Light vs Ultralight Rod For Trout

When it comes to using a light vs. ultralight rod for trout fishing, I’ve learned it depends on which type of trout you’re fishing for.

Ultralight rods with a super-sensitive tip are good for smaller species like brook trout, but overall light action rods are better in terms of catching and handling bigger trout. That’s why I like to bring both with me whenever I hit the water in search of trout.

Let’s take a closer look at light vs. ultralight rods for trout fishing.

Light vs. Ultralight Rod: What’s The Difference?

There are slight differences between light and ultralight rods in terms of how they feel when casting and reeling in trout.

When compared to bass and other fish of similar size, trout are shy and sensitive to the rig, so they won’t bite on just anything. You don’t want to miss your opportunity, and medium and heavy rods may disguise a trout bite until it’s too late.

That’s why a light rod is preferred for trout fishing, so you can really feel the bites and enjoy the fight. In addition to light rods, ultralight action rods have gained popularity in recent years. Now the question remains how light is too light for trout fishing?

Here are the key characteristics of light and ultralight rods.

  • Light action rods are lightweight with fast action and bending at the tip. These rods are ideal for catching trout, crappie, bluegill, and panfish. Light rods are usually a bit longer and thicker than ultralight versions.

  • Ultralight action rods have faster action and even more bend than light rods. Ultralight rods are used to hook small fish in shallow water like brook trout or perch.

Both light and ultralight action rods should be between 6-8 feet for ideal trout fishing. Fluorocarbon line is good for either rod, especially because trout are shy and this nearly invisible line is less intimidating to them.

Whichever rod you choose, remember to choose a line in the 2 to 10-pound test range, which should help you hook average trout with no problem.

When Is a Light Rod Best for Trout?

Light vs Ultralight Rod For Trout

The main benefit of a light rod for trout fishing is greater versatility. While an ultralight rod has more flex, it also lacks the strength and backbone to reel in bigger brown or rainbow trout.

For the best chance of hooking any size trout, you’ll want a light rod with line rated for around 10 pounds, or 20+ pounds if you want to test your luck at larger-than-average brown or lake trout.

Here are a few more benefits of using light rods to reel in trout.

Better for Bigger Trout

Light rods have a slightly heavier action and more backbone than ultralight rods, so it’s easier to handle larger trout with a light rod.

Trout put up a fun fight on the line, and to handle these movements and the size of brown trout, lake trout, and rainbow trout, you need a light action rod.

Longer Rods

Light rods are usually longer than ultralight rods, so you can enjoy more accurate casts and guide the lure better. When navigating through weeds and overgrown banks where trout often live, a longer rod comes in handy.

Once you get a feel for the rod and find your spot, longer light rods make it easier to cast and land your lure just where you want it.

Further Casts

Light action rods are fun because they can handle heavier lures and cast further compared to shorter ultralight rods. Lighter rods have a stiffer pole, giving you more energy and control over each cast.

The only time when this isn’t an advantage is if you are using small lures around 1/16oz, otherwise typical trout lures are good to go. The heavier the lure, the easier it is to drop it in the right spot.

When Should You Use an Ultralight Rod for Trout?

Light vs Ultralight Rod For Trout

If you’re fishing for brook trout in a small river or stream, an ultralight rod is the best choice. Ultralight rods give you a lot more sensitivity and feel than you may be used to with heavier rods, including light rods.

When equipped with fluorocarbon or monofilament line passing the 2 to 10-pound test, ultralight rods can give you an exciting experience where you feel all the trout movement.

These are a few other advantages to using ultralight rods for smaller trout species.

Fun Fight Feelings

One of the most fun things about trout fishing is feeling the fish fight on the line as you safely and successfully reel it in. Ultralight rods let you feel more of the fight compared to light action rods, which is usually a good thing so long as you haven’t hooked anything too big.

With small fish like brook trout, you can really enjoy the flexibility of an ultralight rod. You just want to make sure the stress of a larger fish doesn’t overpower and ultimately snap an ultralight rod.

Easier Casting

Ultralight rods are suitable for casting small trout lures. If you’re using nightcrawlers or small marabou jigs on a plain hook, ultralight rods are a smart choice that will give you a feel similar to fly fishing.

Small grub worms are enough to entice many hungry trout thanks to the resemblance to their natural diet, and you will feel right away when one hooks onto your ultralight rod. Your casts may not go as far as with light rods, but in small rivers and streams, that’s no problem.

More Flexibility

Ultralight rods have greater flexibility at the tip, so you can feel even gentle bites right away. More flexibility usually means more fish caught overall, so long as you have the right rig setup and use light lures and lines along with the ultralight rod.

A 6-foot ultralight rod is usually the sweet spot in terms of flexibility and sensitivity.


Deciding which rod to use for trout fishing depends on how big of fish you’re hoping to catch. If you’re looking to reel in brown trout, rainbow trout, or lake trout, light action rods give you more versatility and strength.

Ultralight rods offer better feel and sensitivity for catching brook trout and smaller fish in shallow water, although the rod isn’t as strong and sturdy.

Both light and ultralight rods are better for trout fishing than a medium or heavy rod without flex or a sensitive tip. Whichever kind you choose, don’t forget the fluorocarbon or mono line rated for a 2 to 10-pound test.

If you’re going for deeper, larger lake trout, increase the pound test and swap out the ultralight rod for a light one.

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