Big Bass Fishing Rodeo set for Saturday at City Park _lowres

Advocate Photo by KYLE ENCAR --Joseph Finger holds on to his 1st place, 4.59lb bass during the 67th City Park Big Bass Rodeo and Fishtival on Saturday, March 29, 2014

There are plenty quality spots for bass fishing throughout Louisiana, but some are surprised to learn that New Orleans City Park is among them.

Those in the know have been heading to the park for decades to participate in the Big Bass Fishing Rodeo. The 69th edition of the rodeo, believed to be oldest freshwater fishing tournament in the U.S., will be held 6:30 a.m.-11 a.m. Saturday. Weigh-in, as well as presentation of awards in numerous categories, will follow near the park’s Casino Building.

There are bass divisions for adults (13-and-older), juniors (12-and-under) and previous champions as well as a fly fishing category for heaviest bass and cichlid, a species more commonly called “rio grande perch,” and a cichlid/bream/perch event with Junior and Team (open to all ages) divisions. Only bank fishing is allowed in those categories, and live bait can be used only by junior anglers.

“Boats on the Bayou” returns: It gives anglers a chance to put their kayak, canoe or pirogue into Bayou St. John and compete in a separate division. New this year, is the “Battle of the Bass” high school tournament, which will pit teams of up to five prep students against other schools from the metro area in a bank-fishing contest.

Rodeo chairwoman Kaye Florane said anglers in all categories could find some hefty largemouths during the rodeo. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries recently put 300-plus pounds of bass into the City Park system, and two bass exceeding nine pounds have been caught in recent months.

At least one of those fish would have shattered the record bass caught in City Park — a 9.05-pounder by Tim Zissus — but the angler didn’t have the fish weighed on a certified scale, Florane said. The man did catch and then release the fish as did another angler who recently landed a 9-pounder.

“Those two fish are in there and some more like them are out there too,” Florane said. “You can see bass all along Bayou Metairie.

“We didn’t have a cold winter, so that will help. We should have a great rodeo.”

The City Park Big Bass Rodeo is more than just wetting a line. A free “Fishtival” will be held adjacent to the Casino Building that morning, complete with a host of exhibitors, including the LDWF, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, the Coastal Conservation Association, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, the New Orleans Fly Fishers Club and more. Numerous raffles will be held for prizes ranging from fishing tackle to gift certificates for dinners.

Florane said Wish to Fish also will be on site with new and used tackle offered at discount prices. Additional vendors will offer their wares, and DJ music will entertain the crowd. The LDWF will have a casting contest for young anglers, and prizes will be awarded.

Food and drink are available for purchase.

“A lot of people come out and don’t fish, and there is plenty for them to enjoy too,” Florane said.

Cost to enter the rodeo is $10 for anglers 13-and-older and $5 for youths 12-and-under.

Registration can be completed online or from 6-8 a.m. on rodeo Saturday.

Boats on the Bayou has categories for bass, trout, redfish, and “Trash Bash,” the latter category for any species other than those three categories. Registration must be done online by noon April 1.

The fee is $16 per boat, and fishing will be allowed from 7-10:30 a.m. The weigh station for this division will be located where Filmore Avenue meets Bayou St. John.

Cost to enter the Battle of the Bass is $5 per angler. Teams with the heaviest combined weight of two bass will win awards. Registration must be completed online. Call LDWF organizer Danica Williams at (504) 628-7282 for this high school competition.

There is no cost to attend the weigh-in or the Fishtival.

Former New Orleans’ newspaper reporter and World War II veteran Paul Kalman founded the rodeo in 1946. He died 40 years later, and he’s remembered with an award bearing his name that goes to the junior angler landing the heaviest bass. The Joe Courcelle Award goes to angler 13-or-older who lands the heaviest bass. Courcelle was the longtime weighmaster of the rodeo.

For more information, including full rules and regulations, maps, or registration details, go online to www.bigbassfishingrodeo.com.