Magical trees, high hopes and a cold, cold wind

Many of the anglers at the top in the 2012 Cabela's Bassmaster Federation Nation Championship (BFNC) are extremely thankful for all the well-wishes they’ve received from friends and family rooting from them, in some cases from all over the world.

But all those calls, texts and messages of hope put a lot of pressure on these guys to bring it home today.

Tony Choe is one of those. The Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Tour’s Angler of the Year is sitting in second place in the Mid-Atlantic division this morning, separated by a pound and a half from the division leader. If he takes the top spot, it will be the first time the PVA representative from the BFNC has made it to the Classic.

“It would mean the world to me if I went to the Bassmaster Classic,” said Choe on the first day of the BFNC. “It would mean a lot to the PVA.”

Choe has stuck with a pattern that’s worked so far. He’s been fishing riprap near the nuclear plant just up from the launch ramp for the past two days, and that’s also his plan for today.

Mark Pierce, who’s currently serving in the U.S. Army, has found success flipping wood, but he might try some spinnerbaits today, too.

“It’s pretty interesting,” said Pierce. “I can flip 20 trees, then I’ll find one tree that has five bass on it. When I find one that has a bass on it, I stick with it because I know it’s loaded up. I’ve found a couple of magical trees.”

Pierce, who’s sitting in second place overall with 25-3, said he’s feeling “pretty good” about today. He finished in second overall last year behind Jamie Horton, but because Horton is in the same division, Pierce did not get an invitation to the Classic. He’s in a good position this year, though, leading the South by 2 pounds, 7 ounces. If he can hang on today, he’ll be headed to his first Classic in February in Tulsa, Okla.

Other anglers trying to hold onto their division lead today are Jonathan Carter of Maine in the Eastern division with 23 pounds even; Bryant Copley of Virginia, Mid-Atlantic, 23-11; Brady Farrell of Wisconsin, Northern, 21-4; Dale Hightower of Oklahoma, Central, 24-1; and Jason Hemminger of California, Western, 26-7.

All the competitors will be dealing with an icy wind, choppy water and a cold drizzle today. It’s a noticeable difference from the past two competition days and the previous two practice days. All were bundled up this morning in rain suits, hats, gloves and face masks, ready for a day of relative discomfort — as well as a bite that might shut off or pick up, depending on what each angler is doing.

Tune in for the final weigh-in at 3 p.m. CT on The contenders will share the stage with the 12 young anglers from the 2012 Bassmaster Junior World Championship. The teens are fishing nearby Wilson Lake in a one-day tournament.