Ugly Stik GX2 Vs Elite Rods – What Are The Differences, And Which One Should You Buy?


by Robert Ceran

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Are you thinking about getting an Ugly Stik rod, but aren’t sure whether the GX2 or Elite is the right one for you?

My team and I tested both Ugly Stik GX2 and Elite lineups, and evaluated them on their sensitivity, power, ability to cast lightweight lures, and overall performance.

Based on our testing, we’ll walk you through the main differences fo the Ugly Stik Elite vs GX2 lineups, to help you choose the right one for your purposes.

Ugly Stik GX2 vs Elite compared – what are the most important differences?

ImagePriceLengthPowerHandle materialLine ratingLure ratingNumber of pieces
Ugly Stik GX2 spinning series4'6" to 9'Ultra light to heavyEVA foam2 to 20 lb1/32 to 3/4 oz.1, 2, 3, 4
Ugly Stik Elite spinning series4'6" to 7'6"Ultra light to medium heavyCork2 to 17 lb1/32 to 3/4 oz.1, 2
Ugly Stik GX2 casting series5'6" to 7'6"Medium light to heavyEVA foam8 to 50 lb1/8 to 3/4 oz.1, 2
Ugly Stik Elite casting series6'6" to 7'Ultra light to medium heavyCork2 to 20 lb1/32 to 3/4 oz.1, 2

The table above compares the similarities and differences between the two lineups that we tested.

If you look at the two poles next to each other, you’ll notice that they have broadly similar features.

The only difference that jumps out at you right away is that one of them has a cork handle, while the other has an EVA foam handle.

But our testing showed that the handle material is actually not their most important difference (although for many anglers handle material is one of the top factors affecting their choice of rod). 

So while there are definitely lots of similarities between the two series, you can see some clear differences as well.

Depending on the purpose for which you want to use your pole, these differences may determine which one you should choose.

Let’s take a look at their key differences.

Main differences discussed in more detail:

Blank construction: Both poles are made with “Ugly Tech” composite rod building technology, which combines graphite and fiberglass to create a rod that balances strength with lightness of weight.

Graphite on its own is more lightweight, but during our testing we found that it also tends to be more brittle, while fiberglass is stronger, but also heavier. Shakespeare developed a technology that enabled them to combine the two, to create strong poles that are also light and sensitive.

Bottom line: The Elite series is made with 35% more graphite than the GX2. This results in a lighter pole, which is ideal for light or ultra light applications.

Length: The GX2 spinning series covers 4’6” to 9’ in pole length, while the Elite spinning series only goes from 4’6” to 7’6”. Based on our testing, we found that the former is better for applications that require an extra long rod (such as a catfish pole), while the latter series doesn’t provide that option.

And when it comes to the casting lineups, the difference is even bigger:  the GX2 goes from 5’6” to 7’6”, while the Elite goes from 6’6” to 7’. So again, the former supports a wider range of applications than the latter.

For more information on choosing the best rod length, check out our detailed guide on fishing rod length.

Power: When it comes to power, the difference between the two spinning lineups is minimal. But when we put the casting lineups to the test, we noticed a clear difference.

The GX2 covers ‘medium light’ to ‘heavy’ power, while the Elite covers ‘ultra light’ to ‘medium heavy ‘. So the latter casting lineup is more intended for more lightweight casting applications compared to the former.

To get a deeper understanding of rod power, and which one is best for your purposes, check out our article on fishing rod weight rating.

Line rating: Similar to situation with power, the difference in line rating between the two spinning lineups is minimal.

But when we tested the two casting series, we discovered there’s a very clear difference. The GX2 casting series covers 8 to 50 lb line rating, while the Elite covers 2 to 20 lb.

This correlates very well with the difference in power noted above, and confirms that the latter series was designed by Shakespeare to be used for more lightweight casting applications. 

Lure rating: The lure rating confirms the trend we noticed with power and line rating: the Elite casting series covers 1/32 to 3/4 oz., while the GX2 series covers 1/8 to 3/4 oz..

In other words, the former allows you to fish with lighter lures, which is ideal for lightweight fishing. 

Handle material: The GX2 handle is made with thick EVA foam, while the Elite handle is made with cork.

