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Nik Kayler tribute held ahead of fishing tournament on Lake Okeechobee

Posted at 5:29 AM, Jan 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-25 17:36:29-05

The fishing community paid tribute Thursday morning to a fisherman that died during a tournament earlier this month. 

"We’ll recognize him as being a part of this tournament actually because he had entered the tournament as a co-angler," said Bill Taylor, senior director of tournament operations for FLW.

Prior to resuming Fishing League Worldwide tournament events, fisherman Nik Kayler was honored at the Roland & Mary Ann Martins Marina & Resort in Clewiston.

Kayler went missing Jan. 4 after he was thrown overboard from his vessel. His body was found six days later.

His co-fisherman Bill Kisiah survived the incident, but friends and family remain devastated. 

The league said the decision to resume the tournament this week was a tough one, but say it's what Kayler would have wanted.

"We had to get back out on the water," Joseph Opager, spokesperson of FLW said.

"As an angler myself and knowing that Nik was an angler and loved the sport, he would’ve said, 'Hey guys, let’s go. Let’s go out there and do that,'" Taylor said.

The tribute included a "man overboard" signal of three blasts of an air horn followed by a single vertical flare.

"Nik was a great person," John Tavano said. "I met him 10 years ago and it was an instant friendship, it's actually irreplaceable.

Thursday's conditions on the water were an eerie reminder of what they were when Kayler was thrown from the boat.

The National Weather Service issued a lake wind advisory on Lake Okeechobee Thursday.

Friends and boaters said they've learned from the tragedy.

"Out of all this, my wife and a lot of fisherman I know, already went out and bought new personal locator beacons," Tavano said.

Taylor said boaters aren't allowed to cross Lake Okeechobee this tournament due to the weather conditions.

"I felt like that we could keep them back off the main part of the big lake and let them fish throughout the areas that are guarded from the high winds," he said.