Tim Zissis has been fishing in City Park since he was a boy back in the 1970s.
In those days, he’d go with his father to the park’s annual Big Bass Rodeo with hopes of catching a lunker. In years since, he has frequented the banks of the park’s many lagoons and canals and has caught several nice bass — some that weighed 4, 5, even 7 pounds.
But on Aug. 14, Zissis landed the fish of a lifetime. And it was a record-breaker, to boot.
The New Orleans native caught a 9.05-pound bass in the park that day. He used a home-made frog lure, one he paints black with gold stripes and he calls the “Who Dat Frog,” to land the fish. The catch bettered the former City Park big bass record by exactly .05 ounces — a fish that was caught on Mardi Gras earlier this year.
“I caught it about 3:40 in the afternoon and it had just started drizzling,” Zissis said. “When it first hit, it spit the bait. But I casted again and then about four inches from the bank, it hit it again. It was just huge.”
City Park officials verified the catch shortly thereafter and told Zissis, 44, that he then held the record of the largest bass caught in the park. Though bass fishing has been common sport at City Park for many decades, recent stocking programs of Florida Chain bass have bolstered what already was a formidable bass fishery.
Oddly, the fish Zissis landed doesn’t appear to be one of the stocked fish, he said. It was a male, which in itself is strange, given the heft it carried to the scales. It measured a whopping 28 inches long.
“If it was the female, during the spawning season, it might have gone like 13 pounds,” Zissis said. “It freaked me out when I caught this one, then I thought, ‘What if she’s out there?’”
Zissis caught the fish under unusual circumstances. During Hurricane Isaac last year, he was helping a neighbor with a generator and wound up tearing his ACL. He developed a staph infection soon after and almost died, he said. He’s still rehabilitating the leg which he almost lost due to the surgery, an unfortunate thing that allowed him to be at City Park on the day he landed the monster bass.
“My dad and I used to fish out there all the time,” he said. “That’s what made this special. It was like a psychological cleansing.”