Daiwa Crusader Spoons

Daiwa Crusader Spoons have been around for thirty years. In a country that values "new and improved" as highly as Japan does, that says a lot. It also says a lot that they are marketed for both "areas" and native trout. The lures intended for areas (stocked pay-to-fish lakes) and for mountain streams tend to be quite different. That the Crusader spoons have been around for so long and are sold for both stocked trout and native trout means only one thing - they work! The very first time I tried them I was definitely convinced!

Daiwa Crusader Spoons 2.5g, selected colorsDaiwa Crusader Spoons 2.5g, selected colors

The spoons come in two sizes, 2.5g and 4g (roughly 1/12 oz and roughly 1/8 oz in weight; just under 1 1/8" and a bit over 1 1/4" in length, respectively). They come in fourteen colors. To start with, I will have six colors. If they sell well enough, I will carry both weights and more colors.

In the US, in-line spinners like Mepps or Panther Martin are more popular than either spoons or plugs for trout fishing in streams and lakes.  In Japan, plugs are by far more popular than spinners in streams, and both spoons and plugs are more popular than spinners in the areas. I suspect that is because spinners tend to cause line twist. Premium Japanese line, whether for spinning or BFS, is considerably more expensive than the spinning line most American anglers use. Rather than fishing spinners and replacing twisted line frequently, Japanese anglers tend to favor lures that cause less line twist to begin with.

Line twist caused by an in-line spinner.Line twist caused by an in-line spinner.

I have had people tell me that line twist is caused by the spinning reel, specifically the bail on the reel, and that the solution to line twist is to cut off the bail. I don't believe it. I am convinced the most line twist is caused by in-line spinners. It's not just the spinner blade that spins, the whole spinner spins and as it does so it twists the line.

At the left is a photo of twisted line caused by an in-line spinner. I know for a fact it was not caused by the spinning reel bail because I was fishing a baitcaster at the time, and baitcasters definitely do not twist the line!

Daiwa Crusader Red Gold Tiger 2.5gDaiwa Crusader Red Gold Tiger 2.5g

Unlike spinners, with which the blade spins in one direction for the entire retrieve, the Daiwa Crusader spoons both spin and wobble, and they don't always spin the same direction. They'll spin one way, then wobble a bit, then spin the other direction for a while and then start wobbling again. That dramatically reduces line twist, while still having all the flash you could want.

The more erratic action also seems to elicit a very different response from the trout. With a spinner, trout will either ignore it, follow it or hit it. Lots of fish just follow, and those that hit it will only hit it once. If they don't get hooked, you don't get a second chance. With the Daiwa Crusader spoons, I seemed to get fewer follows and more fish slashing at it. If they miss it the first time (which seems to be common, probably because of the erratic action), they tend to slash at it again. What's more, they'll often hit it more than once. I've caught fish that got hooked the fourth time they hit the spoon! I've also had three or four trout competing to get it.

I suspect the hookup percentage would be a lot higher if the Daiwa Crusader spoons had treble hooks, but they come with a single hook. Once this spring, fishing with a Mepps spinner, I caught a small trout that managed to get all three of the hooks in its mouth. Trying to get all three hooks unhooked, quickly enough that the fish didn't die and gently enough that its mouth was still intact, made me vow "never again!"

Daiwa Crusader Gold-Red SpoonDaiwa Crusader Gold-Red Spoon

The first time I tried the Daiwa Crusader spoons I wanted to cycle through all the colors I'd ordered. Might be foolish, but I wanted to make sure they all worked. They all worked. One, however, seemed to work better than the other five. (The "test" was not even close to scientific and suffered tremendously from what statisticians would call a small sample size. Thus, it was essentially worthless, but it didn't matter - I had a favorite color.) I really liked the Gold-Red spoon. I liked it well enough that I ordered more (before having sold even one) and also ordered some in the larger 4 gram size.

Male Redside Dace. Brian Zimmerman photo.
Used with permission.

The Gold-Red Daiwa Crusader spoon is half polished gold and half bright red. "Match the hatch" is not a phrase often uttered by spin fishermen, but I definitely think it applies to the Gold-Red spoon.

