Shakespeare Ugly Stik- The UGLIEST entry

My husband Naweshad (then fiancé) bought me my first ever rod and reel, the Ugly Stik Ladyfish Spinning Combo. As much as I was excited to embark on the amazing angling journey, I asked the one question most beginners would – “won’t this break?”, to that, Naweshad smiled and said, “What you have in your hands is America’s strongest rod, it will NOT break”. Since that day, I have never loved another brand of rod the way we do Shakespeare Ugly Stik.

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The talked-about Ugly Stik Ad with Hulk Hogan

That is not entirely true though, the Shakespeare Ugly Stik is not unbreakable, but it comes very close to be. To date, we have put to test (and you will see in this post) a variety of Shakespeare/Ugly Stik rods and thus far, my husband’s promise of the brand to me still stands, “it will NOT break”. There is a lot more behind the brand than just the identity of a tough yet sensitive rod, knowing the story of how Shakespeare the brand and Ugly Stik the rod came about; we now have the utmost respect for it.


The Shakespeare Ugly Stik Story

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Shakespeare Products Company, Small Parts Machining Deparment. Photographed by Mamie L. Austin, 1936.

It all began with a man some say was obsessed with fibreglass; Dr. Arthur M. Howald invented the Howald Processs, a rod building method which is still used to make the Ugly Stik we know and love today.

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Dr. Arthur M. Howald – Shaft for fishing rod patent

In 1947, Shakespeare launched the Wonderod, invented by Dr. Howald using the Howald Process; a rod that revolutionised the fishing rod market and made bamboo and steel virtually obsolete. A rod said to be 45 years ahead of its time.

In the 60’s, graphite rods were taking over the fishing tackle industry. Many rods were made with wood, fibreglass and graphite in layers, Shakespeare however had composite rod blanks with graphite co-mingled with fibreglass and epoxy resin. Unfortunately (or fortunately!) they had problems making the rods straight enough to use in fishing rods. Other brands had styling and cosmetic advantage on their rods too. The competitors made their rods using the cut and roll process whilst Shakespeare, the Howald process; both processes used a clear film-like tape on top of the impregnated material wound in several layers to apply pressure to the laminate whilst curing in an oven. Shakespeare removed the tapes using high pressure water jets whilst other rod makers removed the tape by unwinding or simply sanding the tape away. As a result, Shakespeare rods were left with spiral markings on the surface whilst competitor rods had sanded smooth coated surface (thus Ugly).

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Ugly Stik Rod Patent

In trying to incorporate graphite in rods, making them straight and enhancing the cosmetic aspect of the rod, James Monroe Lindler and Michael Taras Romanyszyn of the Shakespeare Corporation managed to achieve the straight rod blanks- and accidentally made them stronger in the process! Instead of cosmetic improvements, they stuck with an ugly rod blank with strength and ability never seen before.

On 12th April 1976, the Ugly Stick Patent was filed by James Monroe Lindler and Michael Taras Romanyszyn.

The Ugly Stik may be the most remarkable product of the last two decades – Fishing Tackle Trade News (1976)

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Imagine receiving a letter (remember those?) from your favourite tackle company! Notice the stamps? On the first one it says “Honor Built, Honor Sold”, often engraved on their earlier fly rods & on the second one, it says “Keep Em’ Flying” – Shakespeare & Skish Letterheads (1940) by Jim Jordon

Source: Shakespeare Fishing, Shakespeare Ugly Stik Story by Monroe Lindler, The Fibreglass Manifesto, Kalamazoo Public Library & U.S Patent files.


 

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Today, we make way for the new generation of Ugly Stik- The Ugly Stik GX2; strong, sensitive, more balanced and contrary to its name… beautiful! What we appreciate the most and is an improvement in leaps and bounds are the Ugly Tuff guides, one piece stainless steel guides for durability and no insert pop-outs.

