If there were any lingering doubts about the bass fishing in Pittsburgh — site of the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic slated for July 29-31 — Pennsylvania officials laid them to rest Sunday during a media luncheon hosted by BASS and ESPN.
"There are some people around this room who probably think Pittsburgh is not worthy of such an event, and they are absolutely dead-set wrong. There is fantastic fishing in Pittsburgh," said Craig Davis, director of convention sales for the Greater Pittsburgh Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"Fishing on rivers is going to be very different than what you've experienced these past few days, and it will take a different set of skills."
Pennsylvania state Rep. Marc Gergely, D-Allegheny, agreed during the luncheon, dubbed "A Prelude to Pittsburgh." He disputed the rumors he'd heard this weekend at the Classic ESPN Outdoors Expo that it will take but 18 pounds to win the Classic in Pittsburgh.
"That's not correct. It's going to be impressive," said Gergely, who spent a decade fishing Pittsburgh-area local bass tournaments and came away with a personal-best 6½-pound smallmouth. "It's going to be in the 20s. It's going to be mid-20s to 30s if they get on the fish that are in those rivers, and they will; I really have confidence."
Gergely pointed out that three species of black bass — largemouth, smallmouth and spotted — are caught in the Pittsburgh-area river system, which includes the Allegheny, Monongahela, Ohio, Beaver and Youghiogheny.
It's considered a rarity that three species of bass are featured in a Classic. Gergely predicts the catch breakdown will be 85 percent smallies, 10 percent bucketmouths and 5 percent spots.
"I can't wait to have you there," Gergely said. "There really are 5-pound smallmouths in the Monogehela or the Allegheny, absolutely. There are going to be some really nice bites coming out of Pittsburgh."
Davis added that all the Classic events in Pittsburgh will be within a 10-minute walk from central hotel accommodations. Launch will be at Heinz Field, weigh-in at Mellon Arena and the outdoors expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The family-friendly downtown features children's museums, an interactive sports museum and an amusement park; a free transit system connects them.
Gergely presented to BASS Vice President and General Manager Dean Kessel official welcoming documents from Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell and the state House of Representatives.
"We're excited about bringing the world of bass fishing to Pittsburgh," Kessel said. "It's going to be a great market. There are hundreds of thousands of anglers and hunters in that market, so that's one of the top-five membership regions for us in the country.
"It's certainly rich with BASS fans and bass anglers, and we're elated to be a part of it and hoping to bring the world of ESPN and our 85 million-plus homes (that receive ESPN) for another great Classic in '05."
Pennsylvania ranks sixth in the country for BASS membership, with 22,688 members.
"Pittsburgh will be a complete surprise to everybody. The rivers are teeming with fish," Davis said. "And this is going to be what some people have said is a thinking man's tournament.
"It's going to be as successful as anything you've seen."
For more information, contact www.visitpittsburgh.com.