Former 'Bachelor' must wait for his next big catch
Byron Velvick still proud of his biggest catch.
It's that time again and the interview requests are pouring in for Byron Velvick. But instead of ESPN, sports reporters and sports writers blowing up his phone, it's US Weekly and People Magazine.
For mainstream America, Velvick's maiden appearance in this week's Bassmaster Classic, the Super Bowl of bass fishing, is an afterthought. For heaven's sake, ABC's hit show "The Bachelor" is down to the final two women. The people want answers, advice and commentary.
However, Velvick, the star of Season 6, usually disappoints.
"When it gets down to the last round, they are always looking for your take," Velvick said. "I haven't watched this season. I haven't watched any season since I was on and I never watched it before. That's no disrespect to the show; I was the anti-Bachelor. I had no idea what I was getting into."
Fishing fans, however, realize this week could have been a life-changer for Velvick.
With a $500,000-plus payday for the winner, a new life could have unveiled for Velvick and the mate he found on reality TV, Mary Delgado.
Yes, they're still together.
"I'm 44," Velvick said. "I don't want to be 54 or 64, staying in hotels with these guys and competing with these guys. They are good, but it's Gypsy life, carnival life. I do not want to be living carnival life at 60. At 44 it's a perfect time for me to win this thing."
The host of ESPN2's Going Coastal (seen Sunday mornings) will have to wait another year to follow in Hank Parker's footsteps and make television his focus. Velvick couldn't recover from his 1-pound effort on opening day. The California native's shade-under 10-pound two-day total was nowhere near enough to make the top-25 cut of the 51 participants for today's half-million-dollar shootout.
However, Velvick still has his biggest catch. And it's a keeper.
"I was looking forward to meeting a great person in the course of the show and I did," he said, "but going into (the show) I couldn't have imagined there would be this type of long-term success."
Delgado, as always, was visible throughout the events in Shreveport in support of her fiancé. She sat in Section 118 of the CenturyTel Center on Friday and had to wait more than two hours for Velvick's not-so-grand entrance and 1-pound weigh-in.
Since winning Velvick's love, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleader has become an avid and competitive angler.
He's lived the reality TV life and boasts the fruit of his expedition in front of millions, but Velvick still has a tough time comprehending the quirks of being a former Bachelor.
"You're going to 'Good Morning America,' you're hanging out with Regis and Kelly, you're going to New York — doing the whirlwind," he said. "Nobody knows who you're with, but at the same time you're living large on ABC's dime.
"Some of these guys, it goes to their head. There are girls around that would have never talked to you before the 'Bachelor' and they're like, 'This is cool, I'm a rock star.'
"It's 15 minutes of fame; that's all it is. Fleeting."
And, always, those darned questions.
"Every time they meet you, they think you know every character that's ever been on the show," Velvick said. "'What about Aaron from Season 3?' I didn't even watch Season 3. 'What about Melissa from the one after you?' I didn't watch the one after me; don't know Melissa. We're not a network, a fraternity and sorority of people."
His lack of knowledge not withstanding, Velvick understands his other life comes with the territory.
"I put myself in front of that many people to meet (Mary), so to have to talk about it is fair," Velvick said. "The public has a right to know what you're up to — not to the point of stalkerville, but at the same time you can't push away and become a hermit. That's not right. You weren't a hermit when you signed up for the show. You accept that and you're kind and cordial to people who want to know the story of you two or how you met."
On the show, Velvick took his potential fiancées on fishing dates. While his profession wasn't the focus of his season, the sport got plenty of publicity.
"Ten million people every week," Velvick said. "That's a hell of a demographic."
A pro since he was "legal" (16), Velvick has earned more than $200,000 on Tour. However, not until recently has he realized how to become consistently successful at the elite level.
"I've done well fishing my whole life, but it's been intermittent," Velvick said. "These guys are confident all day long in their abilities. It sounds easy, but it's not. It's not just about strength, it's not just about conditioning like Tiger Woods hitting the golf ball. These guys know they can catch fish."
But can they choose the right life partner from a group of 25 beautiful women while 10 million folks are watching?