Ugly Stik Carbon Spinning Rod Review

The Shakespeare Ugly Stik carbon series is a lightweight and well-balanced rod known for its legendary toughness, but these carbon rods also sit at a low-tier price range.

However, you’re definitely sacrificing some top-end performance from what could’ve easily been modified and sold as higher-end gear at a higher price.

That said, is it worth investing in a budget-friendly spin casting setup simple enough for even a casual angler when it might not be suitable for saltwater fish?

This review breaks down the Shakespeare Ugly Stik Carbon Spinning Fishing Rod to determine if it’s right for you and which item model you want.

Pros

  • Suitable for braided line
  • Solid blank sensitivity
  • Multiple action ratings

Cons

  • EVA foam handle
  • Not the smoothest casting
  • Not for heavier fish

Review

Construction (craftsmanship, make quality)

The Shakespeare Ugly Stik Fishing Rod utilizes a 24ton graphite construction which places the actual graphite material squarely in the high-modulus category.

This decision is a big part of what gives Ugly Sticks some of the exceptional durability that the brand is and has been known for since it hit the market.

Even better, this balanced graphite blank also includes a solid graphite tip that further reinforces the blank at its most delicate point while increasing the sensitivity.

While this approach is great for the average angler and may even allow you to target saltwater fish, the blank’s lighter weight should get every angler excited.

Of course, if you’re talking about the Ugly Stik’s construction, you definitely can’t ignore the proprietary Ugly Tuff stainless steel guide system.

Coming as a surprise to virtually no one, the use of stainless steel ensures that the guides are more durable than most, but the spin casting version also comes with one-piece rings to prevent insert pop-outs.

Finally, this fishing rod’s handle is a bit unusual concerning the construction given that it doesn’t use any of the materials commonly applied as a covering.

Instead, this fishing pole hits you with a raw carbon fiber graphite handle that only increases its grip with a polymer butt, but it comes from Winn– one of the best in business.

Length

At this price range, “choice” in the length category for a fishing blank generally hit the foot and half-foot marks and calls it a day.

And, that’s usually more than enough to give you a wide array of choices for different size waters and fishing situations.

But the ugly stick carbon surprises with six different lengths to choose from.

Material

This spin casting rod features a blank made from Ugly Tech 100% 24-ton graphite which positions it within the high-modulus category that carries some interesting qualities.

The high-modulus carbon fiber means that the blank flexes significantly more than other types of carbon graphite, which prevents it from breaking when fighting extremely strong fish.

However, the use of high-modulus graphite carbon fiber also has the unfortunate downside of reducing the pole’s sensitivity when compared to firmer, if more brittle, lower modulus graphite.

Keeping this in mind, Ugly Sticks have a solid carbon fiber graphite tip to account for the loss of sensitivity while also¬†increasing the blank’s durability.

Looking at the Ugly Tuff guide system, you definitely have to make the conscious choice to accept stainless steel guides and all that comes with them.

The lack of an oxidization coating means that the line is far more likely to snag and tangle during the cast.

On the other hand, you don’t have to worry about the line slicing through the guide rings, even if you use a braided fishing line with heavier lures.

Action

Rather than going with the simple average of fast action, this carbon spinning rod specifications actually play with what would be considered a relatively slow action, though the slowest option offered is medium action rods.

Even though it’s only a choice between three options, this pole still affords you the ability to choose an action rating.

Thankfully, even the medium action rods provide crisp actions thanks to the high-modulus carbon graphite fibers and their excellent elasticity.

At angler-friendly prices, these spin casting models run the action gamut with the expected fast taper, but it also includes moderate and moderate-fast actions for extra casting distance. 

Power

The overwhelming number of power ratings in this price range end up giving you a medium spinning fishing rod– and that includes a lot of mid-tier options too.

However, the carbon fiber ugly sticks really go above and beyond by covering the full medium-power spectrum and going beyond that.

Granted, it would be nice if the ugly stick carbon rod offered a heavy or extra-heavy power rating, but with none of the models hitting the 7’6″ mark or longer, it might not even be necessary.

That said, with a 7′ ultra-light rod as well as a 5’6″ light rod, you don’t need to worry about fishing for soft-mouthed species.

Rod Guides

Rather than using aluminum gear to make casting easier, the Shakespeare Ugly Stik opts to continue its push towards strength and making one of the most durable options available.

To that end, the one-piece stainless steel Ugly Tuff guides are not only extremely durable because of their stainless steel material but also because of their design.

The one-piece stainless Ugly Tuff guides don’t have to worry about the insert pop-outs that plague other guide systems– even other stainless steel guides.

That said, this push towards extreme strength and durability means that you need to be better when casting since the line is more likely to tangle, and the line’s potential slapping motion can reduce casting distance.

Handle (material, shape, etc)

Whether you get a high-end model or something closer to a basement budget level, cork handles are generally considered one of the better choices.

Barring a cork grip, manufacturers’ next most common choice is an EVA foam, with or without a high-density construction.

However, this fishing rod zigs while everyone else zags with a Winn handle.

Normally, with cork, you get a durable handle with a decent grip, while EVA foam offers some of the best comforts you can find.

However, Winn uses a proprietary polymer formula that does its own thing altogether.

While not necessarily known for comfort, it’s more than comfortable enough to keep up with cork.

On top of that, Winn’s polymer handle also affords some of the best grip in the game without applying a separate treatment like TAC.

But like TAC, the Winn polymer ensures that you maintain your grip on the handle without issue– though this polymer is known to crack after a while, especially if you don’t dry it off immediately after use.

However, this spin-cast rod also gives you a fair amount of the bare blank at the mid and rear grip of the handle.

Now, while this certainly reduces some of the overall comfort that Winn’s polymer would otherwise provide, it drastically increases the handle’s ability to transfer vibration, which helps account for the high-modulus carbon fiber graphite.

Uses (Who is this good for)

This fishing rod works well for pretty much everyone for different reasons, though at its price range, the obvious fisherman for this rod is a beginner.

However, when you consider that it’s strong enough to handle saltwater fish, even an all-around angler should be able to find something that they love in this fishing rod.

On the other hand, an experienced angler might feel slightly let down if they’re used to the higher-end gear, though the Ugly Stik in this price category should be an easy backup pole.

Sure, competitive anglers might be able to take advantage of the high-end performance you get with professional-grade equipment, but it’s always nice to have something around that you can beat up and can take the beating.

Reel and Real Seat Compatibility

This pole’s reel seat comes from Fuji and is more designed for comfort than anything else, though the soft touch reel seat still offers some additional benefits.

For instance, since this rod comes in at such a reasonable price, it’s not out of the question that people will pair it with cheaper reels, something that can cause issues.

But regardless of the fishing reel that you pair with this pole, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about sensitivity– even if the reel is made of aluminum or even stainless steel.

This is because the Fuji reel seat is made of graphite carbon fiber and will transfer the vibrations to your hand that the reel itself might be unable to.

Conclusion (Wrap Up)

The Shakespeare Ugly Stik carbon cast spinning rod might be some of the cheaper gear available, but even an experienced angler can appreciate the ability of ugly stik carbon models to catch larger fish that impose a heavy load on the blank.

With a wide variety of different configurations to choose from, you might even be able to find a model that can handle reeling in saltwater fish.

However, if you stay inshore like the rod was designed for, you’ll fall in love with all of the minor details and design decisions made to improve any area where it might be a bit lackluster.

Like how the blank may not be the most sensitive type of graphite but is more than made up for with a sensitive handle and reel seat– you know, where your hands sit.