Fame and Fortune: Byron 'The Bachelor' Velvick
ESPN's 'Bass Center' star is quite a catch himself

By Tamar Alexia Fleishman

People who have never even watched ESPN's fishing show may still recognize Byron Velvick, thanks to his stint on ABC's "The Bachelor."

Velvick clearly separated himself from other "Bachelors" when his on-screen match with Mary Delgado -- a former Tampa Bay Buccaneers' cheerleader and the contestant ABC brought back from a previous show -- actually culminated in a real proposal. It's the only such ending in the show's history. Velvick and Delgado are planning a spring wedding.

Unlike many of the two-dimensional contestants of these shows, the 40-year-old Velvick has many aspects to his personality. He's a graduate of the University of California at Irvine with a degree in English, has modeled in Europe, and is considered one of the best pro anglers in the world.

The winner of bass fishing's U.S. Open in 1990 and 1996, Velvick is the host of ESPN's "Bass Center." With his modest personality and model looks, he is a big reason bass fishing has become a phenomenon in the past 10 years.

Bankrate: Before the show, did you try other public dating forums like or speed dating?

Byron Velvick: No, I never had. I saw the merit of it though; I have friends who've done it and they did very well, they are very happy. I never had the time. I was a recluse and always spent my time fishing.

Bankrate: You are competitive. Do you feel a competitive kinship with Mary? After all, she's been through a couple of TV competitions and pro cheerleader tryouts.

Byron Velvick: Yeah. We're both competitive and both stubborn. We even compete on the water, fishing. We have a real relationship, we're getting to know each other off the show. It's very different for us now, oh yeah. Before, we had open dates, seeing other people on camera. Now, we're buckling down, seeing the merit of our relationship.

Bankrate: What's the secret to being successful in competition?

Byron Velvick: With Mary, I remove myself, my ego, from the situation. When I'm on the circuit, that's different. I'm not in love with them. I don't go to bed with them. It's men against men. Plus, there's the business aspect of the competition, too. We're competing for sponsors and a place in the tournament. I have to be the best -- flawless. I'm hard on myself. I had that happen where I didn't think I performed my best and I still won. I felt guilty. But I've also placed fourth or fifth or sixth, where I did my very best, and I knew I did all I could.

Bankrate: You hear about celebrities like Star Jones, having part of her wedding underwritten. Is ABC helping you out?

Byron Velvick: Don't know about that. Mary and I have been running around with my sponsors, busy. We want it in the spring, with good weather. Not in the winter. With the wedding, I've been there already. It'll be what Mary wants, how she envisions it to be. It'll be tasteful, not sponsored by Revlon and Maybelline.

Bankrate: What kind of perks did you get from ABC as the bachelor?

Byron Velvick: It was insane. I never had manicures, pedicures and massages before. I was going from private jet to limousines. I stayed at exotic resorts with beautiful gift baskets everywhere I went. It truly was my 15 minutes of fame.

Bankrate: I take it the bass sponsors don't treat you the same way?

Byron Velvick: Oh, no. We live like truck drivers. I've stayed in many less-than-beautiful hotels on the outskirts of town.

Bankrate: Bass tournaments are packing in entire arenas. What would you say is the new appeal, and why hasn't it been there all along?

Byron Velvick: It's growing. It's like NASCAR, a bunch of country boys. I'm on ESPN at 7 and 11 every Saturday morning. I'm very grateful, that they took the name of their popular show, "Sports Center," and made it part of my show. There's no "Golf Center" or "Hockey Center." Bass fishing is growing, because we have identifiable, young, marketable guys. It used to be, with the old guys, they were overweight, chewing tobacco. Today, it's great. We've got guys with tattoos up there with fish. We're like, your hillbilly country brother.

Bankrate: Are you involved with any environmental or conservation causes, considering that your vocation is affected by pollution?

Byron Velvick: Yeah, I do a lot of stuff for the environment, it's very important. I raise awareness through American Sport Fishing. My sponsors also do a lot -- Habitat for Fishing. I do a lot of recycling. A lot of the people in fishing raise money for the environment. I'm very proactive. I'm also involved in restocking programs with kids.

Bankrate: Coca-Cola is putting together a fishing team, with you as its first member. Will angling be the next NASCAR?

Byron Velvick: I think so, but CITGO and ESPN think so, too. There has been a shift for people from golf to fishing. You can take a group of friends and the next week, they can enter a tournament. With NASCAR, the sponsors are in for a multimillion dollar deal. They can get in for a lot less with a boat. Plus, we have a lot of exposure.

Bankrate: Coca-Cola has a squeaky clean image. Do you have a morals clause in your contract?

Byron Velvick: No, but they did a big background research project, like ABC. They really researched me. They didn't want a big surprise, with outstanding warrants or something. I'm with Coke just until the end of this year.

Bankrate: A lot of people say, "The best boat is your best friend's boat," but you have to have the boat. What kind of expenses do you have as an angler?

Byron Velvick: It's costly to get a boat and truck. I saved up to buy my first boat, it was 10 years old and cost $6,000. You can get in at $6,000 to $10,000. Now, getting a new boat will cost you $30,000, $40,000, $50,000. You can go up to $100,000. I'm fortunate now, I don't have to buy the boat, my sponsors do that.

Bankrate: It would seem that as a pro fisherman, some aspects of your work include being your own boss and not facing a mandatory retirement age. Are there other careers you've considered?

Byron Velvick: This is what I've wanted to do since high school. It's a really great thing, fishing; you can get good in your late 20s or 30s. You don't see a lot of guys here quitting. You can keep going strong, even in your 50s. No other sport is like that.

Bankrate: You modeled after college. Were you able to support yourself doing that?

Byron Velvick: It was more of a life experience; I thought it would be great to live in Europe. That way, I was able to live there for free. I took the money I earned for a TV commercial and bought a boat and truck. No more acting for me.

Bankrate: Do you come from a wealthy background?

Byron Velvick: No, not at all. My parents divorced when I was young. We lived off my mother's schoolteacher salary.

Bankrate: You earned over $400,000 in prize money. Do you have investments?

Byron Velvick: Well, now the money is about $500,000. I have two houses, one in Tampa. I have extra boats and a couple of condos. This was a really good year for real estate. I like to buy tangible assets that will go up. After the U.S. Open, I bought my home in Las Vegas. Now, it's worth $750,000!

Bankrate: Do you manage your money yourself or do you hire out?

Byron Velvick: I manage my investments. I do have an accountant for taxes and a financial person for my property. I mean, I went to college, I took business classes. I don't want to play the stock market, but I have an IRA.