The Big Bass Fishing Rodeo was founded by Paul Kalman in 1946. He fished City Park'slagoons and conceived of the idea to hold an annual fishing tournament. The New Orleans Item newspaper sponsored the inaugural event and used a scale borrowed from Schwegmann Bros. Giant Supermarkets original store. The Paul Kalman award is given to the angler 12 years or under who lands the largest bass.
In the 1980s, Joe Courcelle introduced catch-and-release to the rodeo. He built a 400-gallon tank and asked fisherman to turn in their live catch, which were reintroduced to the lagoons. Due to Hurricane Katrina, City Park was unable to hold the Big Bass Rodeo in 2006 and 2007 while the lagoons were restocked. In 2008, the fishing rodeo returned to City Park's lagoons.
In recent years, the “Fishtival” was added to the rodeo. This is a festival surrounding the fishing rodeo which includes live music and wildlife, ecology and conservation educational exhibits.