The Ugly Stik GX2 is a deceptive rod. The thick rod blank in comparison to rods of similar rating is enough to turn anglers away, highly unappealing in a day and age where everything visually lighter is preferred. No one wants to head out fishing with bulk, or at least, what looks like it.

We decided on the GX2 Heavy action rod after much research for our tours, where beginner anglers would try their hands at larger, stronger species like the Redtail Catfish or the Giant Grouper. We tested the rods and right off the bat, casting was effortless. I had a rod that was not a Shakespeare or Ugly Stik which I used regularly to fish with for Giants at that time; with the GX2 however, casting accuracy and minimal tension on the wrist were the first two positives I noticed as a female angler- they were not heavy, not one bit.

Nothing prepared me for the battle- adrenaline from the surprising sensitivity contrary to its rating accompanied by evident strength of the rod finally landed me the largest Redtail I have ever caught to date. My endless failed attempts and wonder was answered by the simple fact that the GX2 compensated my lack of strength and with its flexibility allowed the Redtail to manoeuvre  without straining the line as I was lifting-  all I needed to do was ensure my technique was on point. I was in control and could feel everything; every movement of the fish vibrated through the rod, telling me an underwater story which I was otherwise oblivious to. When it came down to the wire, the Redtail snuck into an opening and refused to move- all I needed to do was take a deep breath then lift, and I won that battle. I have since bid adieu to the other rod and swear by the GX2 Heavy action for all my heavyweight battles.

It does not stop at just the Ugly Stik range of rods. We have been trying out a variety of Shakespeare rods and they have never failed to surprise and impress. I had a light action rod that I dearly loved (brand will not be mentioned), I would use it on trips for Red Drum, small G.T and Barramundi. On one of those trips, I lost an amazing battle with a G.T, adding to my disappointment, the rod tip broke- I was only 30 minutes into the fishing session and had 2.5 hours more to go…with no rod. You must be thinking, “Why didn’t you bring a spare rod Dumbass!?”- Well, because I never needed to when using the Ugly Stik or Shakespeare! That broken rod has since been replaced by the Shakespeare Wild Series Trout Combo, a set that I am obsessed with today; forget light action, the combo is Ultra Light and have been landing me a variety of species without any signs of stress. I have stopped looking at other brands for rods knowing that the disappointment of another failed investment in a gear is practically erased when owning a Shakespeare, especially an Ugly Stik.

Fact is, there is no right or wrong, other brands do catch fish but we all tend to stick with what feels the most organic, one that we can identify with. Shakespeare Ugly Stik was my first rod (gift) and no matter how far I go to test out other brands, I still come home to and feel at home with Shakespeare and Ugly Stik. My intention of writing this article is to give insight and understanding to this amazing brand that is otherwise overlooked in our part of the world.

Have a look at some of our collection of  Shakespeare/Ugly Stik rods along with the best catch for each as insight on how far we have pushed some of the rods and how far it has come along with us in our angling journey. Fact is, if we can use it and have a crazy good time fishing, you certainly can to!

Also, take it from us, their rods are tough to break- its spirit is rock solid. Have a look at the video and realise that the “I’m breaking all your rods” threat really do make the Ugly Stik anglers crack up.


 

USSP461UL Ugly Stik GX2 4’6″

Action: Ultra Light (2-6 lb line)

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Best Catch:

Sensitivity level of this rod is something I would like to term, Insane. If you ever want to feel what it is like to have your heart in your throat battling feisty fish species, this is the rod for you.

Suitable for Peacock Bass and all Catch & Release species in Jugra’s Fish Farm, Malaysia.

All species of fish shown above were caught, kissed and released safely.

 


 

BWS2201-2 Ugly Stik Tiger 7’0″

Action: Medium (10-50 lb line)

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Best Catch:

This is a large rod. A very large rod in comparison to how tiny rods with a similar rating are these days. We love how it looks and somehow wish the colours stayed with the GX2. This rod has taken battles that bent it to hell and back; every time it happens, I cringe, fearing for that unmissable sound of a powerful rod snapping into pieces. When will I learn? It will not happen as easily with the Ugly Stik! Even if you are not holding the rod through a battle, just the sight of how it bends mercilessly and survives is adrenaline pumping.

