Butler’s kicker lifts him to Day 1 lead at Bassmaster Open at Logan Martin Lake

LINCOLN, Ala. — On a day when quality was hard to come by, Josh Butler’s early bonus quickly put him on course to sacking up a five-bass limit of 19 pounds, 7 ounces and leading Day 1 of the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Logan Martin Lake presented by SEVIIN.

Alabama's Josh Butler takes the lead on Day 1 of the 2024 St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Logan Martin Lake presented by SEVIIN with a five-bass total of 19 pounds, 7 ounces.  Photo by Andy Crawford/B.A.S.S.

Anchoring his bag with an absolute Coosa River tank that went 7-13, the pro from Hayden, Ala., heads into Day 2 with a lead of 3-9 over Georgia pro Emil Wagner.

“That’s the biggest one, by far, that I’ve ever caught here,” Butler said of his kicker. “I’ve caught fives and sixes, but never one nearly that big. The Lord blessed me today.”

Capitalizing on the seasonal day-maker known as the shad spawn, Butler started his day with a couple of small keepers. Adding one around 2 1/2, his big fish was No. 4.

Butler said he hit a few different areas for his shad spawn bites and caught all of those early fish on a spinnerbait with a particular design the fish clearly found appealing.

“I just hit random banks,” Butler said. “I had a couple of banks up the river and I was fortunate enough to catch fish.”

After his shad spawn bite fizzled, Butler ventured farther upriver and spent most of his time looking for spawners. He focused on a mile-long stretch and found that current dynamics played a key role in his day.

“They turned the current on at 9 o’clock and, I won’t say I struggled, but it seems like it was tougher,” Butler said.

Normally, any increase in current bodes well for anglers, as it predictably positions baitfish and stimulates bass. However, Butler said the moving water proves challenging for anglers targeting bed fish.

“Once the current really starts rolling, it’s harder to keep your bait still because they are spawning out in the current,” Butler said. “It’s one of those deals where you try to put your bait in front of as many fish as you can and hope you get bit.”

Butler used a mix of flipping baits and finesse baits to target his bed fish.

Thanks to his early start, Butler had his limit by 8 o’clock. From there, he caught bass throughout the day and made his last cull around noon.

“I had a small fish that was about 1 3/4 pounds and around 11-12 o’clock, a little flurry happened and I ended up catching four or five,” Butler said. “I was fortunate to catch one around 3 pounds.”

Looking ahead to the tournament’s second round, Butler said he’ll likely try to repeat his Day 1 game plan. Replicating the diligence of his opening effort will be his primary objective.

“I really just put my head down and ground it out,” Butler said. “I just focused on one fish at a time. It’s really important to get big bites and I was fortunate enough to get three of them.

“There’s a lot of time left, so I gotta go out and catch them tomorrow and see what happens.”

A successful guide on Georgia’s Lake Lanier, Wagner is in second place with 15-14. Noting that he had more quantity than quality, he said his game plan involved working through enough spots to find a big bite.

“I had a rotation of shallow and deep places and I didn’t know when each would fire or what the timing looked like, because when you find ’em in practice, you kinda leave ’em,” said Wagner, who fished a mix of reaction and slow baits. “I had one spot that did a lot of damage for me and then two other spots down the lake where two of my biggest fish came from.”

Wagner said he started his day with a shad spawn limit, but he culled those fish. A late-day transition gave him the surge he needed to reach his total.

“At the end of the day, I pulled up to a spot and caught probably 10 fish between 2 1/2-3/14 pounds and culled up to what I had,” he said. “I was just missing that kicker fish, but it was a really fun day.”

Tucker Smith of Birmingham, Ala., is in third place with 15-12. With a significant amount of local knowledge, he was able to work around the week’s heavy boat traffic by targeting places where he’s previously fished.

“I’ve spent a bunch of time on this lake, so I knew the areas I wanted to focus on,” Smith said. “It’s hard to practice out here, because everybody’s so good they find most everything. So, I didn’t look at the areas I wanted to fish — I tried to look at some new water the whole practice.

“I ended up running some history today and I ended up catching them.”

Smith said he fished multiple habitat features in a range of depths.

“It really was a big grind today,” Smith said. “I’d get a bite every hour or so, but they were good ones.”

Butler is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 7-13.

Niko Romero of Cold Spring, Texas, leads the co-angler division with 7-12. He also holds the Phoenix Boats Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 4-1.

Friday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6 a.m. CT from Lincoln’s Landing. The weigh-in will be held at Lincoln’s Landing at 2 p.m., with only the Top 10 anglers advancing to Championship Saturday.

Friday's weigh-in will be streaming on Bassmaster.com at 2 p.m. The final day of competition will be broadcast live on FS1 Saturday morning from 7 a.m.-noon, with streaming available beginning at noon on Bassmaster.com.

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