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Shakespeare Fishing Rods Review (2020 Buyer’s Guide)

Most anglers are very familiar with the Shakespeare fishing brand. There’s a very strong likelihood, if only speculative, that most anglers have owned fishing tackle or fishing kit of some description with Shakespeare’s name on it.

There are well over 100 years of history in the stalwart company. Such longevity in the ridiculously competitive angling market suggests Shakespeare has been getting it right, and probably from inception.

Today we’re going to review 5 Shakespeare rods. We’ll look at rods the average angler and weekend dangler will likely seek to cover their general fishing applications.

I’m focusing on the average angler here for a reason which will become apparent shortly.

Firstly, we’ll have a quick look at the Shakespeare company. We can learn a lot about a brand by looking at the people and the structure behind the product.

Who is Shakespeare?

Shakespeare commenced operations in Kalamazoo, Michigan back in 1897. The company was started by William Shakespeare Jr, hence the name.

While there’s no particular connection to the ultra-famous Elizabethan playwright, the company’s phenomenal rise to global angling recognition shares some of the drama and poetry with its dramatist namesake.

Contribution to the Development of Casting Reels

Significant achievements include the invention of the backlash brake. Obviously, this was a critical progression for casting reels, and the technology proved a boon for Shakespeare and its market share.

Significant achievements include the invention of the backlash brake…

Such was their success in the United States, Shakespeare was inducted into the National Sporting Goods Hall of Fame in 1959.

For me, and I assume many others, Shakespeare’s true rise to global prominence arrived with their Ugly Stik fishing rod brand. This proved a marketing revelation; I’ll have a little bit of a chat about it shortly.

If you’re interested, follow this link for Shakespeare’s corporate timeline. It makes for interesting reading.

Who is Shakespeare Now?

For better or worse, Shakespeare is now part of angling’s largest corporate conglomerate, Pure Fishing, Inc. I won’t go into the corporate history, it’s a big business, high finance story of acquisitions, alliances…and takeovers??

For my money, these corporate machinations detract from the sport, art, and romance of angling. However, this is the modern way, and it is what it is.

I question the creation of fishing mega-corps. – I’m just not sure there are any tangible fishing benefits for we the anglers.

Pure Fishing Inc. does have a pretty impressive stable, however. The list of fishing brands may surprise a few of you who may have believed their favorite fishing brand was fiercely independent. Check out the Pure Fishing Inc. brand portfolio.

  • Abu Garcia
  • All-Star
  • Berkley
  • Chub
  • Fenwick
  • Greys
  • Hardy
  • Hodgman
  • Johnson
  • JRC
  • Mitchell
  • Penn
  • Pflueger
  • Sebile
  • Shakespeare
  • SpiderWire
  • Stren,
  • and the famous Ugly Stik.

Ugly Stik

I remember when I was a kid I couldn’t wait to get my hands on an Ugly Stik. I had no idea it was a Shakespeare brand, nor did I care. Seeing as though I was only 5 years old when they hit the shelves in 1976, I didn’t know much about anything.

In hindsight, I now understand that Ugly Stik was substantially more expensive than Shakespeare’s other fishing rod lines. I didn’t actually own one until my early 20’s when I bought a blue water spin model that I still have and use to this day.

Unbreakable?

This says plenty for the “unbreakable” robust nature of the Ugly Stik design and its associated marketing spiel. The Howald clear tip construction process was billed as indestructible.

So far, this rings true. I’ve put my Ugly Stik through hell, and apart from being very faded, not even a guide has been compromised.

Having said that, this particular rod has a strange action. I’ve found it impossible to match up the perfect reel. I’ve never actually been satisfied with the overall performance of the rod.

Sure, it’s strong as an ox, but I very rarely use it. Watch a man try to break an Ugly Stick in the video below.

Trying to Break an Ugly Stik

Truth in Marketing

For me, Ugly Stik was true to its claims. They were/are ‘unbreakable’. However, I never really enjoyed using this rod. While rated over 10kg, and indeed heavy, there are many brands that offer all the strength without compromising action and sensitivity.

