Ugly Stik Elite vs Gx2: Differences to Know Before Buying

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ugly elite vs gx2

Golfing and Fishing have one thing in common. Just as Tiger Woods is likely to come in 18 holes under par whether he uses a cheap $200 set of golf clubs or a $5,000 set of custom woods and irons, so do most fishermen do equally well with a fishing rod that meets the basic requirements. You want a rod that is sensitive yet sturdy as a tank, is lightweight, won’t break, and is easy on the body to cast through a day of fishing.

You could spend a few hundred dollars on your fishing rod, but if you are smart, you might want to consider one of Shakespeare’s two most popular fishing rods, the Ugly Stik Elite or the Ugly Stik GX2.

What’s the difference between the two rods?

If you ask Amazon’s customers, fundamentally the surface difference is the GX2 tends to be $10 cheaper in price, but as the GX2 is the number one fishing rod sold by Amazon, across dozens of brands, and the Ugly Sik Elite is the number two fishing rod sold by the online behemoth, it’s not surprising that there are points of differences among fisherman as to which is the best.

But fundamentally, with nearly 1,000 positive customer reviews between them, it’s clear that instead of asking which is the best fishing rod between the two and instead you asked which is the best fishing rod overall, Shakespeare’s Ugly Stik brand is the clear winner.

Shakespeare introduced the Ugly Stick fishing rod in 1976 and has been a leading brand for many years. But in 2013, they introduced the Ugly Stick GX2.

The main functional difference between the GX2 and the traditional Ugly Stick was the addition of a substantial amount of graphite in a rod. This made the GX2 substantially lighter and more sensitive than the traditional Ugly Stik.

Then, in 2014, Shakespeare followed up the GX2 with what the company called the “premium version of the GX2.” Since then, it’s been a matter of preference among Ugly Stik buyers as to which spinning rod meets their needs the best.


Best Ultralight Spinning Rods

Cork vs foam handle

The first and obvious difference between the Ugly Stik Elite and the Ugly Stik GX2 is the handle. The GX2 has a generic, foam handle, which is probably the part of the fishing rod that will wear out first.

Meanwhile, the Ugly Stik Elite has a sturdy, engraved cork handle, with a second, smaller cork handle serving as a second grip point, above where the reel sits.

The Ugly Stik Elites cork handle gives the rod not only a traditional look but provides a superior grip, not only for casting but for leverage and power when battling a large fish. The cork grip, in and of itself, justifies a few dollars more in price. It’s not only highly functional but it provides a premium appearance.

The matte black finish of the Ugly Stik GX2, on the other hand, may appeal to some fishermen, but the cork handle of the Ugly Stik Elite, in addition to superior gripping power, has another subtle function.

Whether in the boat, or off-shore, the cork handle announces the presence of the fishing rod, making it much less likely you or some of your boat mates will accidentally step on it.

Purists may be aghast but in future production generations of the Ugly Stik GX2, Shakespeare would be wise to consider a contrasting color for their foam handle, so the rod sticks out and won’t be easily stepped on.

Graphite is the magic key to both the Ugly Stik Elite and the GX2.

Less obvious externally, the major difference, outside of the grip, between the two rods, is the fiberglass/graphite combination.

When Shakespeare introduced the Ugly Stik GX2 in 1983, the addition of a substantial amount of graphite into the GX2 fishing rod was a game-changer. Previous to the introduction of the GX2, Ugly Stik fishing rods were sort of the battle tank of fishing.

They were built, “battle tough,” so much so that many fishermen have bought and used the same Ugly Stik fishing rod for a decade or more, but experts will tell you that the basic Ugly Stik gave up a substantial amount of flexibility in the process.

The Ugly Stick GX2, with its addition of graphite to the fishing rods, did two things at once. It allowed Shakespeare to compete with other manufacturers who were producing fishing rods with graphite in them at a lower price, and it greatly enhanced the flexibility and responsiveness of the fishing rod.

However, if some graphite in a fishing rod was great, Shakespeare, naturally produced a superior, follow-on fishing rod with 35 percent more graphite when it came out with the Ugly Stik Elite.

Graphite is not only responsive but won’t break

Some customers, not familiar with Shakespeare’s tradition of toughness, wonder if their Ugly Stik Elite or GX2 will break under extreme pressure. And in fishing reel reviews, some fisherman does claim to have had an Ugly Stik reel break, but most people attribute these breakages to misuse, such as slamming the tip of the rod in a truck tailgate.

