The Complete Ultralight Fishing Guide


Ultralight fishing is by far one of the best ways to catch a large number of fish, ranging in species from catfish, sunfish, crappie, bass, and so many more. There are a bunch of reasons why ultra light fishing has taken off, and continues to gain popularity as each year passes. This guide is going to become your go-to for any information regarding ultralight bass fishing. You can learn to catch a huge number of fish each and every time you go out to the pond, creek, or lake.

It isn’t just smaller fish that you catch either, I have caught some nice sized keepers using ultralight gear. Fish up to 3, 4, and even a 5lb 4oz beauty that was caught using a 1/8oz Mepps inline spinner, when everybody else was struggling to pull in bite sized panfish all day. This is why I love ultralight fishing, and why I believe so many people are coming to find that light sized tackle is the way to go. I’m not telling you to sell your “professional” gear, but when it comes time to have fun, and catch a lot of fish, bust out the light tackle!

The Ultralight Fishing Rod Explained

When people think about ultralight fishing rods, they typically assume a 4ft long piece of radio antenna that couldn’t reel in a fiesty sunfish let alone a decent bass or catfish. Getting hung up on this notion is the reason I feel that a lot of people have disregarded ultralight fishing as a means to bag more fish. This is a mistake though, because technology has advanced dramatically over the years, and the new ultralight fishing rod isn’t just a simple buggy whip with some 2lb line attached to it. There is a long research and development process that goes into these rods. After all, when people buy an ultralight rod, they usually spend a decent amount of money on it, and want it to not only work well, but last a long time too.

The shorter rods in the 4′0″ range should really be avoided. These rods have absolutely no casting distance to them, and generally don’t have much of a backbone either. If you are simply throwing little pieces of bread, with a #8 hook, ripping the lips off the sunfish, then by all means, you can get away with a 4ft long rod. If you plan to target anything bigger, you are definatly going to want a heavier duty, while still ultralight or light action, fishing rod, in a longer length as well.

Ultralight fishing rods that fall into the range of the 4′6″ to 5′0″ are going to provide you better casting distance, but it still isn’t going to be that great. You can achieve decent casting accuracy with a rod of this length, and most manufacturers that are putting rods out in this category are putting a little more into the backbone of the rod, to help you fight fish better.

Rods that go from 5′6″ to 6′0″ are a great all around rod length. You can’t go wrong if you pick up a decent rod in this range. It will take a little extra practice to get the accuracy down, but once you do, it will pay off. The casting distance on these rods is dramatically increased over the shorter rods, and there is a lot more fiberglass and graphite to help strengthen up the backbone of the rod. This means you can cast farther, with lighter lures, and reel in bigger fish.

The ultralight fishing rods that I love to use are the 6foot 6inch models, and the 7feet long rods. These long rods will let you cast almost completely across a small retention pond or creek. The length allows you to fight fish with ease, and control their every move. Getting a quality rod in this length though, is going to cost you some money. Trust me though, if you are serious about ultralight fishing, and really want to catch more fish, not just hit and miss on the pond, you have to get a long rod. The casting distance, accuracy, line control, backbone, all of it adds up to landing you not only a lot of fish, but big fish too. Again, distance and backbone plays the biggest role in the ultralight fishing rods.

Ultralight Fishing Reels From Front To Back

Let’s start with ultralight spinning reels. These hand held reels often pack quite a little punch. You have to remember though, when you are going to be looking for any ultralight reels, that you get what you pay for. If you pay $20 for a combo, expect to get about 2 trips out of it. The third trip, it’s gonna give out on you, I promise. Spinning reels have to have a decent price tag on them, to ensure that quality parts are being used .. price is a direct relation to the life of your reel, even moreso if you don’t take care of it.

These spinning reels typically have drags from 2lbs up to 10lbs on some of the beefier ultralight reels. You have to pay close attention when you are setting the drag, because on the better reels, if you are using 2lb test, and set the drag to 3lbs, you are going to break off fish after fish, until you figure out what is causing that to happen. 9 times out of 10, it is because your drag is set too stiff.

