What you would choose as the world's best fishing rod is probably different from what I would choose, which is almost certainly different than what many other anglers think of as the world's best fishing rod. We all prioritize different traits of fishing tackle differently, and we all have our own favorites. But here's one candidate we think of as a Chevrolet, not a Cadillac: The Shakespeare Ugly Stik. The best thing about the Ugly Stik is, unquestionably, its nearly indestructible nature. Look, the first time my kids saw me cry was when a gust of wind blew a car door shut on four St. Croix Premier graphite rods, some of my personal favorites, smashing them all to smithereens in one fell swoop. So I place a lot of value on ruggedness, when it comes to my fishing tackle.
That sturdy fiberglass build is what made the Ugly Stik famous, and it’s why countless anglers have bought them and then used them for decades at a time. Heck, this rod line has been in production since 1976, and I have one on my rod-rack which might date all the way back to that initial offering. Of course, these rods are far from perfect. They’re about as sensitive as a VHF antenna, and have a similar action. Their guides don’t have liners. And the clear tip is a dead give-away that you bought a cheap rod (current MSRP: $39.95).
Like many things in life, these rods are a case-study in trade-offs. You get super-strength, at the cost of finesse. Still, for many of us, that makes them the best buy in the world—even though they may not be the world’s best fishing rod. And this year, the down-side to going Ugly shrank a bit.
Shakespeare decided that after 37 years, a re-do was in order. They started using a fiberglass/graphite combination blank that extends through the grip, added a black matte finish, and maybe most important, started using stamped stainless-steel guides lined with raised rounded edges. These aren’t as good as high-end guides with ceramic inserts when it comes to line wear, but they’re a heck of a lot better than the old guides—and you can step on them without busting out an inset, and ruining the rod.
They’re calling the new face of Ugly GX2, and they sent me a two-piece 6'6" spinning rod to test out this spring. After several month of use, I'd say the new generation is maybe 15 or 20 percent more sensitive, and it has a lot less wiggle to it. Now instead of feeling like a VHF antenna, it feels more like, well, a fishing rod. More importantly, I haven't managed to bust it yet, and I doubt I ever will. Check back with me in 2050, and I'll let you know if it holds up as well as the original version. In the mean-time, take a look at the Ugly Stik GX2 if you want to buy the best spinning rod in the world. Or not.