- Tim Tucker
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For the past few months, Byron Velvick has been the most talked about bass fisherman in the country. But it has little to do with his fishing ability.
Millions of Americans have become aware of the sport of tournament bass fishing, thanks to Velvick's 10 week run as "The Bachelor" on ABC's TV show of the same name. The 40-year-old divorced Nevada angler has been playing the role of a self-proclaimed "hopeless romantic," a role for which he has become better known than his real profession.
Although he dabbled in modeling and acting while in his 20s, even once auditioning for a part in a soap opera, Velvick is always quick to point out he is first and foremost a bass fisherman.
"When this is all over, I'll go back to doing what I love, which is fishing and tournaments," he said. "Fishing is my sanity."
Although that has been lost in the craziness of limos, private jets and appearances on late-night talk shows, Velvick is an accomplished angler. In his 13-year career, he has been one of the West's top sticks, winning 14 major tournaments and more than $500,000. A competitor on the CITGO Bassmaster Tour and Open circuits, he set the record for the largest five bass, three day catch with 83 pounds, 5 ounces en route to winning the California Invitational on Clear Lake in April 2000.
"Byron is a really good fisherman, particularly when it comes to sight fishing and swim baits," California pro Skeet Reese said. "He's always a factor out here in the West, especially when he's looking at them. He's a good fisherman, but his personality has always outshined his fishing."
And so we get to the heart of the matter.
"This was meant to be for Byron. He's got the looks, the charisma, the intelligence to pull something like this off. My guess is this is going to lead to something more in the entertainment world for Byron, whether it be another show or modeling or whatever. At the very least it's going to give him a fat bank account so that when he comes back out here, he won't have any worries and he'll be even more successful fishing tournaments."
Beginning in January, ESPN officials will franchise its SportsCenter branding with the launching of BassCenter. Much like SportsCenter, which is celebrating its 25th year, BassCenter will be the news headquarters for fishing fans.
"We're going to take a quantum leap forward this January with BassCenter, a 52 week show on Saturday mornings modeled after SportsCenter," said George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN, as well as ABC Sports.
"The passion our company takes about outdoors, and especially about bass fishing, can be signified by the launch of this show.
BassCenter will air on ESPN2.
"Think SportsCenter for bass fishing, part of a whole new bass fishing block devoted to bass fishing," added Mark Shapiro, ESPN senior vice president and general manager of programming. "That will be the anchor signature show.
"And by the way, we're going to cover the whole sport. If there's news on the FLW Tour, we will cover it the same way we cover news on other sports networks or sports properties. The truth is ESPN built its reputation as the place of record for news, and you shouldn't expect anything less in relation to BassCenter."
BEFORE HE WAS A BASS PRO
Local 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Classic favorite and Lake Wylie guide Jason Quinn worked in his family's machine shop.
DID YOU KNOW?
For the first time in two years, Jay Yelas will have to worry about qualifying for the Classic as the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Tour season gets underway. The Texas resident enjoyed automatic exemptions for consecutive years after winning the 2002 Classic and 2003 Busch BASS Angler of the Year.
HE SAID IT
"Oh, no. Baseball, soccer, Olympics, those athletes are much bigger than the bass tournament fishermen. Much, much bigger than me. When I went back to Japan, they were all fishing-media people. It was not like regular newspaper or regular magazines. It was the same old people I've been talking to the last 10 years." Takahiro Omori, 2004 Classic champion.
For the past few months, Byron Velvick has been the most talked about bass fisherman in the country