Suitable for the LS Giant Grouper pond in Malaysia – also for all the Giants you have ever dreamt of landing.

All species of fish shown above were caught, kissed and released safely.

 


 

USSP601H Ugly Stik GX2 6’0″

Action: Heavy (8-20 lb line)

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Best Catch:

This rod has won countless battles so swiftly, allowing the angler to take control and perfect their technique as it works hard – giving the angler something to talk about… Almost always, an amazing story to tell. Never let that thick rod blank fool you like it did us- all the battles shown above was more adrenaline pumping than we could ever imagine. It still amazes us how the sensitivity of this rod is enhanced despite being heavy powered.

Suitable for the Exotic Fishing Pond in Rawang and LS Giant Grouper Pond, Malaysia- as well as any trip for Giants that you’re looking to lose yourself with, from pure angling adrenaline.

All species of fish shown above were caught, kissed and released safely.

 


 

BWCJL220063C Ugly Stik Tiger Lite Jigging 6’3″

Action: Medium-Heavy (20-50 lb line)

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Best Catch:

After breaking my PENN Tuna Stick, owing to a moment of stupidity in the bathroom one fateful day, I was searching for a casting rod to pair with 3 of my PENN conventional reels – the Level Wind 209M, Jigmaster 500L and Senator 113 (4/0). By this time, I was already a big fan of Ugly Stik and owned a range of their spinning rods. Out of the lot though, I had a preference towards their Lite (now ELite) versus their classic (now GX2) range. They were as strong yet lighter, thanks to added graphite and smaller diameter features in their blank construction. This preference helped narrow down my search and drew my attention to the Ugly Stik Tiger Lite. They had a few models under this range, which after much scrutiny and visits to tackle shops, I finally settled for the BWCJL220063C Ugly Stik Tiger Lite Jigging 6’3″ medium-heavy power (20-50lb line) 1-piece casting rod. With 9 guides including the tip, a trigger handle and a switchable butt between EVA or gimbal, this medium-fast action rod had the most evenly distributed bend amongst the rest and that versatility  I needed to take it to the likes of Hulu Langat Fishing Resort, Natural Exotic Fish Fishing Pond, LS Fishing Pond to cast out live/dead/dough bait, or on our deep sea fishing trips, be it bottom fishing, trolling or even jigging. I landed my first pacu, redtail catfish and sultan fish on this rod; and even with smaller weighing fish, the increased sensitivity blank construction lets you feel every movement.

-Naweshad

All species of fish shown above were caught, kissed and released safely.


SP11602M Ugly Stik Lite 6’0″

Action: Medium (6 – 15 lb line)

SP11702M Ugly Stik Lite 7’0″

Action: Medium (6 – 15 lb line)

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Best Catch:

As you can tell, this particular model caught us an interesting species variety from salt to freshwater, all of which are feisty despite its size. When you’re not on an ultra light powered rod, this medium powered one is just as adrenaline pumping to battle with. What I personally love is casting out small poppers for GT on it, the explosive take of that species loads up the rod with so much excitement as you hang on smiling ear to ear. When the GT decides it would take a dive, this rod has an endless bend and would not give up even if you wanted to. From sense alone, you would know that the rod can take an extreme battle and your confidence in its ability to do so will be evident once you fish with it.  In terms of flexibility, I do not see this rod breaking into pieces anytime soon, I’m not sure if it even can!

Suitable for species shown above and much much more. If this rod can take a 10kg Pacu that spooled out my PENN Fierce 2000 reel, it can take anything! Be sure to target fish within the rod’s ability so as to win battles faster without stressing the fish too much.

