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Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Boat Rod

Ask any boat angler to name a famous fishing rod and for most, the first thing that will come out of their mouth is Ugly Stik. The Ugly Stik brand has been around for years and as well as being America’s top-selling rod brand year on year, it’s also one of the best selling rod brands right here in the UK too. In 2015 this famous old brand got a makeover across the world, in the UK, this makeover was completed with the introduction of the Ugly Stik GX2 Boat Rod.

Rise of the Ugly Stik GX2

Ugly Stik has always had a reputation as being a tough cookie, unbreakable, packing brute force with an ability to wind up anything that is likely to be swimming in British waters. Because of this tough reputation, Ugly Stik has also had an old fashioned reputation. Ugly Stiks of the past have been designed stiff and heavy to bring up fish at all costs. The fun element of fishing has often been lost because of this.

In the late 2000s, Ugly Stik had a bit of a makeover. The old blanks were changed to suit a more sporting, uniquely British style of fishing. The rods became longer, the actions were tamed so they could bend sufficiently to actually feel what was on the end of your line and the graphics had a well needed update too. They also did away with the clear tip and went for a flashy orange one instead! Radical stuff.

Fast forward to today and a new breed of Ugly Stik is out in the marketplace called the GX2. The first thing to understand is that GX2 is a worldwide name for these new rods, but that is where the similarities end. GX2 in the US is a totally different rod to GX2 in Australia or here, in the UK. The GX2 UK range is uniquely designed for British and Irish fishing.

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2

Ugly Stik Construction

The Ugly Stik GX2 uses a long tip, short butt configuration to ensure a good, consistent action and power curve. All rods are built on Ugly Tuff blanks, using the patented and unique Howald Process that is indestructible within the normal bounds of fishing. Of course if you do something daft with the blank like try and use the boat gunwale as leverage when fighting a fish, there is a possibility of a break. But, if you use the rod properly, as intended, you should have a lifetime of trouble free use from the blank.

The Howald Process begins life with a glass core, onto this glass core is a carbon fibre weave. This in effect creates a rod that is two blanks in one, forming the ultimate in strength. During testing Shakespeare engineers applied 23kgs of direct pressure on the blank wall and this still didn’t crack or damage the blank!

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2

Ugly Stik Looks

The rod blank is slimmer than the traditional rods, with a foregrip that is long and perfectly shaped for even the largest hands, which is also laser etched with the Ugly Stik logo. The rod look is more downplayed and modern than before, whilst it still features the trademark Ugly Stik Crossweave, this is simplified. The blank is finished in black gloss up to the first butt ring. The first butt ring also features a black, silver and red thread finish. Below the reel seat, there is no EVA foam, giving the rod a unique, modern look. This also has the advantage of making the rod easier to get in and out of rod tubes on boats, EVA grips below the reel seat are often prone to damage, this system negates that problem. From the butt ring up the rod is finished in a matt black finish with black whipping for the rings. The tip is clear, going back to the tradition of Ugly Stiks before.

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2

The 12/20 and 20/30 versions of the rod come with a lightweight graphite reel seat, whilst the big brother, the 30/50 comes with a strong aluminium reel seat and also a gimble handle to work big fish harder. The rod is fitted throughout with strong stainless steel rings that feature titanium inserts that are strong and durable. The rings are designed for use with both mono and braid and will withstand even the most brutal of treatment. The rods also come with a 7 year warranty to backup their famous, unbreakable heritage.

The Range

The range of rods available in the Ugly Stik GX2 range has changed to reflect the modern market, uptide rods, which have been suffering falling sales in the UK for many years, no longer feature and neither do the 6lb and pure 50lb class rods either. The range is now set at 3 class ratings, the 12/20, the 20/30 and the 30/50.

The 12/20 is designed for the sporting angler, for inshore drift fishing, light wrecking, soft plastics, tope fishing and any other general light to medium boat work. It features a supple tip with a progressive action that, when required, locks up in the butt to provide power to land bigger fish. I have used the 12/20 a lot for inshore drifting and lure work. On a recent trip to Whitby the rod proved more than capable of working lures effectively and also fighting the bigger cod too. The great thing about these rods is unlike old Ugly Stiks, they are light in weight and holding and working them all day long is not a problem and fun!

Whitby cod fishing.

The 20/30 Ugly Stik is the next stage up and is useful when you need to be using a lot of lead, working in big tides or wreck fishing for big cod or conger as well as lighter shark fishing. I was recently fishing in the Bristol channel with this rod catching blonde ray up to 12lbs in a strong tide. The rod performed well and I felt completely in control all of the time. The power really kicks in when you need it, allowing you to work big fish off the sea bed with relative ease, with enough action in the rod to feel every inch of the fight too.

Bristol Channel Blonde Ray.

The 30/50 Ugly Stik is a brute, and realistically only needed for big wreck conger and bigger species of sharks, for most UK fishing the 12/20 and 20/30 will handle pretty much anything you can throw at them.

Vital Statistics

  • Ugly Tech Blank construction
  • Long tip short butt design
  • Famous Clear Tip
  • 7 years Warranty
  • Laser-etched EVA Foregrip
  • Gimble handle on the 30-50lb version
  • Aluminium Reel seat on 30-50lb
  • Lightweight Graphite Reel seat on the 8-12lb, 12-20b and 20-30lb versions

Final Score & Summary

All in all, the Ugly Stiks are great rods at a good price point. The actions are much more modern than previous incarnations, they are built for modern British/Irish fishing but still retain their unbreakable legacy of old. During the three months I’ve been testing them along the coast of the UK and Ireland I haven’t had any problems with them, they’ve been knocked around, dropped on decks, even hit with stray leads and despite the abuse they’ve stood up and worked faultlessly with no problems at all. Out of all the rods in the range, my favourite is the 12/20, but that is just a personal preference for the type of fishing I predominantly do.

In Summary