For me, and this is only my opinion, Ugly Stik was, and remains, an example of marketing genius. This was a rod that sold on its name and its headline claim.

These days, even though Ugly Stik is more affordable than in the early years, there are plenty of rod brands that deliver both great performance and worthy durability at accessible price points.

Your Average Angler

Without going into the specific mission statement and marketing objectives of Shakespeare, they appear to be, for all intent and purpose, a brand for the average angler and weekend dangler. And that accounts for the vast majority of fisherfolk.

a brand for the budget-conscious angler who wants quality and durability without the hefty price tag…

Importantly, they’re a brand for the budget-conscious angler who wants quality and durability without the hefty price tag. It’s this market where Shakespeare thrives. Shakespeare produces worthy rods at very accessible, entry-level price points.

It’s because of their rock bottom pricing that I thought it best to go into some Shakespeare history, however brief. Some anglers are put off by the lowest of entry point pricing believing the quality simply can’t be there.

Shakespeare Manufacture Worthy Fishing Rods

Generally speaking, Shakespeare produces good fishing rods that are very affordable and highly suitable for the average angler.

Shakespeare produces good fishing rods that are very affordable and highly suitable for the average angler…

For a fishing equipment manufacturer to endure all these years, become a household name in fishing, and remain relevant in a highly competitive market, you have to deliver – and Shakespeare does.

It’s not a coincidence that Shakespeare shares stables with some of the most trusted angling brands on the planet.

Active Competition

Despite my corporate cynicism, this says a lot. Shakespeare keeps good company. And competing against each other under the same corporate umbrella ensures the angling consumer is assured, at the very least, a modicum of genuine quality, not just marketing hype.

Let’s have a detailed look at 5 Shakespeare rods that could well make your rod purchase deliberations list.

5 Shakespeare Fishing Rods Reviewed

The following 5 rods are rod types you would expect to purchase for more common fishing needs. I’ll cover boat to bank and river to sea while excluding more specialized applications such as big game fishing and fly fishing.

Shakespeare Alpha Bigwater Spinning, 12′ Medium-Heavy

This rod is for any angler looking to tackle BIG fish from land. You can cast heavy metal slices and poppers, as well as huge flesh baits and live baits.

Shakespeare Alpha Bigwater Spinning, 12′ Medium-Heavy

I really like this option for anybody on a strict budget who wants to fish the ocean rocks and surf. Despite it being pretty light (an advantage), this has power to burn with plenty of casting length.

This rod is for any angler looking to tackle BIG fish from land. You can cast heavy metal slices and poppers, as well as huge flesh baits and live baits.

This rod is for any angler looking to tackle BIG fish from land…

While it’s a surf and rock special, you would also use this anywhere you want some casting length and/or need power to wrestle big fish. A good example other than surf and rock fishing would be targeting huge catfish from a riverbank.

TIP

It’s brilliant for tackling huge fish from piers. The length gives you a real advantage when trying to keep your catch out of the sticks.

There’s no mucking around with Alpha. With this rod in your hands, you’re set to tackle sharks, kingies, grouper and more. It’s a cool rod for live baiting for record stripies.

There is a 9-foot version of the same rod which is pretty cool too. However, the 12 foot delivers more access and greater benefits from the land.

How Would I Use it?

I’d strap an 8000 spin reel to it, and it would be my go-to rod for targeting monster fish from the surf, ocean rocks and piers. I’d cast the heaviest poppers, larger live baits, and metal slices.