All species of fish shown above were caught, kissed and released safely.


 

CA11601M Ugly Stik Lite 6’0″

Action: Medium (10 – 17 lb line)
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Best Catch:

The CA11601M Ugly Stik Lite is a 6’0″ medium power (10-17lb line) 1-piece casting rod that I pair with my PENN Levelmatic 940 and Berkley Trilene Big Game 15lb clear monofilament. My best catch on this rod is a 44lb (20kg) redtail catfish, amongst many others including the Spotted Sorubim, African Catfish, Alligator Gar and Queenfish. Unlike their medium powered spinning rods, this Ugly Stik casting rod handles big fish with surprising ease owing to its 1-piece construction and slightly higher line rating class. With added graphite and smaller diameter features in its blank construction, this rod is very light and highly sensitive but stays true to the Ugly Stik toughness, and is one of my all time favourites.

-Naweshad

All species of fish shown above with the exception of the Queenfish were caught, kissed and released safely.


 

Shakespeare E-Z Cast Baitcast Combo 5’6″

Action: Medium (6-12 lb line)

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Best Catch:

We saw the rod lying around in an old tackle shop, it was being sold for cheap but not as a combo, just the rod itself. It was our first baitcast rod and we paired it with the cheapest baitcast reel we could find at that time. My first actual battle was with the accidental Milkfish of Pulau Indah, caught on video and caused a storm on YouTube locally- today they call me The Milkfish Lady because of it. The cheap reel was not able to withstand the runs of the Milkfish but the rod…well, took it like a man. Recently, I was able to obtain the reel (comes pre-spooled with 10 lb lines) and with that, caught a Grouper. The problems I had was with the reel being a right-hand retrieve and it also has an anti backlash system which took awhile to get used to and was restricting to cast with. It is good to note that the anti-backlash system can be switched off. As a complete combo, it performed well and was probably the fastest I’ve brought up a feisty Grouper. I am keen on trying the other Baitcast combo offered by Ugly Stik, like the Ugly Stik Elite for example, as a comparison of performance which i’m certain would be a significant difference. Nonetheless, the E-Z Cast Baitcast rod will always remain a special one for me.

Suitable for anyone trying out a Baitcast set for the first time. The anti-backlash system is good training, albeit frustrating at times, but once you are accustomed to it, catching any fish on the combo becomes a lot of fun.

Grouper shown above was caught, kissed and released safely.

 


 

Shakespeare Wild Series Trout Combo 5’6″

Action: Ultra Light (2 – 8 lb line)

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Best Catch:

 

Unlike the Ugly Stik rod blank, this one is thinner than most rods in general. It was so light to the hold, the battle would have my heart beating, stomach knotting and my emotions pouring out in the ugliest expressions ever. Adrenaline took a whole new high and having landed species that weigh and fight more than it is meant to take- I am as confident of it’s capabilities as I am with the Ugly Stik range. We would normally change the reel of a combo as they would not perform as well; this was my first combo that did not need a change of reel for the rod to work at its most optimum. They pair perfectly and work seamlessly well together. Also, it is one stunning looking combo.

Suitable for the feisty little fishes …and some feisty larger ones if you’re willing to put yourself through the battle like I did, the result is mostly constant smiling throughout the week. Ensure that the fish is reeled in within a good amount of time to avoid stressing it further if you’re targeting larger ones.

All species of fish shown above were caught, kissed and released safely.


