I’ve always beenâ€”and still amâ€”most intrigued by effective, yet affordable fishing gear. I won my first bass tournaments on a $30 Shakespeare saltwater spinning rod, some 10-pound Berkley monofilament and one of my dad’s old Rapala Shad Rapsâ€”that’s just about all I had. I just learned to make it work.
Fishing doesn’t always have to be expensive. There are some great affordable gear options on the market that will fit your budget and allow you to continue enjoying what you love most.
For the past few months, I’ve been having a blast with my Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Rod and Reel Combo. Not only does it look sweet, but Shakespeare has retained some of the best characteristics of the traditional Ugly Stik design while adding both functional and aesthetic upgrades.
Built to last
Durability has been the main ingredient to Ugly Stik’s reputation for years. I can confidently say the Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Rod and Reel Combo is built like a tank and can handle just about anything you put it through.
When testing out new products, I’m not easy on them. I’ve put the GX2 combo through its paces and have been left extremely impressed by such an affordable setup. I’ve tossed it onto my driveway, run over the blank with my truck, slammed it around in john boats and stuffed it in my rod lockers in rough conditions without any structural or mechanical damage whatsoever.
The reel is made of glass-filled nylon and comes with an oversized bail wire, contributing to its durability. After a lot of abuse and considerable fishing time, the bail wire still opens and closes nicely and doesn’t have any “play” in it. A lot of less expensive reels will get sloppy after a few months, but this hasn’t been the case with the GX2.
The Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 rod is very impressive for its price point. It’s made of both graphite and fiberglass which has made it virtually unbreakable throughout my testing. The clear, fiberglass tip has also proved very resilient. I recently spent an afternoon fun fishing at a little farm pond and accidentally half-shut the tip in my truck’s tailgate. I expected to see a cracked rod tip, but was surprised and impressed when the GX2’s tip looked brand new.
The line guides haven’t given me any problems, either. They’re very slick, so your line flows through easily and my line hasn’t wrapped around any of the guides. Several rods in these price range have line guide durability problems, but the Ugly Stik GX2 line guides have been extremely durable with no issues to speak of.
Although this combo retails at $49.99, don’t think it won’t handle big fish. Its tip is extremely sensitive and allows you to feel almost everything your soft plastic or hard bait is doing. When it’s time to set the hook, the fiberglass tip transfers the energy of your hookset very well into the blank, promoting very solid hooksets.
The graphite-fiberglass hybrid blank is surprisingly powerful. I’ve caught a lot of bass on this combo and it handles them very easily. Whether you like to target bass or even big catfish, I’m fully confident the GX2 combo is up to the task.
The GX2’s tip loads very well when casting even the lightest finesse rigs, which definitely comes in handy when bank fishing. If there’s a blowdown or overhang within 30 yards, you’ll be able to effortlessly skip a weightless soft plastic to it. It can be frustrating trying to reach that “virgin water” as a bank angler, but the castability of the GX2 will definitely help you put your bait into hard-to-reach areas.
The reel is smooth
The Shakespeare GX2 reel is much smoother than I was expecting. I’ve used a lot of reels in this price range and have had major issues with reel performance. It’s evident that Shakespeare put a lot of time into making this a high-quality reel at an extremely affordable price.
You won’t notice much “whining” on your retrieve and its line management is also good. I’ve had it spooled with 8-pound Berkley Trilene XL and the line goes onto the bail very nicely. In windy conditions, you may notice a small loop or two, but so far, I haven’t had any problems with major bird nests.
I was most surprised by the smoothness of the GX2’s drag system. On looser settings while fighting bass in a 3 to 4-pound class, it has been a pleasure to fish with. The drag doesn’t surge and it handles deep runs fairly well. When the drag is cinched-down, you can expect some line surges, but I can’t contribute this issue to a lost fish yet.
Two-piece rods aren’t always bad
Most tournament fishermen steer clear of two-piece blanks, but it hasn’t been a problem for me while fishing recreationally. I actually like for my “bank beater” rods to be two-piece.
The two-piece design of the GX2 Ugly Stik gives you the opportunity to use this combo as a perfect pond hopping or golf course pond rig. You can easily break it down and store it in a truck’s toolbox or under a seat in your compact car. If you want to hit a pond on the way to or from work, this is actually a perfect tool to do it with.
When you assemble the rod, you don’t have to worry about it coming apart. Whether you’re wrenching on it to get your lure out of a tree or you’re fighting a big bass, it stays intact nicely with very little play.
If you’re in the market for a durable, yet fishable low-cost spinning combo, I think you’ll be very pleased with the Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Rod and Reel Combo. It has plenty of low-cost features that will allow you to enjoy hassle-free bass fishing success.