Fishy Business in Charlotte

Last year at the end of July, the world's top professional bass fishermen rolled into Pittsburgh for the Bassmaster Classic, the sport's ultimate event. Local sports hero Ben Roethlisberger participated in the tournament's ESPN television broadcast, playing around on the water with analysts in a fishing/passing exhibition and even dropping by the set to talk a little football.

Roethlisberger went on to play a little football in the weeks after, and six months later he and the Steelers took possession of the Super Bowl trophy.

Now, a year later, the Bassmasters are rolling into Charlotte, North Carolina, this week for the second of this season's three Majors on the Bassmaster Tour, the Bassmaster American. Up for grabs is $250,000 to the winner of this four-day event.

And guess who's being picked as serious contenders for the Super Bowl this year? The Carolina Panthers, of course. Just a coincidence? Maybe. But if I were Steve Smith, Jake Delhomme or DeShaun Foster, I wouldn't take any chances. Get over to the weigh-in or the lake this weekend and get some of that big-time bass fishing mojo working for you, fellas.

A bass fishing tournament? You might be asking yourself. What in the world is there to see at a fishing tournament? Plenty.

The hoopla kicks off Wednesday, July 26, when fans can meet the anglers at Charlotte Merchandise Mart at Angler Alley from 4-6 p.m. Grab a few autographs, pose for pictures and maybe even hit them up for a fishing tip or two. Plus, each angler will have his NASCAR-style custom-wrapped boat on display (Boat photo gallery).

If you're an early-bird, catch the morning launch Thursday through Sunday from Copperhead Island (Web site), 15200 Soldier Road, Southwest Park District (adjacent to the McDowell Nature Preserve) at 6:50 a.m. There's nothing quite like the chest-thumping roar of 50 250-hp rigs blasting off at dawn.

Of course, the real action takes place at the weigh-in, held at 3:00 p.m. at the Charlotte Merchandise Mart from Thursday-Sunday. Who will go home $250,000 richer? Come and see for yourself as the ESPN cameras roll.

There's more than one BASS tournament happening this weekend in Charlotte -- Lake Norman plays host to the Mercury Marine's Women's Bassmaster Tour (WBT) presented by Triton Boats from Thursday-Saturday. Weigh-ins are at 2 p.m. at Blythe Landing on Thursday and Friday, but on Saturday the WBT comes to Cricket Arena for the final day weigh-in beginning at 3:30 p.m. (More on the Women's Bassmaster Tour).

While the anglers are on the water, check out the ESPN Outdoors Expo at the Charlotte Merchandise Mart, next to Cricket Arena (2500 E. Independence Blvd., Charlotte), where you can wade through aisle after aisle of the best new fishing products, enjoy interactive games and see the animals of the Georgia Wildlife Experience. Admission is free and the first 100 children through the door on Saturday and Sunday receive a free youth goodie bag, including a rod and reel.

Local links: Choose from the links below for information on Charlotte, North Carolina:
www.carolinasmart.com; www.charlottecvb.org; www.cricketarenacharlotte.com; Copperhead Island.

More info: Spectator information; 2006 Majors schedule
Map: Lake Wylie 6-hole Course map.


Charlotte Sting vs. New York, July 29, Charlotte Bobcats Arena

Men's pro soccer
Charlotte Eagles vs. Harrisburg City Islanders, July 29, Waddell Stadium

Women's soccer
Conference Playoff Final Four, July 28 and 29, Waddell Stadium
The best four women's soccer teams from the Southeastern and Midwestern U.S. will meet in a single-elimination final-four event, with the eventual champion moving on to the League Championship Final Four the following weekend in Vancouver.

Sports photography exhibit
Charlotte Museum of History, all summer
The Museum, in partnership with The Charlotte Observer, presents a photographic exploration that reveals the region's love of both amateur and professional sports, as participants and fans.

John Fogerty/Willie Nelson concert
Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, July 28


The Final Charge
Aug. 10-13: Capitol Clash - Potomac River, Charles County, Md.
Spectator information | www.VisitCharlesCounty.com
Sept. 14-17: The Rock - Table Rock Lake, Kimberling City, Mo.
Spectator information | www.Kimberlingcitylodging.com

2006 Majors
Aug. 24-27: Bassmaster Legends - Arkansas River, Little Rock, Ark.
Info | Spectator information | www.LittleRock.com