Specs

  • Lure Rating: 3-7 Oz
  • Line Rating: 0-40lb
  • Rod Handle: EVA
  • Blank: Tubular Fiberglass
  • Guides: 5 X Ceramic Inserts
  • Length: 12’
  • Pieces: 2
  • Reel Seat: Graphite
  • Power: Medium Heavy

Pros

  • Love the lightweight feel. Fatigue is reduced significantly; you can cast it and hold it all day. Surprising for a fiberglass rod
  • Power to weight ratio is fantastic. You’d never know just by holding it, that you’re armed with a serious shark catcher
  • The price is incredibly cheap

Cons

  • It’s for big fish and big fish only. This is a really stiff rod. Great for casting heavy loads, but that’s about it. If you’re wanting the versatility to be able to chase panfish and rig light, the Alpha is not the go
  • Lackluster fittings and bindings. That’s more an observation than a criticism. For the price, one can’t expect all the bells and whistles

Ugly Stik Tiger Casting Rod, 7’ Medium-Heavy

This rod is the epitome of the Shakespeare Ugly Stick. It’s what it’s all about, indestructible. This rod is perfect for the boat or for ocean kayak fishing.

Ugly Stik Tiger Casting Rod, 7’ Medium-Heavy

This rod is the epitome of the Shakespeare Ugly Stick. It’s what it’s all about, indestructible. This rod is perfect for the boat or for ocean kayak fishing. It’s the second of our big fish rods for today’s review.

This rod is perfect for the boat or for ocean kayak fishing…

It will handle a wide range of casting reel sizes and a huge range of massive fish. I love this guy for massive kingies, tuna, sailfish and GT’s. It’s also great for bouncing the bottom for grouper.

With practice or experience, you can cast a reasonable distance with this rod, but that’s not what it’s all about.

For example, you’d not be using a rod like this to park up a distance from the tuna school and start casting poppers. This is more about trolling or dropping big flesh and live baits, floating baits, or even jigging.

These are incredibly robust casting rods for this price range…

These are incredibly robust casting rods for this price range. Everything about it says you can’t hurt me. The guides look as if they’d handle steel winch cable and a vice without flinching.

I strongly recommend these casting rods for anglers who are harsh and careless with their fishing gear. It will handle tough fish and tough fisher folk. Unless you drop it in the drink, it’ll last you a lifetime of countless trophy fish.

I’m still astonished that they can make a rod like this for the mere pocket change it cost online. If you chase big fish from your boat or kayak, it’s really hard to go past this.

Specs

  • Lure Rating: 1-8 Oz
  • Line Rating: 30-60lb
  • Handle: EVA
  • Blank: Ugly Tech Construction
  • Guides: 9 X Uglytuff
  • Gimbal: Rubber
  • Length: 7’
  • Power: Medium-heavy
  • Reel Seat: Graphite
  • Pieces: 1

Pros

  • The strength and durability is really something. It’s a credit to Shakespeare that they can make a rod at this tiny price that will literally last a lifetime.
  • I like that price point. With the money you save on this little number, you can invest in a higher performance casting reel
  • The powerhouse look inspires the angler with the confidence to lay into massive fish

Cons

  • Aesthetically, it’s not particularly appealing to me. But that’s completely subjective and makes no difference to its performance
  • Those chunky robust guides will see corrosion fairly quickly. It’s important to note, however, that this corrosion is only superficial. It usually starts where the guides are bound to the rod, and sometimes on the guide frame. My ugly stick showed corrosion quickly but has hardly increased in 30 years. It made no difference in longevity or performance.

Ugly Stik Inshore Select Spinning Rod

This is the most inexpensive quality rod option there is and the performance is far better than simply adequate.

Ugly Stik Inshore Select Spinning Rod

This is easily my favorite rod of the lot. For the life of me, I can’t choose a size or action, I want them all. Interestingly, if I bring my coffee from home this month instead of buying it, I could almost save enough to purchase them all.

This is the most inexpensive quality rod option there is and the performance is far better than simply adequate…

This is the misers budget option, and the quality compares to far more expensive fishing rods. This is the most inexpensive quality rod option there is and the performance is far better than simply adequate.

I’ve fished for over 40 years, and I’m more than happy to cast an Inshore Select all day long.

Later, I’ll provide the specks for one of the models, but consider this a review of the Inshore Select spin range.

I like these rods for everything in the salt and fresh from bass to trout, to flounder and whiting. If it swims the inshore waters, it’s a fair bet that it’s covered with an Inshore Select.