In 2016, a YouTube video was produced by a gentleman who goes by the nickname, Catfish, and Carp. This video at Can I break an Ugly Stik GX2? shows a fisherman deliberately attempting to break an Ugly Stik GX2 fishing rod, but attaching a chain saw to the rod, attaching a 22-pound bicycle to it, and towing a canoe across his driveway with his son riding inside.

Both the Ugly Stik Elite and GX2 fishing rods are extremely tough and can be expected to last a long time. And, in point of fact, if used for fishing as intended, both come with a seven-year, limited guarantee, a feature that’s hard to find on any sports gear with a typical price-point at under $50.00

However, it’s not only the extreme toughness of both the Ugly Stik Elite and GX2, that really comes to play as much as the responsiveness. Even with the slightest nibble, you can feel the rod bending, particularly with the glass tip at the end of the reel.

So, if you really want to “feel the action” when you are fishing, both the Ugly Stik Elite and the Ugly Stik GX2 are the perfect fishing rods.

Stainless steel, one-piece guides

Both the Ugly Stik GX2 and the Ugly Stik Elite have stainless steel, one-piece guides up and down the rod. The unibody construction of these guides ensures they won’t rust through or break.


Ugly Stick Elite and GX2 rods come in different sizes from 5 to 7 feet, and they also produce somewhat lighter but still “battle tough” ladies models. So there’s something for everyone.

Will they fit my reel?

The answer is, in most cases, absolutely yes. However, if you have a particularly large reel for saltwater fishing, your best course is to take the reel to a sporting goods store that sells Ugly Stik Elite or Ugly Stik GX2 fishing rods and personally check out whether this is rod will accommodate your fishing reel.

Easy shipping

Most sporting goods and fishing stores sell both the Ugly Stik Elite and Ugly Stik GX2 fishing reels. But if you happen to purchase them online, the rods normally come in a solid, tube package, that protects them from any damage or scratches.

Recommendations of which rod to purchase

First of all, you can’t go wrong purchasing either the Ugly Stik GX2 or the Ugly Stik Elite. Both are quality rods at a very fair price. Nevertheless, if push comes to shove, the Ugly Stik Elite gets the nod.

Partially this is due to additional responsiveness through the addition of more graphite than the GX2, but mainly because of the cork grip. This grip just screams quality, is easy on the wrist when casting, and is easier to grab onto when fighting a big fish.

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2 thoughts on “Ugly Stik Elite vs Gx2: Differences to Know Before Buying”

  1. Thanks for your review. I have both, and love them both. I bought the GX2 as my step up second rod, and the Elite when my cheap telescoping rod’s fiberglass tip broke. I have an inexpensive Abu Garcia silver max reel on the Elite, which may be why I love it a little more. I spooled 6lb on the Elite, 15lb on the GX2. Should I reverse them? I can just switch reels.

    I hadn’t been fishing for 55 years, but my Uncle Sid, an expert trout fisherman, taught me and my cousins to fish for panfish on vacations in Vermont from a rowboat in the afternoons: bait with worms, scrap off scales (my favorite), gut. Deliver to the kitchen at the fishing lodge in Queechy Lake, and have your fish, or a relative, for dinner. My Aunt Sylvia would sometimes fish at some ungodly hour with Uncle Sid, but she was very talented at crafts, which she would do in the afternoons. They were NYC high school teachers.s

    I retired early at 65, from being a nurse practitioner at the Philadelphia VAMC, to take care of my husband, a heart transplant patient, who later had a spinal cord injury while caving, and became an incomplete (good) central cord syndrome quadriplegic. I bought some fishing tackle before I retired, but didn’t like to leave him, he needed company. I donated it all to a thrift store. He died 2 years ago in June. We were married 42 years. I miss him all the time. I bought fishing tackle in May, this year. Now I’m hooked (forgive me)! My much younger married friends Ryan and Rachel, who also volunteer for free boating , kayak and rowboats, on Saturdays at Bartram’s Garden in Philly, taught me tie a better knot, and cast. I haven’t met another angler who wasn’t willing to offer sage advice.

    By the way, I walk with forearm crutches for about 20 years (bicycle accident, nerve damage, acquired club foot, and just knee arthritis. I kayak, ride a recumbent trike with a helmet and flags, and obey all traffic laws. I volunteer for the Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps (part of the Health Department’s Disaster Response), and volunteer teach ESL to adults, take cello lessons (you wouldn’t flinch to hear me play, alone or with others) and am active in my synagogue, in addition to free kayaking, sometimes water testing, volunteering. Re rehab terminology, I’m modified independent, meaning I can walk, but with devices. I don’t use crutches in my dreams. To quote Nike, just do it!


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