 

USSP604M Ugly Stik GX2 6’0″

Action: Medium (6 – 15 lb line) 4-piece spinning rod

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Best Catch:
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4kg Barramundi

The USSP604M is my most recent purchase. Something that i had my eyes on for a very long time, back when it was a 4-piece Ugly Stik classic and now a 4-piece GX2. A 6’0″ medium power (6-15lb line) 4-piece spinning rod means it dismantles easily into a length that fits nicely in your carry-on luggage. No need for that extra rod tube anymore. If I had no other choice but to choose only one rod to suit all of my fishing needs, it would be a 6’0″ medium power spinning rod from Ugly Stik. When Shamin and I travelled to Batam, Indonesia for her fishing assignment, I brought my Ugly Stik Lite 6’0″ medium power 2-piece spinning rod, which performed very well at fishing but it had to be transported around in a hard rod tube that was troublesome at times; this excess baggage prompted me to consider a similar class rod in 4-piece instead. At first glance, the GX2 4-piece is thicker in diameter compared to the Ugly Stik Lite, and is well constructed. On its debut outing, I paired it with my trusted PENN Slammer 360 spooled with Berkley NanoFil 17lb hi-vis chartreuse uni-filament and made my way to start at the red drum and giant trevally pool in Jugra catch & release. First cast. Immediate take! A fierce one too. Felt very familiar and I was sure it was a Giant Trevally (G.T). The fish made a few strong runs towards the pumps and the rod handled very well at this point. Very confident feel to it. I tightened the angle and subdued the fish but when it surfaced from afar, I lamented to Shamin who was ready with the landing net, “I’m surprised, it’s a red drum!”; as the take was very different. When I reeled the fish in closer, it became clear to me that it was not a red drum after all; it was a huge Barramundi! An 8.8lb (4kg) beautiful and healthy Barramundi. On my first cast with my new 4-piece Ugly Stik. I went on to catch a few more fish that day and am thoroughly pleased with the rod, so much so it will be my go-to on my upcoming trips.

-Naweshad

Barramundi shown above was caught, kissed and released safely.


 

TRVL56TSPKIT Shakespeare Travel Mate Spinning Combo 5’6″

Action: Light (4-8 lb) Telescopic Rod

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Best Catch:

 

TRVL56TSPKIT Shakespeare Travel Mate spinning combo of a 5’6″ light power (4-8lb line) telescopic rod and matching reel pre-spooled with Stren 6lb clear monofilament. Staying true to its name, my Travel Mate combo has covered more ground than the others, and landed fish almost every time.

From all available species in Jugra bait-fishing and catch & release – Barramundi, Golden Snapper, Red Snapper, Mangrove Jack, Grouper, Red Drum, Pompano, Tilapia, Giant Trevally; to Bedong Thye Fishing Village’s sizeable Barramundis; to Saltwater Catfish (wild) in Singapore; to the tiniest Jungle Perch in Nepal.

The Travel Mate is an absolute must-have in my opinion. It’s extremely versatile and fully capable of landing sizeable fish; the heaviest I have landed on this outfit is a 10lb (4.5kg) Red Drum. Although I have had to replace the telescopic rod after its tip gave way to a grouper before, that experience allowed me an understanding of its action, and since then it has been serving me well. The combo packs nicely into a travel case that also accommodates my terminal tackle, soft baits, tools and emergency poncho – all I need in a small footprint for a perfect day of fishing.

-Naweshad

Barramundi and Jungle Perch shown above were caught, kissed and released safely.


 

USYSP562M Ugly Stik GX2 Youth 5’6″

Action: Medium (6 – 12 lb line)

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Best Catch:

This combo is tough! The green colour is striking, refreshing and the performance, once more, is shockingly amazing for a youth rod. This combo is our choice for all our youth programmes and tours. This rod is visually enticing and because it was termed “Youth” (fortunately, not written on the rod blank itself), the first impression would immediately tell an angler that it was made for much more than that- therefore, we occasionally use it to fish for ourselves too.

Suitable for anyone who wants a good-looking, trustworthy rod for the family. We currently use the rod at the Catch & Release Fish Farm in Jugra, Malaysia.

All species of fish shown above were caught, kissed and released safely.


