Less than 10 days before the annual Big Bass Rodeo and Fishtival, anglers are catching some big-time fish in the lagoons of City Park in New Orleans.

“They’re full-on laying eggs over nests right now,” said Broc Corcoran, 26, of the Big Easy, who caught a nice 7.36-pounder on March 9 behind the big lake where boat rentals take place. “I had a brand new Shimano perch pole I had just bought from Puglia’s with 6-pound test and a tiny perch jig, and I saw that monster.”

Corcoran was targeting Rio Grande cichlids with a tiny black-and-chartreuse crappie jig, but noticed the big bass with his polarized sunglasses about 20 feet from the bank in the shallows.

“All I could see was a very thin black shadow just creeping,” he said. “I guessed where she might have been by then, and that’s where she was. 

“I got nervous and threw over there, and hooked it on the first cast. I turned the drag all the way down and let it wear itself out. The whole time I was fighting it, I was saying, ‘Oh, sweet Jesus, oh sweet Jesus - don’t let it break that line.’”

Corcoran, who released the bass back into the pond, landed the fish by sliding down the bank feet-first into the water. 

“I grabbed it, then I was looking around for somebody to take a picture for me,” said Corcoran, who estimated he saw up to 80 bass on beds that day throughout the park. “They would just bump it and that was it. I fished all day, and saw more fish than I had ever seen there in my whole life. I didn’t even see a cichlid.”

Robbie Freeling, 30, of Baton Rouge, caught an even bigger fish in the same area in the middle of the day last Sunday.

Freeling was using a Texas-rigged 8-inch watermelon Yum lizard and caught an 8.3-pounder that was cooperative enough to bite twice.

“I could just see the outline of her and a male on the nest. She grabbed my sinker the first time and snapped my line,” Freeling said. “I tied it on weightless for the next cast, and she nailed it. I got another shot at her and was fortunate enough to hook her.”

Freeling had a solid day and didn't catch any fish under 2 pounds, including a 4- and 5-pounder. But the big 8-plus-pounder, which measured 25 1/2-inches long, got a measure of revenge when he also entered the water to attempt to land the fish.

“It was a steep bank. I actually had to jump in after her and soaked my cellphone,” Freeling said. “I went in about waist-deep water to lip her and bring her in. It was a mess.”

The doused phone meant he had no camera to take pictures at the park - or any way to let his friends know about the catch. 

But it turned out the ruined cellphone wasn’t his biggest problem that day.

“That didn’t nearly upset my wife with a 2-week-old baby at home as it did that I escaped to fish for about two hours when I was supposed to be at the house,” he said. “It’s tough to pull me away from sight-fishing bass.”

The Big Bass Fishing Rodeo and Fishtival, including the Boats on the Bayou division, takes place on Saturday morning, March 28. For more information or to register for the event, click here.