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!
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. (Actually, they come in larger sizes as well, but the 2.5g and 4g spoons were the only ones I've used.)
In the US, spinners are more popular than either spoons or plugs for trout fishing in streams and lakes. In Japan, plugs are far more popular than spinners in streams, and spoons are far more popular than spinners in the Areas. I had initially thought that was because spinners tend to cause line twist. Premium Japanese line, whether for spinning or BFS (Bait Finesse System - essentially an ultralight baitcaster), is considerably more expensive than the spinning line most American anglers use.
Additionally, Japanese anglers tend to use lighter line, and Japanese spinning line is both thinner (for the same pound test rating) and softer than most line available in the US. I had thought that rather than fishing spinners and replacing twisted line frequently, Japanese anglers would tend to favor lures that cause less line twist to begin with.
I was later told by two Japanese anglers that the real reason few Japanese fish spinners is because they think catching trout on spinners is too easy. Rather than just casting out and reeling in, working the lure is more interesting.
For me personally, though, the lack of line twist is the major reason I prefer spoons over spinners.
I've read that line twist is caused by the bail on a spinning reel, and that the solution is to cut off the bail. I don't believe it. I am convinced the most line twist is caused by spinners themselves. It's not just the blade that spins. The whole spinner spins and as it does it twists the line. Using a swivel does not eliminate line twist. If you watch carefully, it is pretty easy to see the whole spinner spinning.
At the left is a photo of twisted line caused by a spinner. I know for a fact it was not caused by the spinning reel bail because I was using a baitcaster. Baitcasters definitely do not twist the line!
Unlike spinners, for
which the blade spins in one direction for the entire retrieve, the
Daiwa Crusader spoons wobble rather than spin if you fish them as slowly as they should be fished. If you retrieve them too fast, they will spin, but they don't always spin
the same direction. They'll spin one way, then wobble a bit, then spin
the other way for a while and then start wobbling again. That dramatically
reduces line twist, while still having all the flash you could want. Just the wobbling is sufficient though! There is no need to fish spoons so fast that they spin.
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 higher if the Daiwa Crusader spoons had treble hooks, but they come with a single hook. Once a couple years ago, 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!"
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.
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.
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.
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? I've been told by customers that even if they are more expensive, they'll keep buying them because they're more effective.
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. Prior to writing this page I had 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.
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.
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.
The Daiwa Wise Stream 45ULB-3 baitcaster (since discontinued), 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).
Although I imported the spoons for trout, and I do use them primarily for trout, they do work on other species.
One thing I learned fishing the spoons for smallmouth bass is that they work a lot better if fished slowly. I started out fishing them at what I thought was the proper speed - so the would spin a bit, then wobble a bit, then spin the other direction, and then wobble some more. I eventually discovered that if I fished them slowly enough that they would wobble but not spin, I started getting a lot more hits. If you fish them very slowly, they barely wobble at all. However, if you fish them that slowly, but give the rod tip very subtle twitches, the spoons wobble quite a bit but still travel very slowly.
I have not yet tried that very slow speed retrieve for trout, but a friend told me he experienced the same thing when fishing for trout in the alpine lakes of Colorado. He said the fish wanted a very slow retrieve. The spoons still wobble, and still flash, but they don't spin. You get absolutely no line twist if you fish the spoons slowly. They may be a lot easier for the fish to catch, too. (I have since fished them that slowly for trout, and I am convinced that fishing spoons slowly enough that they wobble but do not spin is the better way to fish spoons.
The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.