GETTING THERE: US Airways remains the dominant carrier to the Pittsburgh airport, 17 miles from downtown; nonstop fares start at about $145 round trip. Independence Air, flying from Dulles, offers weekend fares from $158 round trip. Downtown is approximately a five-hour drive from the Beltway.
BASSMASTER CLASSIC: This year marks the last time the Bassmaster Classic will be held above the Mason-Dixon line -- it's moving to year-round warm water in 2006.
The Pittsburgh event will be held July 24-31; the pros compete July 29-31. There's a week's worth of hoopla surrounding the event, beginning with the Junior Championship, which includes autograph sessions and fireworks, and Saturday evening's Kenny Chesney concert at Heinz Field. The free ESPN Outdoors Expo, held Thursday through Sunday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, is a short walk from Point State Park and the free weigh-in events (at 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday) at Mellon Arena.
For an events schedule: http://2005bassmasterclassic.com, where you can find the Bassport, with printable discounts for restaurants, theaters and the river taxi service. Or call 800-VISIT-PA.
GO FISH: The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission lists marinas and registered fishing guides at www.fish.state.pa.us.
Pittsburgh area bass fishing guides charge about $100 to $250 per person per day, boat and gear included. Guides include Matthew Geppert (412-841-2222), Mark Sikora (412-782-2222) or Donald Hunt, DMH Bass Fishing (814-776-6831, www.guidedbassfishing.com).
Shore-based anglers often out-pull boating anglers at Point State Park; the concrete wall permits easy pedestrian and wheelchair access. The TriAnglers Club (412-255-0564, www.ventureoutdoors.org), open to all, fishes from the riverfront wall every Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; $5 for a season pass, bait, rod and reel. Buy fishing licenses on site (three-day tourist pass, $26; seven-day pass, $34) or online at www.fish.state.pa.us.
.WHERE TO STAY: Book a special Bassmaster rate at 28 area hotels from $79 to $169 double online through http://2005bassmasterclassic.com. Major chains within walking distance to the event sites include the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center, Hilton Pittsburgh, Westin Convention Center, Omni William Penn and Sheraton Station Square.
WHERE TO EAT: If catch-and-release leaves you hungry for more, try the Original Fish Market at the Westin Convention Center Hotel (1001 Liberty Ave., 412-227-3657, www.originalfishmarket.com), with a sushi bar and late-night hours. Dinner for two with wine is about $75. Locals love the fried fish sandwiches ($5.30) at Benkovitz Seafood Market (2300 Smallman St., 412-263-3016). Family in tow? Stroll across the Roberto Clemente Bridge to the North Shore to find Atria's (for pub food; 412-322-1850), Outback Steak House (412-921-9003), Vincent's Pizza Pub (412-325-4485) and more casual choices, all along Federal Street at PNC Park.
INFO: Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-359-0758, www.visitpittsburgh.com.
-- Christine H. O'Toole