How to start ultralight fishing (Everything you need to know)

By Ramon Contreras •  Updated: 04/23/22 •  11 min read
how to start ultralight fishing

If you don’t know by now, I am really into ultralight fishing and talk about it as often as I can. I make videos about ultralight fishing, I post on Instagram and Tiktok about ultralight fishing. I love ultralight fishing. Why? Because it catches fish! With this excitement I get asked, what does someone need to start ultralight fishing? Well, this post is going to tell you every thing you should consider when ultralight fishing.

What is ultralight fishing?

First thing we need to talk about is what exactly is ultralight fishing? Ultralight fishing is fishing with extremely light line and lures. Typically you are using fishing line that is 6 lb test or lighter and fishing lures that are 1/32 oz. or lighter. You will also need a rod and reel capable of throwing ultralight lures and line.

Ultralight fishing does not mean small fish, it is referring to the weight of your tackle. Normally when you are ultralight fishing you are catching smaller fish, but that doesn’t mean you can’t catch BIG fish. Trust me I’ve seen it. You can catch all different kinds of fish, Bluegill, Trout, Perch, and Crappie. It’s also a good technique to use when Bass are over pressured and you need to downsize. However if you do target larger fish there is the risk of breaking your line or bending out your hooks so managing drag is a must when ultralight fishing.

largemouth bass caught on ultralight fishing tackle

The best ultralight fishing rod

Ultralight fishing in itself deals with a lot of light line and a lot of light lures. So you’re going to need a rod that you can actually cast out those lures with. You can try to use a medium or medium light powered rod if you want, but it’s going to be difficult to really cast those really ultralight lures out. So what I recommend is a light or  ultralight powered rod.

The length of your rod can play a huge role of how you use it. This is the same with any type of fishing. Now my favorite length is 6’6″ because it gives me that ability my lure out as far as I need to and I can still kind of go into spots with overhangs. If you’re tall, you might want to get a 6′, maybe a 5’6″, or a 5′ rod. But the longer your rod is, the further you’re going to be able to cast out. And that’s very important when you’re dealing with very, very light lures.

My go to ultralight fishing rod is the Berkeley Lightning Rod Trout Rod. This is a 6’6″ 2 piece ultralight rod, and it is a moderate action rod, meaning that the bend of the rod is going to be a little bit more down the blank.

Berkley Lightning Rod Trout Rod

Berkley Lightning Rod Trout Rod

My go-to ultralight rod. This thing is a work horse and very affordable. Buy Now Disclaimer – I use affiliate links so I can keep buying fishing and hunting gear. I get a small commission at no additional cost to you.

The reason why I like this rod is because they’re usually readily available, and you can probably get them at any big box store right now. They’re very affordable, I bought mine for  $40 and you can get them at Walmart and get them on Amazon.

The best ultralight fishing reel

The next thing is what goes attached to your rod, the reel. Reels come in a variety of sizes. I’ve seen people ultralight fish with the 2000 size reel, and I’ve seen people fish with a 500 size reel.

Generally you’re going to want to pay attention to the size of your reel to make sure you are using the correct diameter line and not using too much or too little of it. Basically you don’t want to have a huge saltwater fishing reel with 2 lb test. It’s not going to cast right and you’re going to needs hundreds if not thousands of yards of line to fill that spool. The smaller the reel size the easier small diameter line will cast.

I like a 1000 size. Doesn’t feel too small or too big. Perfect for me. My go to is the Shimano Sienna very affordable, you can get it almost anywhere at a really good price, and the quality is worth more than the dollar amount. The Shimano Sienna normally runs around $30. If you’re lucky, you might find one on sale or you can get it on sale or some kind of discount at a big box store. You can talk to a local tackle shop and see you can get a cheaper.