 

 

SPL1101 Ugly Stik 5’0″

Action: Light (4 – 10 lb line)

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Best Catch:
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Giant Snakehead

 

My SPL1101. My very first Ugly Stik. It was part of the UGLYSP spinning combo I purchased in 2009. Often times the object of ridicule for its small form factor. Until I pull off another biggest catch of the day. Landed me so many firsts – Indian Carp, Red Drum, Barramundi, Grouper, Golden Snapper, Red Snapper, Pompano, Peacock Bass. It was late March 2016. NEFFP ran their yearly special – Giant Snakehead pond opens the whole month. We made our way one Sunday at first light. Shamin, Gill and I. Joined by Tessy and beau, Victor. NEFFP staff warns us of low catch-rate this year. We set up, unperturbed. Paired my SPL1101 with my PENN Power Graph III 1000 spooled with Berkley Solutions 6lb mono. Tied on a 10lb mono leader uni to uni. Started casting a variety of hard baits as recommended by local species experts. No takes. Sat back to rethink lure strategy. Immediate thoughts – specimens in the wild would be so used to natural (soft) baits; hard baits would be foreign and/or threatening; and that triggers the attack out of curiosity and/or defense. Captive specimens in NEFFP on the contrary would be so used to hard baits. Plus being a toothy species, hard baits would be a rather unpleasant bite. That’s it! A quick dash to the V40 and back with my soft baits. Out came a 4″ red/white pre-rigged swim shad. First cast – WALLOP! I was excited. This was our first Giant Snakehead outing. I was cautious. To a fault. I had the Power Graph III set on medium drag. That did not result in a proper hookset. The fight must have lasted some 20 seconds before the fish spat the hook out. By this time, everyone else switched to soft baits. Shamin’s first cast landed her a 14.3lb (6.5kg) specimen. This motivated me. I kept at it. This time with the Power Graph set on high drag. And then magic happened. I had a take just one minute before full-time. I was determined. It felt good. I kept a good tension on and did my best to not let it rest. The Ugly Stik was in top form, showcasing its signature bend. Looking back at the video, I was also talking to the fish. “Come on buddy, stay with me.” I remember seeing it surface. It’s unforgettable. The colours on this giant snakehead at the end of my line was so beautiful against the murky water. YES! I let out a burst of joy as soon as it was safe and in the landing net. I landed this beautiful 8.8lb (4kg) giant snakehead that day. The best experience I have had with my old faithful Ugly Stik SPL1101. Thank you for another first.

-Naweshad

Giant Snakehead shown above was caught, kissed and released safely. It is good to note that the Giant Snakehead is a Malaysian game fish.


 

The following are a few videos of our trip that features rods mentioned above. As all of our outings have only been with Shakspeare/Ugly Stik, you may have a look at our YouTube Channel: The Milkfish Lady, for more videos to showcase the action and ability of these rods.

Barelang, Batam – Grouper

 

Saltwater Jurassic Pond, Malaysia

 

Rawang, Malaysia – 45 lb Redtail Catfish

 

Rawang, Malaysia – Giant Snakehead

 

Banting, Malaysia – 260 lb Giant Grouper

 

Saujana D’ Rimba, Malaysia – 22 lb Pacu

 

Jugra, Malaysia – Barramundi

 

Kampung Beng, Malaysia – The Mini Amazon of Malaysia

 


 

We hope this entry has given you insight on a brand of rods that despite its lack of following in Malaysia is very capable of performing well in the waters of Malaysia & beyond. If you have always wondered about it but have yet to get around to trying them out, we (of course) highly recommend it. Some of the rods featured above are not available in local tackle stores, get in touch with us to know how you can get your hands on one!

I would like to thank my husband Naweshad for taking some time off his busy schedule (in the wee hours of the night) to contribute his stories and love for the rods.

We would like to thank Shakespeare and Ugly Stik for defying the norm. Being bold enough to be different yet always surprising anglers, keeping us coming back.

Most of all, thank you for taking the time to read the ugliest entry we have ever written.

America goes fishing with Shakespeare… & so does The Milkfish Lady.
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