Mary Delgado's real 'catch'
By John Lindblom - Record-Bee staff
KELSEYVILLE -- Byron Velvick is in his 15th year as a touring professional fisherman, is the host of ESPN's "Bass Center," a television show that airs for three hours on Saturday mornings, and is no stranger to page one of the Record-Bee. Four years ago he was the subject of an article when he set the three-day record for the CITGO Bassmasters tournament of 85 pounds, which still stands.
But in this story the fisherman is the "catch."
Ask Mary Delgado of Tampa, Fla., who is here with Velvick for this year's CITGO Bassmasters Clear Lake Western Open. She's the one who caught him.
If you were among the several million viewers who followed ABC television's "The Bachelor" reality series a year ago, you might have watched her do it.
The eight-week series concluded with Velvick's and Delgado's engagement after he chose her from an original field of 25 attractive female candidates. The show's format was a winnowing process in which Velvick was required to eliminate comely contenders each week, going from the original 25 to 10, to eight, to four and so forth. He gave the women who would survive for the next round a single rose, a genteel way of telling nonrecipients they're being kicked off the island.
"It was tough when you had 15 women but only 10 roses," he said.
Yeah, a tough job, but somebody had to do it.
"I never watched the show before I got on it," Velvick said. "Some friends put me up to it.
"You didn't have to screen out anyone with manslaughter charges, or drug addictions or illegitimate children. They did all that for you," he quipped.
But, more seriously, the once-divorced 41-year-old added, "What it was all about was finding someone you could fall in love with and I'm lucky that I have. We're going to get married."
Delgado, a real estate agent, also regards herself as lucky. She had been one of "The Bachelor" candidates in a prior series and made it to the final three. She is happy it turned out that way.
"Lucky? Well, blessed. That's for sure," she said. "There was definitely an instant attraction. I wouldn't say I was surprised with the way it turned out, but I wasn't real confident. As time went on and we spent more time together, my feelings for Byron were growing and I was very hopeful that he would reciprocate and was feeling the same way I was. And I guess he was."
Starting a meaningful relationship on a studio sound stage with bright lights, whirling cameras and technical support people in constant motion was not the easiest thing Delgado ever did.
"It's a little more difficult than the usual relationship," she said with a smile. "Any relationship is difficult because you have to work at it, but it (television) makes it uncomfortable and unnatural, if you will.
"But as time went on it was like you were in a crowded restaurant trying to engage in conversation. At first you notice a ton of people, but as your conversation with a person continues you kind of get lost in that person."
Velvick is no run-of-the-mill person. An avid angler since he was a tot fishing off the piers and in the ponds of Southern California, Velvick spent his early years chasing autographs from pro fishermen whose names were fairly obscure with as much gusto as other kids chased after the signatures of pro football and major league baseball players.
"Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to fish in tournaments," he said. "I caught frogs with a rod and reel."
Later, he would fish for all varieties of fish, including great whites and hammerhead sharks off Catalina Island.
"We never caught them; we just let them pull the boat around for a while," said Velvick. "It was an early form of jet skiing, if you can imagine. The boat was maybe 12 or 15 feet, so if one even gets close you cut the line on them.
"Same with the giant sting rays we used to catch. You fished for them offshore, but when you hooked them they'd just pull you around."
Velvick and Delgado may give the TV fans who watched their courtship what they've been clamoring for by having a nationally televised wedding. "Everybody's been so wonderful to us and we'd love to share that on television," Delgado said. "Everybody has their own story of how they met. We're happy that people are into ours."