Tip: When you are using a spinner reel and ultralight line, make sure that you close the bail using your hand. Don’t start reeling as soon as your bait hits the water, because using the reel to close the bail will cause line twist. At the end of the day, you are going to have headaches trying to clear out all this line. When you close the bail by hand, it completely avoids line twist.

I personally tend to avoid ultralight closed face reels, because I used them as a kid, and have that hangup that they are kids fishing reels. They do catch fish, ask my daughter — she tears ‘em up every trip on a barbie rod with a closed face reel. The drags can get quite beefy, especially with companies like Zebco, so you can’t really go wrong matching one up to a decent rod. Just expect to spend a few bucks on a decent model, so that you can get some life out of it. These reels are generally best for beginners to use, because you can simply push a button and sling a lure. The casting distance is decreased over a spinning reel, however.

Ultralight fishing with a baitcaster is possible! We tested it recently, putting to work the Daiwa Pixy, and the Calcutta 50, to determine if slinging light weight lures is really possible with a baitcaster. These techniques are not for beginners, by any means. For that matter, even people just beginning with a baitcaster should avoid trying to throw ultralight lures on one of these reels.

We ended up going with a BassPro Pro Lite Finesse baitcaster, matched to a medium light Crankin’ stick. This ended up not being ultralight fishing after all was said and done, but it is fun to throw my 1/4oz baits on it. The 1/8oz baits ended up being more pain than it was worth at the end of the day, and I have no inclination to attempt throwing that small of a bait on a baitcaster again. It wasn’t fun, but it is possible.

Differences In Types Of Ultralight Fishing Line

There are four main types of ultralight fishing line, and while I only prefer to use three of them, we’re going to cover all of them, just for the sake of knowledge. You will learn why I only like to use the three types of lines, and each has their place and time to be used.

Monofilament line is one of my personal favorites to use on ultralight fishing gear, because it floats. I love fishing with micro sized topwater baits, watching all types of fish explode on them, so monofilament is usually included on at minimum one of my rods. Monofilament also provides excellent stretch, so that when you are fishing topwaters, you don’t automatically rip the bait out of the fishes mouth. It is possible to do on ultralight gear, and when you see the explosion, it happens a lot.

This type of line also provides better control of your topwater lures, because you aren’t pulling it through the water before it moves the lure. That typically causes the lure to dive down into the water, something you don’t usually want with a topwater. Because the line floats, it is always ready to work the lure. This type of line is also a little harder to bust, because of an improper drag setting.

Fluorocarbon fishing line is something I love to use when I am fishing baits below the waters surface. Spinners, jigs, worms, crankbaits, you name it, if it is under the water, I have to have florocarbon on my rod. The action is completely different for submerged baits when you use Floro over Monofilament, always for the better.

Fluorocarbon provides you with minimal stretch, so you have to ensure that your drag is set properly in order to avoid breaking off fish after fish. The good part about providing minimal stretch is that you can feel a lot more of the smaller bites and submerged objects, than you can when you are using monofilament. Again, just make sure your drag is set properly when you use flurocarbon.

Braided fishing line is another type that I love to use on ultralight tackle. It does sink, so I use it only when I am fishing cranks, spinners, worms, or jigs. Where I prefer to use this type of line, is when the pond or creek I am fishing has tons of debris in the water. I don’t mean debris like trash and garbage, but stumps, sticks, rocks, weeds, you know, the type of stuff fish love to hide in. Just because ponds are loaded down with this type of structure and cover, doesn’t mean that you can’t use ultralight fishing tackle to bag some fish out of it.

Ultralight braided fishing line provides no stretch at all, and you feel every little tick, thump, bump, and grind on the bottom, or from fish. I love it because of the sensitivity it provides, but I despise it because of its strength. 1lb test braided line typically has 10 lbs of breaking strength. Try breaking 10lb test on an ultralight rod, and you’ll see what I am talking about. Before you start fishing with braid, make sure you know how to “pluck the string” in order to dislodge your baits from hangups and snags. Please, do not just cut the line, and leave it for later. You’re a poor fishermen if you do that! Braided fishing line also does incredibly well in the weedy areas where you often find grass carp. That’s just one of the many carp fishing tips we have to offer.

