Comparing the Ugly Stik Elite and GX2 Fishing Rods: Which to Buy
Golfing and Fishing have one thing in common. Just as Tiger Woods is likely to come in 18 holes under par whether he uses as 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 meet the basic requirements. You want a rod that is sensitive yet is 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 Stick 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, and 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.
Cork vs foam handle
The first and obvious differences 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 fisherman, 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, the magic key to both the Ugly Stik Elite and the GX2.
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.
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 it 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. Never the less, 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 on to when fighting a big fish.