Ultralight Fishing Setup (Everything You Need To Know)


by Robert Ceran

Ultralight fishing has become immensely popular in recent years, since many anglers love the fact that this type of fishing tends to produce a lot more bites than more conventional fishing tactics. 

But if you’re new to fishing, you’re probably asking yourself, what components do I need for an ultralight fishing setup, in order to get the best results?

In this article we’ll walk you through all the most important tackle components you need for ultralight fishing, and we’ll explain what specs you should look for.

What is ultra light fishing?

Ultralight fishing is defined as fishing with extremely lightweight tackle, using lures between 1/32 and 1/4 oz, and lines between 1 and 6 lb test.

This requires using the lightweight spinning rods and reels, designed to perform well with these ultra lightweight lures and lines. 

The term ultralight fishing refers to the weight of your tackle, and not to the kinds of fish you can target with it.

This means you can potentially use it to catch a wide variety of fish species, but ultralight fishing is most often used to catch relatively small fish in shallow water.

The most commonly targeted species include trout, crappie, bluegill, other panfish species, and yellow perch.

In addition, ultralight fishing tactics can also be used to target bigger fish such as bass and walleye, and is gaining popularity as a tactic used to catch these species when the bite is slow.

At times like this, the fish reject standard sized lures and baits, but often respond positively to smaller baits and downsized tackle.

It’s important to note, however, that this approach comes with the increased risk of tackle breakage if you hook a big fish (especially when targeting bass, which are hard fighters, and grow to large sizes). 

Ultralight fishing tackle setup

If you’re planning to do ultralight fishing, it’s essential to use the right kind of fishing tackle, and it’s also important to make sure that all parts of your tackle are matched optimally with each other.

It’s not much use getting an ultralight lure, but then trying to throw it with a medium power rod, which just isn’t built to work with this lure size.

So let’s go through each of the tackle components, to make sure you know what to look for. 

1. Rod

The best way to start assembling an ultralight fishing setup is by looking for a high quality ultralight spinning rod. Many rod manufacturers now include ultralight rods in their lineups (for example, check out the St. Croix Avid series).

In addition to looking at the rod power given by the manufacturer, you can also choose an ultralight rod by looking at the line and lure rating written on the handle, and picking a rod with ratings that fall in the following ranges:

  • Lure rating: between 1/32 and 1/4 oz
  • Line rating: between 1 and 6 lb test

Don’t worry if the numbers aren’t 100% identical to the numbers given here – as long as there is a broad overlap, you’ll be fine.

And no matter what rating you choose, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you need to match it with the other components of your tackle. 

What is the best length for an ultralight rod?

The most commonly used ultralight rod lengths are between 5 and 6 feet, which works well for casting lightweight lures accurately over short distances.

Short rods are also practical if you’re fishing small creeks or ponds with overhanging trees, since that allows you to cast well underneath the overhanging branches.

But keep in mind that ultralight rods actually come in a wide range of lengths, from 4’5” all the way up to 8 feet.

And if you want to use a slip bobber rig with your ultralight setup, you may want to choose a longer rod between 7 and 8 feet, as that will enable you to pitch your bobber rig to the right spots, and a longer rod also works better for picking up slack line when you need to set the hook.

2. Reel

Once you have your ultralight rod, the next component to choose is an ultralight spinning reel that matches it.

The best way to do this is by choosing a reel with a similar line rating to the rod. In most cases this should be a 1000 size spinning reel (though some manufacturers classify this as a size 10 reel).

Keep in mind there can be significant differences in specs between manufacturers, which is why you should check the line rating of the reel to match it with your rod.

In addition to line rating, also check the weight of the reel, since the lighter the reel, ther better it will perform when casting ultralight lures and lines.

The best models are built with ultra lightweight components such as magnesium, and weigh less than 6 ounces.

If you want to use an ultralight reel for throwing lures, you should also consider its retrieve speed.

The reason for this is that lightweight spinning reels have a relatively small spool diameter, and because of this they retrieve less line for every turn of the handle (when compared to bigger sized reels).

The best way to get around this issue is by choosing a model with a gear ratio of 6.0:1 or higher. 

3. Line

Once you have your rod and reel, choose a line size between 1 and 6 lb test.

You can use any of the 3 main line types (monofilament, fluorocarbon, or braid), but if you use braided line, you’ll need to tie a fluorocarbon leader to reduce visibility in the water.

If you use mono or fluoro, you can tie your main line directly to the lure or rig. 

4. Lures

There is a huge variety of ultralight lures available on the market, and it’s outside the scope of this article to cover them in detail here.

Just make sure that you choose lures that are smaller than 1/4 oz, and experiment with a variety of different styles, shapes, and colors.

A great place to start is with a collection of micro jigs, jerkbaits, and swim baits. 

5. Rigs

In addition to fishing with lures, you can also use an ultralight rod and reel setup for fishing with rigs, and the most popular way to do this is with a slip bobber rig.

In fact, this is a great way to use small live minnows to catch panfish and perch, but you can also use it with other baits, such as pieces of mealworms or wax worms.

Use a small, stick shaped bobber and adjust the depth with a rubber stop on the line above the bobber.

Then add split shot weights to the line underneath the bobber, and tie a size 8 or 10 hook at the end of the line. 

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