BASS PRO BYRON VELVICK BECOMES THE BACHELOR

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Byron Velvick's friends knew he was a bachelor.  They just didn't know he was "The Bachelor," star of ABC's hit reality dating show, until they watched the show's season debut during a premiere party at Planet Hollywood.

"Aaron (Martens), Stan Gerzsenyi from Wave Worms, Brody Brent Broderick and a bunch of my fishing friends were there," Velvick said Thursday morning, after being selected over real estate developer Jay Overbye by the show's female contestants.  "It was wild. I wanted to have it with my friends in Vegas, but ABC wanted to do in New York, so I brought my friends to New York."

Was it strange to see himself on national television for something besides a fishing tournament?

"It's truly bizarre," he said.  "Nothing in life prepares you for this. I've always had a bass as a prop, and this time there were only 25 women and no fish."

Fellow BASS pro Aaron Martens said the show seemed like a natural fit for Velvick.

"It wasn't really a shock," Martens said.  ". It was appropriate, I think.  He has charisma.  People look at him and he's Byron and he's perfect for it.

"It's good for the sport, too.  It's very good.  I think he'll represent the sport well, too. He's smart, he's good looking (and) he loves to fish.  A lot of people don't know that much about bass fishing, and Byron will introduce them."

In fact, during one of the dates on next Wednesday's episode, Velvick will teach one of the women to fish.  And, in the coming weeks, Velvick's friends and fishing fans will get to see a new side of the Nevada pro who first captured attention on the BASS circuit with a 2000 victory at a Bassmaster California Invitational. 

Despite all the attention and support from friends, his new role as an American heartthrob wasn't the easiest fit, Velvick said.

"It was a nerve-wracking experience . and I knew whichever one of us that won the rose ceremony would be doing the voting afterwards (to eliminate 10 of the 25 women)," he said.  "I was elated because I figured now more than ever this process, this thing that happened with me getting involved in this through all these different avenues (and) not going through casting or anything like that, I figured it was all meant to be. And I thought that maybe my future wife might be here.

"I really did. I had to believe that because I didn't go looking for this. It found me. And if it found me, maybe she found me, too."

"The Bachelor" airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on ABC.  Next Wednesday, the women discover that Byron and his dog, Sabrina, are moving into the Ladies' Villa. In addition, Byron initiates a new kind of date - the "White Rose Date" - in which he decides which of the women he will take on his coveted first one-on-one dates. The first "White Rose Date" is a Hollywood night on the town at a trendy hot spot, Club XES, which includes a special private performance by pop sensation Brandy -- who serenades the lucky couple. The second has the champion bass fisherman teaching the tricks of his trade on a romantic lakeside date. And in another "Bachelor" first, Byron exercises his option to select three women for "Last Chance Talks" before the rose ceremony, at which he must narrow the field from 15 to 10.

The 15 remaining women are:

Amanda, 27, cosmetics buyer, who currently resides in New York, NY
Andrea, 33, dental hygienist, who currently resides in Denver, CO
Ashley, 31, teacher, who currently resides in Santa Barbara, CA
Cheresse, 31, advertising director, who currently resides in St. Louis, MO
Cynthia, 37, charity foundations director, who currently resides in Hermosa Beach, CA
Elizabeth, 28, in pharmaceutical sales, who currently resides in Chicago, IL
Jayne, 37, dog groomer, who currently resides in Key Largo, FL
Kelly, 34, actress, who currently resides in Beverly Hills, CA
Kristie, 32, bar owner, who currently resides in Windsor, Canada
Krysta, 28, financial analyst, who currently resides in Oklahoma City, OK
Leina, 28, advertising associate, who currently resides in Chula Vista, CA
Natalie, 34, in retail sales, who currently resides in Santa Monica, CA
Susie, 32, insurance broker, who currently resides in Hollywood, CA
Tanya, 31, teacher, who currently resides in Plano, Texas
Wende, 28, model, who currently resides in Austin, Texas

ABC Media Relations:
Cathy Rehl (212) 456-6749
Jennifer De La Rosa (818) 460-7421

BASS Communications:
(334) 551-2375