Shimano Sienna 1000 Spinning Reel

Shimano Sienna 1000 Spinning Reel

My favorite ultralight fishing reel. Super affordable and the best bang for your buck in my opinion. Buy Now Disclaimer – I use affiliate links so I can keep buying fishing and hunting gear. I get a small commission at no additional cost to you.
See also: How to put line on your fishing reel

The best fishing line for ultralight spinning reels

You can use braid, fluorocarbon, or monofilament, my favorite of the three is mono. If I hook into something big I have that little bit of confidence that the line’s not going to be as break since mono has the most stretch. If you are using Braid, I definitely recommend you use a leader and my favorite leader not to tie is the Alberto Knot. It’s very easy to tie. It’s very minimal. Doesn’t take you more than one not to try to tie this line together.

Now I like to use 2 lb. test on my ultralight set ups. I will go up to 4 lb. test if I know there’s going to be a lot of current like if I’m fishing a river and you can go up to 6 lb. test. But the reason why I like to use 2 lb. test is when I am throwing lighter lures like 1/64 oz mule fishing mule jig, I can cast it further because the line is lighter. The only downside is, is when the wind is blowing heavy, the line is just going to get blown away. But for the most part, the lighter the line, the better.

Now, when you are using 2 lb. test, I recommend you tie a Uni Knot to tie your line to your reel. The line stays pretty tight onto the real. It doesn’t pull or stretch and the line does it break. My other method of putting line on your spinning reel doesn’t really work well here because the double overhand knots cause too much strain on such a light line.. That took me a while to figure out, but if you’re going 2 lb. pound test, definitely tie a Uni Knot.

The ultralight fishing line that I like currently use is Berkley Triline Sensation. I haven’t found any issues with it all. If I do go 4 lb. or 6lb. test, I’ll just get some Omniflex that you can find at Walmart, but I generally stick to mono.

Berkley Trilene Sensation Fishing Line

Berkley Trilene Sensation Fishing Line

Ultra thin and super sensitive. I can detect the smallest bites with this fishing line. Buy Now Disclaimer – I use affiliate links so I can keep buying fishing and hunting gear. I get a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Do I need ultralight floats or bobbers

You don’t need to use floats or bobbers, most of the time I don’t use one. But when the fish are suspended in the winter time or in the summer time it’s a good way to target slow eating fish

My favorites are Mule Fishing Peg Floats, and Trout Magnet floats. They’re really tiny. You can see the bite very, very easily with these high visibility floats.

Mule Fishing Peg Float

Mule Fishing Peg Float

A staple for light line anglers looking to present a small jig or hook vertically. Cast easy and detects even the smallest of bites Buy Now Disclaimer – I use affiliate links so I can keep buying fishing and hunting gear. I get a small commission at no additional cost to you.

The other thing you might need when it comes to floats are bobber stops. You can use the rubber barber shops, but lately I’ve been really liking slip float bobber stops because you can adjust your length as you need to.

Thill Premium Bobber Stops

Thill Premium Bobber Stops

Easy to use and keep my bobber in place. I prefer the smaller size for ultralight fishing Buy Now Disclaimer – I use affiliate links so I can keep buying fishing and hunting gear. I get a small commission at no additional cost to you.

If you know that the depth of the body of water that you are fishing is more than ten feet, you can run your float so that your lure suspends less than ten feet. If your guides are wide enough, you can cast this without getting in these guides.

Ultralight fishing hooks and jigs

Terminal tackle lures, hooks, plastics, all that fun stuff. This is when things get real fun. I like to go as light as possible. 1/64 oz is usually where I like to play around, but sometimes I go 1/80 oz  to just to get a little bit more finesse. Sometimes I’ll throw a 1/200 oz mini trout magnet. But my go-to is usually the Mule Fishing Mule Jigs.

1/64 oz. Mule Jig

1/64 oz. Mule Jig

My go-to ultralight jig. Made for multi species and light line angling. Buy Now Disclaimer – I use affiliate links so I can keep buying fishing and hunting gear. I get a small commission at no additional cost to you.

These are great, come in a huge assortment of colors and sizes. They are very affordable and they are created for ultralight fishing and multi-species fishing. They do come in regular sizes for ned rig applications, but these are the ones that I’m using the most. I really enjoy casting these out they create good action specifically on mule fishing plastics.

