

Cons

  • Tip could be prone to breaking under extreme pressure
  • Complaints of damaged reel when ordered directly from Pflueger
  • Instant anti-reverse bearing can complicate backreeling

Okay, I’ve rambled about the best ultralight spinning combinations for long enough! I think you have a good feel for which one you might want to pounce on. And if none seem like a great fit, at least you know what to look for in a good spinning combo.

But just to remind you, here’s the breakdown of my top 3 setups one last time –

Best All-Around

Pflueger P6635M2CBO Trion Spinning Combo

Like I said, this combo checks all the boxes. From rod toughness to reel quality –there’s not much to complain about.

It comes in 2 models –one with a little extra length for bigger fish. The reel has a nice bearing count, and is known for its smooth performance.

Its IM-6 graphite rod is ultra-sensitive and delivers the kind of responsiveness you need for finesse fishing. You can’t go wrong with the Trion –enough said.

Best on a Budget

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Combo

This combo gives you a lot for the money. The rod is tough as hell –like I said, it’s sort of legendary among anglers.

The reel is a little low on bearings, but the quality of the bearings is top-notch. It’s embedded with Shakespeare gear technology that delivers a smooth cast and retrieve.

This combo is well-balanced, and light enough for all-day fishing trips. It’s a noticeable upgrade from the original Ugly Stik combo, so if you’re looking for an affordable super light spinner that delivers above and beyond for the price then give this baby a long look.

Editor’s Choice

Pflueger President Spinning Combo

This one is the golden goose. It’s a tad more expensive but well-worth the extra bucks! And yes, it’s an upgrade from the Trion.

The rod is seriously strong, made with improved I-M8 graphite with a fiberglass splice. One of the models is 6 ½ feet long –which is a nice rod length for an ultralight setup! The longer model offers 10 bearings, which is more than the Trion.

The reel’s gear ratio is a touch above average and delivers a pretty high retrieve rate –good for deep water or running an ultralight spinner along weed-lines. It’s a well-balanced spinning combo that can pull in a lunker bass, plus hold up to freshwater and inshore saltwater fishing.

And there you have it –everything you need to know about ultralight combos, plus my top choices. Now it’s time for me to get ready for an early morning on the pond.

Maybe you should go do some ultralight fishing as well. If you decide to hit the lake, pond or ocean with one of the combos I mentioned –let me know! Send some pics showing your combo and catch, and I might put it up for all to see!

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