The breeding males of several small fish species have a bright red stripe on their side or belly. They will swim erratically, flashing their bright red sides to attract mates. The Gold-Red Daiwa Crusader spoon is a bit brighter, and the wobble is a bit more erratic, but it is close enough to a breeding redside dace, redbelly dace, rosyside dace or redside shiner that there is a biological reason for it to work, beyond just triggering an instinctive predatory response.

Immature Fallfish

The second stream on which I tried the Daiwa Crusader spoons is one that has lots of juvenile fallfish and some common shiners, both of which are very silvery.  As could be expected, the plain silver spoon worked better there. And boy, did it work! I had the best day I'd ever had on that stream. My friend Coach, who was tenkara fishing that day, and who is not used to getting outfished on his home water, said next time he'd bring spinning gear, too, muttering something about me luring him to the dark side.

Daiwa Crusader Green Parr 2.5gDaiwa Crusader Green Parr 2.5g

The Daiwa Crusader spoons are carefully made with great attention to detail. You might think, "hey, it's just a spoon" but I have seen spoons that were neither as well made nor as well finished as these. They are a bit more expensive than the spoons you can buy in the big box stores, but as a percentage of the cost of your full set up or your entire trip, the difference is minor. Besides, if they catch fish for you as well as they have for me, does it really matter if they're a little more expensive?

The only aspect of the spoons that I find less than ideal is that the hook is just large enough to catch the line in front of the spoon, probably on the cast. Next time I try them I will substitute a C'ultiva replacement barbless hook, which has a slightly shorter shank. Even with the single hook, which I suspect caused me to miss some hits; and even with the occasional fouling on the line, I still caught more than enough fish. So far, I have used the Daiwa Crusader Spoons on just two days, and on just two streams. On each day, though, I caught more fish than I had ever caught on that stream before. I am sure that record will not hold for every day and for every stream, but I was very impressed with the spoons.

So was Coach, who after we quit fishing for the day bought almost all the silver spoons I had in stock.

Update 8/3/17

I have now used the Daiwa Crusader Spoons in several streams and the more I use them the better I Iike them. Replacing the original hook with a Cultiva SBL-35, size 8 for the 2.5g and size 6 for the 4.0g spoons does indeed reduce the number of times the hook catches on the line. The SBL-35 hooks hold well too (other than on really little fish, which will wriggle off any barbless hook).

I have also found that the other colors also work just fine. Since that first day where the red-gold spoon seemed to do best, I have not been able to determine that one was any better than the others.

Personally, I prefer the smaller 2.5g spoons. They are plenty heavy enough to cast as far as you would want to cast on large streams or small rivers with the JDM UL spinning rods. They are also heavy enough to cast well with the Tenryu Rayz RZ53UL-BC baitcaster and either the Shimano Aldebaran or Calcutta Conquest BFS reels. The larger spoons may work better with larger fish, but I have caught 20 inchers with the 2.5g spoons.

Two sets of trebles can take much too long to remove and can do too much damage.

I must confess that the "never again" happened again. Several people had asked me over the past few months whether I would import Japanese lures - and I was sure they did not mean spoons. I recently purchased a few Japanese minnow plugs - which are probably the most popular lure for stream fishing in Japan. They do catch fish.

The problem is that the fish are really, seriously caught. The plugs have two sets of barbed treble hooks. In one evening's fishing, more than once I caught a fish that had four out of the six hook points firmly embedded. It takes too much time to unhook the fish and it does too much damage.

By now, I have proven to myself that the Crusader spoons work. Sure, I miss some hits but I still catch fish (and I'm still a little surprised at how many fish I do catch with them). Catching fish is the best part, but it is very, very nice to be able to quickly and easily remove the hook after the fish is in the net.

Update 10/8/17

The Daiwa Wise Stream 45ULB-3 (baitcaster), which is a bit stiffer than the Tenryu Rayz RZ53UL-BC will cast the 2.5g spoons, but seems to do better with slightly heavier lures. I think the Daiwa Crusader 4g spoons would be a better choice for it and for the Tenryu Rayz RZ56L and RZ56L-BC (light rather than ultralight action).

Shop for Daiwa Crusader Spoons.


Warning:

The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.