Butler completes wire-to-wire win in Bassmaster Open at Logan Martin Lake

LINCOLN, Ala. — Josh Butler played the long game and, despite some midpoint frustrations, he executed that strategy to near perfection.

Committing to his plan, the Hayden, Ala., pro claimed a wire-to-wire victory with a three-day total of 49 pounds in the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Logan Martin Lake.

“The Lord just blessed me,” Butler said. “When it’s your time, it’s your time.”

Butler, who recently left another trail to pursue Bassmaster Elite Series qualification and earn a berth in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors checked the latter box and moved closer to the former with this week’s performance.

Taking the top spot with a Day 1 limit of 19-7 — the event’s heaviest bag — Butler anchored that catch with a massive largemouth that went 7-13.

“That was a game-changer,” Butler said. “That fish was probably the reason I won.”

After extending his lead with a second-round limit of 15-5, Butler added a Championship Saturday limit of 14-4 and edged local pro Tucker Smith by 3-1. Butler took home the top prize of $44,155 and received an invitation to fish the 2025 Classic, which is scheduled for March 21-23 on Lake Ray Roberts in Fort Worth, Texas.

“The Classic is the reason I came to B.A.S.S.,” Butler said. “It means everything. It’s what you dream of as a kid. I’m ecstatic to be over here.”

Butler caught that game-changing 7-13 early on Day 1 and described it as a “blessing” because his game plane mostly comprised mid- to late-day action up the Coosa River as far as the Neely Henry Dam tailrace.

“I was fishing current seams and rocks for spawning spotted bass,” he said. “I was using a lot of history I have with this place.”

Despite a slower-than-expected practice, Butler knew that the upriver region held the winning potential.

“The first day I practiced up there, I didn’t do well at all,” he admitted. “I had a couple 3-pounders, but I probably didn’t have 9 to 10 pounds (total). I didn’t know if that was exactly going to be the deal, but I came down lake (to the area near takeoff) and caught a ton of smaller fish and realized that definitely wasn’t going to be the deal.

“I put all my eggs in that upriver basket. I have a lot of history up there. I’ve won a lot of tournaments. I just decided to put my head down and figure it out. Every day it seemed to be getting better and better.”

With Logan Martin still showing remnants of the spawn, Butler surmised that most of the fish he was catching were postspawners that left the shallows and moved out to feed in tailrace current.

Most of the tournament days saw little to no current. But when the power generation schedules delivered early afternoon windows of opportunity, Butler did the majority of his work.

On Day 1, his plan delivered a mixed bag of spotted bass plus his kicker largemouth, which ate a spinnerbait amidst a shad spawn. Upriver, he caught spots that were spawning on a big rock flat out of the current.

On Day 2, Butler found abundant early action. But after several missed opportunities, he let an estimated 15 to 16 pounds escape. Fortunately, his upriver habitat offered afternoon redemption.

Championship Saturday began with a misty complexion that brought light rains and constant cloud cover until about 9 a.m. Knowing the morning’s dim conditions would likely extend the shad spawn, Butler devoted a couple of hours to fishing close with a 5/16-ounce Dirty Jigs swim jig and a white Zoom Z Craw Jr. trailer.

“I caught 8 to 9 pounds and had one decent largemouth that was 2 3/4 pounds,” he said. “After that, I bounced around, trying to capitalize on the shad spawn and release fish, but it just wasn’t the deal.”

Butler ran upriver and got bit pretty quick on his first stop, but lost two fish. The bite seemed to be lagging, so about 11:30, he ran closer to the dam, targeted a “history spot” and capitalized on a midday flurry that delivered several key bites, including a couple over 3.

“It was every cast,” he said of his midday heroics. “I can’t explain it, there was (little) current, they were just in that spot. I caught all those tailrace fish on a 3/16-ounce shaky head with a Zoom Trick Worm and a Neko-rigged 5-inch Senko.”

Hailing from nearby Birmingham, Ala., Smith turned in one of the week’s most consistent three-day performances. He placed third on Day 1 with 15-12, improved to second with a Day 2 limit of 15-11 and concluded with 14-8 to finish second with 45-15.

Noting that he fished a mixture of his known spots and new ones he found during practice, Smith said he struggled with the week’s low current levels. Rather than sticking to predictable spots, as they do during stronger current, the bass were roaming more, so he had to give chase.

“I kinda had to adjust to the lack of current,” Smith said. “Timing was huge and I had to run a bunch of places until I found where they were stacked up.”

Smith said he fished a mix of habitat features, including brush and rockpiles. He also caught bass that were schooling on offshore spots. His bait selection included a football jig, a Damiki rig and swimbaits.

“This was an awesome week,” he said. “I got on a place today where they were schooled up and I ended up catching them on every cast for about 20 minutes.

“I caught a lot of fish, but I never got a big bite. I caught solid fish; just not a big one.”

Bassmaster Elite pro Kyoya Fujita of Japan, finished third with 45-9. A Day 1 limit of 13-12 put him in 18th place, but Fujita rallied with a second-round bag that went 16-3 and moved into third. He closed the event with a final-round limit of 15-10.

Fujita, who won the season-opening Elite Series event at Toledo Bend Reservoir on the Louisiana/Texas border in late February, employed a two-part game plan. He targeted largemouth in brush and trees with a jig and used a jighead minnow rig with a Jackall Drift Fry and a Deps Sakamata Shad.

“Logan Martin is my favorite lake,” Fujita said. “This is a fun lake.”

Butler won the $750 award for Phoenix Boats Big Bass with his 7-13.

Evan Kung of Pickering, Canada, leads the Tackle Warehouse Bassmaster Elite Qualifiers standings with 747 points. Dakota Ebare of Brookeland, Texas, is second with 714, followed by Easton Fothergill of Grand Rapids, Minn., in third with 678 and Cody Meyer of Eagle, Idaho, in fourth with 661.

Since the top nine anglers in the final EQ standings will also receive Elite Series berths, the following anglers are also in position to qualify: fifth, Brandon McMillan, Clewiston, Fla., 660 points; sixth Matt Adams, Oxford, Ala., 656; seventh, Paul Marks, Cumming, Ga., 651; eighth, Josh Butler, Hayden, Ala., 647; and ninth, Bobby Bakewell, Orlando, Fla., 640.

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