I will also will use Trout Magnet Jig Heads and Crappie Magnet Jig Heads and pair those up with Trout Magnets and Crappie Magnets. I’ll even use Aberdeen Hooks when I’m ultralight fishing with live bait. It really depends on what type of lure I’m using.

Ultralight fishing lures

Ultralight fishing soft plastics

This will come as no surprise but my go-to plastics are Mule Fishing soft plastics. Right now there are three different soft plastics, the Donkey Tail & Donkey Tail Jr., the Horse Fly, and the new Mule Minnow. They are very durable and affordable. I really enjoy throwing these baits.

Mule Fishing Mule Minnow

Mule Fishing Mule Minnow

Multiple sizes, multiple colors. My favorite new bait that is catching most of my fish! Buy Now Disclaimer – I use affiliate links so I can keep buying fishing and hunting gear. I get a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Trout Magnet plastics are a staple in my tackle box when it comes to ultralight fishing. The Trout Magnet kit, Panfish Magnet Kit, and Crappie Magnet Kits are great. They have a variety of sizes and probably the biggest color selection of any ultralight bait maker.

Mr. Crappie and Bobby Garland, are also great.  Oh, and we can’t forget about Berkeley gulp minnows. These things smell horribly, but they are classic. They do really well when fish aren’t biting much because of the scent. I like the one inch size, the smelt color.

There are several other brands, but these are my tried and true brands that I like to throw.

Ultralight fishing hard baits

The next thing is ultralight fishing hard baits. Hard baits are a great way to get into ultralight fishing because you just cast them out in reel them in.

Inline Spinners

Inline spinners are really fun to throw, especially when you’re first starting out. If you’re throwing in the springtime or in the fall, even in the winter you’re going to get a good bite. These are really fun to throw. You just cast these out, retrieve them fast or slow or mix it up.

Ultralight Fishing Crankbaits

I really enjoy throwing hard baits a ton. Classics like the  Rebel Craw, Rapala jerk baits, and Yo-zuri Snap Beans and Ozark Trail also has their ultralight jerk baits too.

Rebel Lures Teeny Wee Craw

Rebel Lures Teeny Wee Craw

Great little crankbait to throw around. Catches fish in almost any body of water. Buy Now Disclaimer – I use affiliate links so I can keep buying fishing and hunting gear. I get a small commission at no additional cost to you.

I caught my first fish on a Creme Lures ultralight crankbait. I was using a medium spinning rod and fan casting not knowing what I was doing and a Rockbass came in and hit it! Just like with traditional sized crankbaits and the inline spinners, you’re going to want to vary your retrieve if you’re not getting a bite.

Ultralight Fishing Accessories

Finally the accessories and there is really only one, a good pair of hemostat pliers. You’re probably wondering, why do I need hemostatic pliers?I have regular pair of pliers. Well, when you are ultralight fishing, you do come across a lot of small fish and sometimes that hook gets really deep in their mouth. And if you’ve got fingers like mine that are short and pudgy, you will struggle to get that hook back out. And you don’t want to cut the line and send that fish off with the hook. Hemostat pliers allow you to really get in there and get that hook out and return the fish safely if you don’t intend to keep the fish.

Berkley Hemostat Pliers

Berkley Hemostat Pliers

One thing I always keep on me when ultralight fishing. You never know when you're gonna need them! Buy Now Disclaimer – I use affiliate links so I can keep buying fishing and hunting gear. I get a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Time to start ultralight fishing

That’s all you’re gonna need to start ultralight fishing. Now there are some extras that you can pick up like a small tackle bag or line cutters, but they aren’t necessary and you might already have those things on hand. And there is no need to buy everything at once, a lot of my tackle I have picked up over time. The main point is for you to get out there and catch some donkeys! When you catch anything make sure you tag me on instagram so I can see what you catch!

Ramon Contreras

Adult onset hunter and angler trying to learn new skills and making mistakes along the way.