City Park Big Bass Rodeo set for Saturday _lowres

Advocate photo by KYLE ENCAR Robert Meyers shows off his 5.48-pound largemouth bass that won Joe Courvelle Award for the heaviest bass in the 2014 City Park Big Bass Rodeo and Fishtival held on waters in and around City Park in New Orleans. Courcelle was the the rodeo's weighmaster for years. The 68th-annual event, believed to be the longest running freshwater fishing event in the nation, is set for Saturday.

For the 68th year, the New Orleans City Park Big Bass Rodeo is expected to draw hundreds of participants to the park for a day of friendly fishing.

This year’s rodeo will be held Saturday: Fishing will be allowed between 6:30-11 a.m., and there are divisions for anglers of all ages who will attempt to hook a variety of species.

Event organizers say it is the oldest freshwater rodeo in the U.S.

“The rodeo was started in 1946 by Paul Kalman, and his family is still involved with some of the awards presentations,” rodeo chairwoman Kaye Florane said. “We’ve lost things in New Orleans like Maison Blanche and K&B, but this is still here. It’s an old-style, community event. Where else can you find something like this in an urban area?”

Among the categories offered this year are Youth and Adult divisions for bass, fly fishing for bass or cichlids, a species most folks know as “rio grande perch;” a cichlid and bream team challenge for fishermen of all ages; a Junior Angler Division for the 12-and-younger crowd for heaviest cichlid, bream or perch; and a “Champions Challenge” for previous winners of City Park Big Bass Rodeo categories.

There also will be a “Catch-a-Cat or Gar” challenge with a prize being awarded to the person landing the heaviest gar or catfish. To win that category, persons must be entered in another of the official rodeo events.

The Boats on the Bayou event will return for a second year. Competitors can bring a kayak, canoe, or other nonmotorized vessel and fish in Bayou St. John, the waterbody east of City Park. Trophies for the three heaviest bass, redfish, and trout will be awarded. There also will be a “Trashbash” category for the angler landing the largest fish, a species other than bass, redfish or trout. Competitors also can win a kayak if they land a tagged redfish during the boating rodeo. The kayak will be awarded via a raffle if a tagged red isn’t caught.

Last year, 89 crafts entered in Boats on the Bayou. They joined another 643 entered in the Big Bass Rodeo portion of festivities. Florane said 28 percent of the registration was composed of children 12-and-younger in 2014, and she expects similar participation this year.

“We break it down into so many categories … that everyone has a chance (to win an award),” she said. “But really, some of these kids and the adults are serious about it. There are bragging rights, and some of the people in the rodeo are really good. But any age person can fish it.”

Last year’s Big Bass Award went to Robert Meyers, 52, who landed a 5.48-pound bass near the intersection of Wisner Boulevard and Harrison Avenue.

The Big Bass Rodeo “Fishtival” will be held the same day in City Park from 9 a.m. until noon. There is no cost to attend the Fishtival.

Included in this year’s presentation will be fly-casting demos, a “touch tank” hosted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, additional animals provided by the Audubon Institute, numerous vendors, raffles and DJ music.

The rodeo weigh-in will be held outside the Casino building in City Park. There is no cost to attend the weigh-in.

Fishing fees are $10 for anglers 13-and-older, and $5 for everyone else. The fee for the Boats on the Bayou competition is $15 per person, plus a $1 online processing fee.

The rodeo’s preregistration is “online only.” Go to Same-day registration will take place outside the casino building from 6-8 a.m. Saturday. Registration for the boating division will take place online only, and will close at noon Friday, the day before the rodeo.

All proceeds go to paying for rodeo expenses and to produce future fishing events in City Park.

A map of areas open to fishing during the rodeo, as well as a list of weigh stations set up for the Boats on the Bayou competition, is available on the rodeo’s website.