The Best and Classic Ultralight Fishing Lures

Some of the lures that I love to use for ultralight bass fishing have been around for decades. One of them was brought around in 1949, and still continues to bag me a grip of fish every time I use it. I prefer the 4″ version, but if they are fiesty, or the water is murky, I will go up to the 6″ thinner profile versions. The lure I am talking about, is the plastic worm. My go to colors are watermelon pepper, tequila sunrise, junebug, and pumpkinseed.
Another ultra light fishing lure that I love to use is the small spinnerbaits. Not just any spinnerbait, but Johnson’s Beetlespin, Mepp’s inline spinners, and Blakemore’s Roadrunner. These three spinner type baits have landed me more fish, than most of the other lures in my tackle box combined. In the Beetlespin, I love using the white with the red stripe, and black with the yellow stripe. If the water is clear, go with the neon green, translucent color. For the Mepps, go with the natural baitfish colors that are in the area. I have had great success with the bumblebee, black and yellow color for some reason. For the Roadrunner, black and chartreuse. Fish it slow, and then go slower.

Crankbaits also have their place on the end of an ultralight rod, and there are two types that I have grown to love over the years. The Strike King Bitsy Pond Minnow, and the Bomber Model A, in the small sizes. These two lures are excellent when the bigger fish are keying in on smaller minnow sized baitfish, or spawned out fry. Use these lures on long rods, so you can cast them extremely long distances, and work them back. It really pays off.

Ultralite bass jigs are a great way to bag some bigger fish in the pond. The full size versions of these baits are known as being big fish lures, and the ultralight jigs are no different. There is something about the chunkiness and the way these baits move underwater that attracts bites from bigger fish. I prefer using colors like black and blue, and green and brown combinations. These have been my proven colors time and time again.

A Few Ultralight Bass Fishing Tips

Make sure to check your line after each fish. Little knicks and gouges in the line can cause you to break fish off, if you’re not paying attention to the line, right around the lure.

Close the bail manually on spinning reels. Using the reel to close the bail will cause line twist, but closing it by hand after each cast will dramatically reduce your birds nests at the end of the day.

Longer rods cast smaller baits a lot farther. Long ultralight fishing rods cast small baits extremely far distances. Sometimes, you can even unload the spool.

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4 Responses to “The Complete Ultralight Fishing Guide”

  1. Al Davison says:

    UL Baitcasters:
    My assumption: I normally consider true UL to be 4# or less.

    So, I don’t even call my setup a true UL because I can’t really get it to work well with anything under a typical 6# mono diameter. The take-up on most of the baitcasters is calibrated for a certain line diameter range. Line diameters below that calibration don’t spool correctly and lead to “packing up” and, inevitably shorter casts or “bird nests” after a dozen or so casts.

    That said, I agree with your choice of the Pixy and/or Calcutta but those things are ridiculously over-priced!

    I went with a Daiwa TD Sol – bought it used off eBay – and sent it off for super-tuning. I have less than $200 in the reel and it works better than a new one! Daiwa reels have notoriously poor drag washers but my tuner installed CarbonTex washers during the supertuning process and that made a HUGE difference in how progressive and reliable the drag is now. As you mentioned in another article, having the drag set correctly is KEY to successful UL/light-line fishing.

    I’ve currently paired my TD Sol with a St. Croix Avid, 7′ ML rod. It’s still a tad bit stiffer than I would like but the choices for UL baitcasting rods are slim. I plan to have a rod custom-built for it using a true light action, moderately-fast blank as soon as I can afford it. (As an aside, I will have it built using micro-guides because they are just da’ bomb! You should do an article on micro-guides sometime.)

    Anyway, just found your site and I really like it so, THANKS!

    Athens, Georgia

  2. Josh says:

    Glad you enjoyed it. I’m going to be cleaning it up over the next few days, hopefully adding new content to it. With the weather warming up I’ve been slinging a fly, but my ultralight rods keep glaring at me.

    Tight lines!


  3. Milda Noggle says:

    Hi This is a great site and found the page helpful,this will aid my results particularly when im fishing the river,I will check back for more tips. Should you ever find some unheard of lures be sure to post.

  4. The open water fishing is better in this part but does anyone have some information on any decent rivers to fish,particualarly searching to find some flying carp,a few other guys have hooked some good sizes here lately.

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