When we tested the rods, we found that both materials are lightweight, but EVA supports a firmer grip with wet hands, while cork can get a little slippery when wet. However, many anglers prefer the ergonomic feel of cork handles.

Number of pieces: The main difference in this category is that the GX2 spinning lineup comes in 1, 2, 3, or 4 piece variants, while all the other lineups come in either 1 or 2 piece variants.

That means this spinning series is the ideal choice if you want to use it as a compact travel rod that fits inside a suitcase.

Let’s take a look at each of the series in more detail.

Ugly Stik GX2 spinning rod

Shakespeare first released this model in 1976, and it has remained a classic rod used by several different generations of anglers since then.

The company continues to improve their blank production technology, resulting in a surprisingly strong pole at a very affordable price.

In fact, many anglers report catching trophy sized pike, salmon, and catfish on these rods without any problems. 


  • Stainless steel guides
  • Clear tip for detecting sensitive bites
  • EVA grips
  • 7 years warranty

Ugly Stik Elite spinning rod

This model distinguishes itself by virtue of having a cork handle, as well as a blank made with 35% more graphite.

As a result of this combination it’s a more lightweight pole than the former, which is ideal for ultra light spinning.

This is a great model for bass fishing, which is why we included it in our review of the best spinning rod for bass fishing.


  • Stainless steel guides
  • Exposed reel seat design
  • Cork grip handle
  • 7 years warranty

Ugly Stik GX2 casting rod

This model brings the toughness and durability of the Ugly Tech material to a casting lineup which is clearly intended for heavy weight applications.

The line rating, which goes up to 50 lb, confirms the intention of Shakespeare to design these poles for heavy casting.

During our testing we found that this is ideal for bass jigging close to heavy cover, or even for saltwater casting.

If you’re specifically interested in jigging for bass, take a look at our article what is the best jig rod for bass?

We’ve also included the GX2 in our review of the best chatterbait rod, which is another testimony to its versatility.


  • Stainless steel guides
  • Clear tip for detecting sensitive bites
  • EVA grips
  • 7 years warranty

Ugly Stik Elite casting rod

In contrast to the other casting lineup, this series is clearly intended for more lightweight freshwater applications, with a maximum line rating that goes up to 20 lb.

The light casting pole in this series are perfect casting light to ultra light lures.


  • Stainless steel guides
  • Exposed reel seat design
  • Cork grip handle
  • 7 years warranty

What is the best ugly stik rod?

While both the Ugly Stik Elite and GX2 lineups are great fishing rods, our testing revealed that the Elite is currently the best Ugly Stik rod.

Built with a higher percentage of graphite in its composite blank material, it’s significantly lighter without sacrificing any power or durability.

The increased sensitivity of the Elite makes it superior to the GX2 lineup especially when it comes to any finesse application, where sensitivity is essential for success.

If you’re looking for a finesse rod, have a look at our review of the best rod for drop shot.

Final remarks

Shakespeare Ugly Stik poles have been around for more than four decades now, and are among the most popular low budget fishing rods on the market. Many anglers have several of them in their gear collection, and use them for many different applications.

In terms of types of fishing rods, both series are available as either casting or spinning variants.

If you don’t know exactly which one is best for you, take a look at our spinning rod vs casting rod comparison.

To summarize, our tests showed that are some clear differences between the two series. The GX2 lineup is generally ideal for heavier applications than the Elite lineup.

So if you’re looking for a heavy bass, pike or catfish rod, a GX2 is probably an ideal choice.

On the other hand, if you want to get an ultralight or light set up, then an Elite would be the recommended choice.

And if you’re specifically looking for a walleye rod, check out our article what is the best jigging rod for walleye?

Gear and methods used for testing

For consistent testing results, we tested each rod under similar conditions on Lake Okeechobee. We paired all of the spinning rods with the same reel, a Shimano Stradic 2000HGFL, spooled with 6 lb test Berkeley Trilene fluorocarbon, and we paired all of the casting rods with an Abu Garcia Revo X, spooled with 12 lb test Power Pro braid. We tested each rod with jigs and swimbaits in the 1/8 to 3/4 oz range.