The medium-light is rated 6 to 15 pounds. The medium heavy is rated 10 to 25 pounds. You don’t have to be a fishing expert to recognize the awesome versatility of the Inshore Select’s reach.

They’re ideal for the beginner but will impress the most discerning spin angler…

I’ll fish baits and lures, live baits and dead baits, hard bodies, soft plastics and spinnerbaits. They perform with mono or braid and will suit reel sizes from 2000 to 4500. They’re ideal for the beginner but will impress the most discerning spin angler.

I can’t see a flaw in these fishing rods. Admittedly, I can’t vouch for durability and longevity as yet, but with reasonable care, I can’t see why they won’t live up to the Ugly Stik mantra.

How Would I Use it?

To be honest, I’d buy 3 of them. I’d put a 2500 reel on the medium-light, a 3000 on the medium and a 4000 on the medium-heavy. I’d use them for focussed hunting trips casting small hard bodies at bass.

I’d also use them for sitting on the dock with a drink and a comfy camp chair, dangling a shrimp at whatever, while I stared off into the riverside vista.

Specs

  • Lure Rating: 1/4-5/8 Oz
  • Line Rating: 8-20lb
  • Handle: Cork
  • Blank: Ugly Tech Construction
  • Guides: 9 X Uglytuff
  • Length: 7’6”
  • Power: Medium
  • Pieces: 2

Pros

  • Quality and performance for the price is second to none. If you’re on a strict budget but demand quality and performance, this Ugly Stik is a must
  • The Inshore Select range covers a huge percentage of inshore targets. I’d even poke the 7’6” medium-heavy model at a gentle surf
  • They look great, and the feel of the cork handles is excellent. They transfer all the action from the business end to your hand
  • This model demonstrates how Shakespeare has evolved, developing the Ugly Stick brand into far more than a one-trick wonder
  • Great for freshwater fishing and saltwater fishing

Cons

  • I think Shakespeare missed an opportunity to create an extensive range covering lighter and heavier models.
  • Jury is out on guide endurance and performance.

Shakespeare STM66SPT Travel Mate Pack Spin Rod

Wherever you’re traveling by train, plane, automobile, bicycle or walking, this rod is incredibly easy to carry and has the power and sensitivity to land decent fish on lures or baits.

Shakespeare STM66SPT Travel Mate Pack Spin Rod

I have to admit that I have NEVER been a fan of telescopic rods. I’ve not met a telescopic rod that I’ve been happy to use, let alone buy. It’s quite the contrary with multi-piece travel rods, however.

Many rod manufacturers have a travel rod line. Some of them are so good that they rival the performance of standard rod configurations, with the hefty price tag to match.

With the STM66SPT breaking down to 7 pieces, it’ll fit in your laptop bag…

The Shakespeare models certainly fit the travel bill. With the STM66SPT breaking down to 7 pieces, it’ll fit in your laptop bag. What I don’t understand is why Shakespeare has used such ordinary hardware.

The rod feel is certainly fine. They cast well, they handle battles well, and they’re easy to put together and break down. They look pretty good too.

The rods are fiberglass and the insert-free stainless guides are quite robust. While this makes sense for a rod that is likely to attract significant transits bumps and scrapes, they could have upped the quality of componentry.

Price

I’m not quite sure why Shakespeare set out to make their travel rods so ridiculously cheap. And I mean crazy cheap.

They’re literally pocket change. But they work and they work pretty well. I’d just like to see them with a higher standard of hardware.

They’re literally pocket change. But they work and they work pretty well…

The medium action rod will cover just about everything the inshore has to offer, excluding mega-fish, of course.

But wherever you’re traveling by train, plane, automobile, bicycle, or walking, this rod is incredibly easy to carry and has the power and sensitivity to land decent fish on lures or baits.

How Would I Use it?

I’d put this rod in my car and leave it there with a reel and a couple of versatile lures. Then, as I passed any likely puddle or table drain, with half an hour to spare, I’d whip out my Travel Mate, and cast at come what may.

