Inside B.A.S.S.

America’s weekend legion of BASS anglers will get a sneak peek at an eagerly awaited new tournament series when a pilot tournament for the upcoming ESPN Outdoors Bassmaster Weekend Series is held Oct. 10 on Alabama’s Lake Martin.

Although no points will be awarded at the event in Alexander City, it will be a model for the weekend tournaments to come, which will be held on Sundays. The entry fee is $200 for boaters and $100 for non-boaters. Based on a full field of 200 anglers, first place is $6,000 for the boaters and $3,000 for non-boaters.

Boaters will be paired with non-boaters using a blind drawing and all participants must be current BASS members to register for competition. Anglers competing as boaters will be allowed to weigh a limit of five bass; non-boaters will be allowed to weigh three fish plus share the weight of their partner.

Gil Johnson, a 63-year-old retired NBC Sports engineer from Spring, Tenn., was the first to sign up for the inaugural tournament.

“I’m excited about it,” said Johnson, an area director for the Tennessee BASS Federation. “I’m excited about Bassmaster coming up with a new tournament trail. … With the Bassmaster grassroots trail, that’s going to give us a shot at fishing more tournaments. It’s going to be great for the fisherman that has to work all week.”

Steve Hodges, a 51-year-old FedEx employee from Moody, Ala., is another weekend angler that is psyched about the new tournament venue.

“I’m definitely excited about it,” said Hodges, president of the Coosa River Anglers club. “It’s another format that could lead you to the Bassmaster Classic eventually. I’ve fished the Federation for about the last nine years and qualified for the state team this year.

“I’m going to fish the whole trail, starting with the pilot tournament. I can’t wait to hear about the spring tournaments.”

C.D. McDuffa, 49, is an aircraft mechanic in Fultondale, Ala., who plans to fish the pilot tournament as a non-boater.

“I’m looking forward to fishing a different trail and going to some different lakes,” he said. “I fish a bass club tournament every month and sometimes I’ll fish one or two other tournaments a month. I think this will be great for a guy like me.”

Compete details on the new Bassmaster Weekend Series will be announced in early October. For more information, visit

KEEPING A SECRET. Byron Velvick, the CITGO Bassmaster Tour pro turned reality television star in ABC’s The Bachelor, was forced to maintain a high-level of secrecy from friends and fellow pros during the closing portion of the 2004 Tour. That included roommate and fellow western pro Brett Hite.

“What was really cute was that I couldn’t tell Brett or anybody that I was getting talked to by the show,” Velvick said. “So Brett and I would be rooming at these tournaments and watching the Weather Channel like we all do, and then about 9 o’clock on Wednesday, I’d say, ‘Hey do mind if we turn on ‘The Bachelor.’ He was like, ‘Dude, what?’ I was like, ‘I’ve got to turn on this dating TV show,’ and my friends were like, ‘Are you freaking out on us?’

“So my story was that my ex-girlfriend was on the show. They wanted to know which one, but I wouldn’t tell them. I told them to figure it out. So the guys watched it with me because they wanted to see which one was my ex-girlfriend. So we watched the Jesse Palmer Bachelor. Me, I’m lying through my teeth that my ex-girlfriend was on the show and every time there was a rose ceremony, I’d say, ‘Man, she’s still in.’ They’d say, ‘Which one is she?’ I’d say, ‘I’m not telling you guys.’ I was just watching the show to understand what it was about. But none of the guys knew.

“Some of them said, ‘You should be on that show.’ I said, ‘Yeah. What do they want with a 40-year-old divorced bass fisherman? It would never happen.’ ”

DID YOU KNOW? Byron Velvick is not the first BASS pro to get network television airtime. BASS All-time leading money winner Denny Brauer sat on David Letterman’s couch on The Late Show on two occasions.

PRO BIRTHDAYS. Alabama pro Randy Howell turned 31 on Sept. 25, while Art Ferguson of Michigan hit 40 two days later. Kentucky’s Mark Menendez becomes 41 on Sept. 28. Tim Horton of Alabama will be 32 on Oct. 3. Mark Davis (41), Tony Couch (54) and Gary Klein (47) all share Oct. 11 as their birthday. Two days later, Marty Stone turns 39.

IF I HADN’T BECOME A BASS PRO… Byron Velvick might be working in some capacity in Hollywood. While in his 20s, the Nevada pro did some modeling work and once auditioned for a soap opera.

THEY SAID IT. “It’s a conversation piece because people see it and they relate it to the Super Bowl rings. They ask you about it and you get to talking to them. It’s kind of impressive to people when they realize what it is and what it’s all about.” Former Bassmaster Classic champion Paul Elias cherishes his one-of-a-kind Classic championship ring.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375.