Before Rick Clunn was labeled “Mr. October” for his exploits at the CITGO Bassmaster Classic (which were originally staged in the fall) and “Gentleman George” Cochran had two Classic victories to his credit, there was “Mr. Consistency,” Ricky Green.

In the annals of professional bass fishing history, the Arkadelphia, Ark., angler set a standard for excellence by qualifying for 14 consecutive Classics from 1972 to 1985 (finishing second twice). Thus, the “Mr. Consistency” moniker.

Although he retired from fishing in 1997 and turned 60 this year, Green is back in the news as one of the 35 pros being recognized for his career excellence in ESPN’s recently announced Greatest Angler Debate.

“It’s real nice to be recognized and remembered,” he said. “It’s been quite a while since I retired and you kind of feel a little forgotten when you’re one of the old guys.”

Green, who retired after 36 years of fishing, first competed in the Bassmaster All-American in 1968, just the sixth tournament that founder Ray Scott held (before BASS was founded). He finished 11th in that contest and went on to compete in 184 BASS tournaments, earning a check 90 times, winning two events, posting five runner-up finishes and earning more than $132,000. Along the way, the personable Green won eight big bass awards (at a time when the honor earned a bass boat).

His name is still in the BASS record books as owner of the largest bass ever caught in a Classic competition (8 pounds, 9 ounces at Lake Guntersville in 1976).

For the past 13 years, Green has been busy guiding fishermen to such exotic locales as Mexico and Brazil (www.rickygreenadventures.com). For now, however, he is one of 35 anglers whose names are being debated among outdoors writers for inclusion in the top 10, who will be announced in early 2005. Despite all of his achievements, Green is still modest.

“I know I won’t win (the Greatest Angler Debate),” he said. “It’s just nice to be in the same company of the biggest names in the history of fishing.”

DIFFERENT SORT OF STAR. In fishing circles, Byron Velvick is best known as owner of the BASS record for a three-day tournament – a whopping 83-pound, 5-ounce winning weight caught on California’s Clear Lake in April of 2000. But the 40-year-old Nevada pro is about to star on an even bigger stage.

ABC announced Monday that Velvick is one of two finalists for "The Bachelor," and will appear on the premier of the dating reality show's new season, Wednesday, Sept. 22. According to an ABC news release, “‘The Bachelor,’ will kick off a new season of continuing surprise with the biggest one of all: The women themselves will hand pick their Bachelor in the very first ever ‘Lady’s Choice Ceremony.’”

The two-hour premier will feature the ladies’ decision between Velvick and Jay Overbye, also 40, “a New Jersey native who has never been married and sells residential real estate.”

Velvick was not at liberty to say much when reached by phone late Friday.

“I have media training with ABC …,” he said. “Right now, what everybody has read in the National Enquirer is pretty much the reality of the situation at this point – that’s me and another guy.…

“I just finished a lot of stuff to do with them, and I’ve got a lot more coming up. … I’ve got an interview with US Magazine and In Touch, and then Extra’s doing a show with us.”

Velvick was asked if filming will force him to miss any of the CITGO Bassmaster Western Open tournaments.

“I don’t know what’s going on yet,” the Mercury pro said. “I’m still kind of in a bubble and I really don’t know.

On the water, Velvick has been a professional fisherman for 13 years and competed in 70 BASS events, winning one and earning a check 11 times. He’s optimistic about the outcome of the premiere episode, at least for the sport he loves:

“I’ll tell you what, I think it’s going to help the sport quite a bit. They spent a lot of time on the water with me, and they shot of lot of stuff in my boat. And I’m pretty happy about that.”

The premiere of “The Bachelor” is Wednesday, Sept. 22 from 9 to 11 p.m. ET on ABC.

FISHING LEADERSHIP. At the recent Classic, there was a ground-breaking effort under way far away from the spotlight of the fishing action on Lake Wylie.

More than 150 conservation leaders, government officials and industry representatives took part in a Fishing Leadership Conference convened by BASS and ESPN Outdoors. Their mission: to find collective, creative ways to increase participation in our sport.

“By all measures, the conference was a great success,” said Noreen Clough, BASS conservation director. “BASS State Federation presidents and conservation directors, as well as state fisheries chiefs filled the conference room, anxious to hear the discussions. They participated in the morning and afternoon break-out sessions and shared their thoughts and ideas regarding angler recruitment, youth trends and aquatic resource conservation.”

Guest speakers included representatives from the sportfishing industry, sponsoring companies, federal and state government, as well as Congressman Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) and BASS founder Ray Scott.

Conservation and caring for aquatic and fishery resources was a consistent theme, despite the fact that the primary focus of the conference was to identify ways to increase participation.

“It was an interesting and stimulating couple of days,” Clough said. “I was thrilled by the earnest participation of the BASS Federation presidents and conservation directors. And I am excited by the commitment to future actions.”

DID YOU KNOW? Woo Daves’ recent victory in the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open on the Hudson River was his third BASS win since turning 54.

PRO BIRTHDAYS. Top pros Aaron Martens (32) and John Murray (40) share Aug. 24 as their birthday. Georgia’s Jim Murray turns 30 on Aug. 28, while fellow Georgian Tom Mann Jr., becomes 52 three days later. On Sept. 2, Texans Jay Yelas (39) and Kelly Jordon (34) will be blowing out candles. Legendary Arkansas angler Larry Nixon turns 54 on Sept. 3, while Florida pro Bernie Schultz becomes 50 a day later.

IF I HADN’T BECOME A BASS PRO… Reigning CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle would likely be swinging a hammer. He was a $12,000-a-year carpenter before launching his fishing career.

THEY SAID IT. “Personality is very important. Crowd favorites. Look at Gerald Swindle: a crowd favorite, good sense of humor, personable, approachable, passionate about the sport. I was really impressed with the emotional side of the guy. People catch on to that.” Kevin Luebke, manager of freshwater endorsements for Mercury Marine, on the qualities he looks for in a tournament pro.