Specs

  • Line Rating: 6-12lb
  • Handle: EVA
  • Blank: Tubular Fibreglass
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Length: 6’6”
  • Power: Medium
  • Pieces: 7
  • Reel Seat: Twist Lock

Pros

  • The price is stupidly cheap. You’ve probably got enough coins in the ashtray of your car to pay for one
  • They’re very easy to assemble and break down. The multi-piece configuration doesn’t seem to adversely impact performance to any serious degree
  • It really will fit in your briefcase. You can stash it in your car and leave it there without taking up any space at all
  • The performance is pretty good. Indeed, it’s a hundred times better than any telescopic rod

Cons

  • There was no need to make these rods so cheap. I believe most anglers would be happy to pay a few extra dollars for higher quality hardware
  • A composite rod would deliver far better performance without adding significantly to the price.

Shakespeare Wild Series Spinning Rod

This is what Shakespeare considers a premium rod. Performance-wise, it certainly holds its own when compared to other more expensive rods.

Shakespeare Wild Series Spinning Rod

Every angler needs a general-purpose rod in their arsenal. For many anglers, the general-purpose rod is their only rod. Whether it’s your go-to every session rod or part of an arsenal, your GP should be performance-driven.

A general-purpose rod is deployed for a variety of applications. It needs to be both sensitive and strong, as well as hold reasonable casting manners. Versatility is critical.

It’s lightweight, responsive, and when well balanced, casts a country mile…

The Shakespeare Wild Series Spinning Rod 9’ is a full graphite, cork handle 2 piece. It’s lightweight, responsive, and when well balanced, casts a country mile.

The 9 footer copes well with decent stripies and drum from the surf, while not being overkill for 2 and 3-pound bass, casting cranks from the bank.

Weight

It’s very light to hold and easy to extract peak casting. It has enough sensitivity to feel a timid bite while holding all the grunt you need when a stripy takes a small live bait.

It has enough sensitivity to feel a timid bite…

Sensitivity is enhanced using braid, but I’d happily spool a 3000 spin reel with mono and expect good feedback.

The price is quite accessible for anglers on a tight budget. However, the rods would benefit from performance guides, reel seats and a more polished finished.

I’m still of the opinion that anglers would be happy to pay a few extra dollars for better hardware.

Quality

This is what Shakespeare considers a premium rod. Performance-wise, it certainly holds its own when compared to other more expensive rods.

In some cases, you get better performance for your money relative to others.

While componentry is a little lackluster, this is a light and versatile rod, with plenty of power for dealing with the majority of the inshore species you’re likely to target or encounter.

Should a monster take your lure, you’re in with a fighting chance despite the conservative rating.

How Would I Use it?

I’d take this rod on any trip where I wanted more lure casting distance. It’s also ideal rigging for a smaller class of fish, knowing there’s some power backing you up should you hook-up bigger than expected.

This would be a go-to option for a host of surf species when the waves and weather are conducive to a lighter class of rod.

Specs

  • Lure Rating: 1/4-1/2 Oz
  • Line Rating: 6-12lb
  • Handle Cork
  • Blank : Mi6 Graphite
  • Guides: 10 X Stainless
  • Length: 9’
  • Power: Medium-light
  • Pieces: 2

Pros

  • I really like that this rod series is full graphite. You get plenty of sensitivity and power with none of the weight
  • It’s affordable and versatile. It’s a very useful surf rod while being no load to carry while fishing the docs or river banks

Cons

  • The rod is let down a little with the guides, handle and reel seats. A few extra dollars on hardware could turn this rod into something special

Wrapping up The Shakespeare Rod Review

Just about every angler loves a bargain. And there’s no doubting that Shakespeare gets you out on the water with quality and performance for less.

I like a fishing manufacturer that keeps fishing accessible to all, and Shakespeare has built its brand on this principle.

Do Shakespeare rods lack a little of the refinement and some of the bells and whistles of their competitors? Yes, they do.

However, there’s no denying that many of the Shakespeare rods deliver a reliable and enjoyable fishing experience.

If nothing else, the rods mentioned above represent great value and good performance. For most of us, that’s all we ask of any fishing rod.

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