By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

Are you familiar with the name Josh Butler? Many BassFans undoubtedly still are not, but the 35-year-old from Alabama sits atop the MLF Pro Circuit points race with just one tournament remaining.

That's right, Bass Pro Tour stalwarts such as Michael Neal (the reigning Pro Circuit AOY), Justin Lucas, John Cox, Skeet Reese, Mark Rose and the Lane brothers (Bobby and Chris) are all looking up at the asphalt paving contractor in the standings. Butler will take a 14-point edge over Neal and a 33-point advantage over Lucas into the final regular-season derby at Lake Champlain at the end of the month.

Butler posted a 63rd-place finish in the points during his rookie campaign last year, when he had triple-digit showings in two tournaments and a 99th in another. This year he's ended up among the Top 25 four times in five outings, which include a 6th at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas and a 5th at Lake Guntersville in his home state.

Even his worst finish (55th at Florida's Harris Chain) was good for a paycheck and a decent points haul.

"I would say there's a lot of luck that goes into it and you've gotta run extremely hot and catch a lot of breaks to be in the position I'm in," he said. "I've just been trusting my gut a lot and making the right decisions. I'm pulling up to a spot that looks good and boom – I catch a 4-pounder like it was meant to happen.

"Last year when I was a rookie, there was a big learning curve with all the ins and outs of managing fish, getting the most out of 2 days of practice and things like that. This year I've pretty much focused on one area of the lake instead of running all over and trying to catch fish. I've hunkered down in that area and figured out how to catch them there. A lot of homework – watching videos and doing map study – has really helped me this year."

Likes the Venue

Butler will attempt to close out the points title on a lake that he considers his favorite.

"I spent about a month (in the North Country) between tournaments last year and I went over to Champlain for about 10 days, not knowing that it would be on this year's schedule," he said. "I tried to fish the Toyota Series event and I didn't do well, but it was another learning-curve thing.

"I don't have a ton of experience there, but I think it suits me pretty well because you can fish offshore and use finesse presentations, forward-facing sonar and all that. I think I've figured out a few things and I'm excited about it."

He says he's not a savant in regard to use of the newest fish-finding electronics, but they're a big part of his program.

"I'm not (Spencer) Shuffield or a few of those other guys, but I think I'm very competent and I know how to use it. I've put a lot of time into it and I'm pretty well-versed. It's fun and it's one of the many tools you need to compete, unless your name is John Cox."

Not Getting Big-Headed

Butler said he's excited, but also extremely humbled, by his position in the AOY standings with just one event to go.

"I never thought I'd be here at this stage of my career and I'm just trying to enjoy it," he said. "I'm taking it one day at a time and I know I still need to go and catch them in the last tournament and anything can happen.

"I'd much rather be in his position than any other, but I've got one guy right behind me who's probably the hottest angler on the planet not named Jacob Wheeler and there's also Lucas and (4th-place Jacopo Gallelli).

"I hope we all catch them. I just hope I do a little bit better than they do."


> Butler earned more than $83,000 for two BFL victories over a 1 1/2-month span in 2020. The second of those was a regional at Cherokee Lake that was worth $68,000. It was a tough-bite event in which he weighed just 12 fish for 29-03 over 3 days.