Butler maintains lead after Day 2

Josh Butler maintains the lead after Day 2 of the 2024 St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Logan Martin Lake presented by SEVIIN with 34 pounds, 12 ounces.

LINCOLN, Ala. — Josh Butler knew his game plan required patience, but he found his commitment tested en route to retaining the lead on Day 2 of the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Logan Martin Lake presented by SEVIIN.

After taking the top spot with a Day-1 limit of 19 pounds, 7 ounces, Butler entered the second round with a lead of 3-9. Adding a Day-2 bag that went 15-5, he tallied 34-12 and heads into Championship Saturday with a margin of 3-5 over Alabama’s Tucker Smith.

Looks good on paper, but Butler said he lost as much as he caught.

“Everything that could go wrong today did go wrong,” Butler lamented. “But I figured something out at the end of the day.”

Contrasting Day 1, which saw Butler jump start his campaign with a 7-13 — the tournament’s biggest — within an hour of takeoff, the second day also brought opportunity, but most of it ended in heartbreak.

Starting close to the ramp, Butler caught a 3-pound “bonus” fish right off the bat, but after that, the day took a downward turn.

“I had one good bite on a buzzbait and lost it — the fish didn’t get the bait really good,” Butler said. “After that, I ran uplake and kept fishing. I drug around for some spawning spotted bass and lost more than quite a few. I don’t know if they were getting it funny, or what was going on.

“Between breaking off and losing fish, I probably lost 15-16 pounds before 10 o’clock. I had a 4 1/2 at the boat, it ran around the boat three times and I had hands on her two or three times, but she just came up and pulled the hook.”

Disappointing as it was, Butler kept his head in the game by maintaining a clear perspective and a positive outlook.

“That’s what happens when you’re fishing for spawning fish; sometimes, they just pick up the bait funny,” he said. “It is what it is, but we regrouped and I started to figure out the current bite better the last 45 minutes.”

On Day 1, Butler stated that the moving water complicated his bed fishing efforts, as the current made it difficult to present his baits in a targeted manner.

“The last 45 minutes were pretty special. I caught probably four 3-plus-pounders in the last 30 minutes of the day,” he said. “That gave us what we had.”

Butler said he believes his late-day flurry was mostly postspawn fish. Throughout the day, he caught fish on a mix of spinnerbaits, Neko rigs, Ned rigs, shaky heads, swimbaits, flukes and scroungers.

Looking ahead to Championship Saturday, Butler sees himself employing much of the same tactics. He’s not expecting a busy day — just a productive one.

“I’m not like these guys down the lake catching 100 fish a day; I’m trying to get 10-15 bites a day,” Butler said. “I’m chasing quality fish.”

Smith, who makes his home in Birmingham, is in second place with 31-7. With remarkable consistency, Smith placed third on Day 1 with 15-12 and gained a spot by adding a second-round limit of 15-11.

“I went to a place where I caught them yesterday first thing this morning and it just wasn’t happening,” Smith said. “I caught a lot of fish off those places yesterday and they were beaten up, so I went and fished some new stuff.”

Smith said his Day 2 spots were different from those he fished on Day 1. Also, he found the fish moving deeper with their postspawn progression.

“I mixed it up a lot,” Smith said of his presentations. “I caught some on a swimbait, some  on a jig, some on a crankbait. I did a little bit of everything.

“I fished the middle and lower lake regions and caught fish anywhere from 8 feet to 20. I fished a bunch of different depths.”

Bassmaster Elite Kyoya Fujita of Lake Forest, California is in third with 29-15. After weighing an 18th place Day 1 limit of 13-12, Fujita made a big move by sacking up 16-3.

“My main target today was spotted bass,” Fujita said. “Sometimes, I tried largemouth. Today, my biggest fish was a 5-pound largemouth.

“I caught spotted bass in the morning and largemouth in the afternoon. I caught the 5-pounder at 12 o’clock.”

Fujita said a jig produced most of his weight on Day 1, but when that didn’t work in the second round, he turned to a jig head minnow.

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

Niko Romero of Cold Spring, Texas won the Co-Angler Division with a two-day total of 19-7. After leading Day 1 with 7-12, Romero added 11-11, edged Michael Leach of Shenandoah, Texas by 3-12 and took home the top prize of $9,543.

“A lot of preparation went into this,” Romero said. “The main thing for me this week was flipping a creature bait shallow. Docks and grass in 3-6 feet seemed to be the main deal, along with some spawning fish.”

Romero said he mainly used a Texas-rigged Missile Baits Mini D-Bomb with a 1/4-ounce weight, but he used to full-size D-Bomb with a 3/8-ounce weight to upgrade. Green pumpkin purple and Okeechobee craw were his best colors.

“I used that Mini D-Bomb to get my limit and the regular sized D-Bomb was what I’d pick to try and get a bigger bite,” Romero said. “That bulkier profile would slow the fall with that 3/8-ounce weight.

Notably, Romero graduates from Bethel University on Saturday with a degree in Sports Management/Marketing.

Romero won the $250 award for the Phoenix Boats Big Bass among co-anglers with his 6-2.

Saturday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6 a.m. Central Time at Lincoln’s Landing. The weigh-in will be held at Lincoln’s Landing 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.

The event is being hosted by The City of Lincoln.