FLW provided the following statements to BassFan on Friday regarding the timeline of events on day 1 of the FLW Series tournament at Lake Okeechobee on Jan. 4 and whether the organization plans to move forward with the FLW Tour event there beginning Jan. 25:
What took place the day of the accident?
FLW: At the start of Thursday morning’s competition, FLW staff confirmed that the weather conditions were conducive to a normal day of competition. Angler safety is and always has been our No. 1 priority every time we hold a tournament. The competition thus started as normal.
Bill Kisiah and Nik Kayler were due to check in at 4:30 p.m. When they had not checked in within the 15-minute grace period allowed by the rules before a catch is disqualified, the Tournament Director was notified.
When the last flight of boats checked in and it was confirmed that Bill and Nik still had not signed in, the Tournament Director immediately tried to make contact with both of them. When the effort to contact them was unsuccessful, the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department was immediately notified, as they had a deputy on-site. The deputy contacted 911 dispatch, and an emergency search operation began. FLW tournament staff and more than 100 anglers stayed on-site into the weekend to assist the search efforts. The competition was canceled on Friday, as the search continued.
The accident is still an active investigation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Has a decision been made regarding the FLW Tour event at Lake Okeechobee later this month?
FLW: We’ve had thorough and thoughtful internal discussions and the decision was made that we need to get back on the water. We are still grieving as an organization, but fishing tournaments are what we do. It is what Nik loved, too. Our anglers want to fish. And we want to honor Nik by fishing. Getting back on the water, at Lake Okeechobee, is a way to help with the grieving process. Nik and his family will be on the minds of every single angler and staff member throughout the tournament.
We will honor Nik and his family with a moment of silence prior to takeoff each morning, as well as encourage our staff, anglers and fans to donate to the GoFundMe campaign that has been organized for Nik’s family. The fishing community is extremely close-knit – we are one giant family – and we pull together when one of our anglers is in trouble. We will honor Nik by continuing to pursue the sport that we all love.
Are you aware of any withdrawals by pros or co-anglers from that event?
FLW: There have been a few withdrawals from the upcoming FLW Tour Event at Lake Okeechobee, but that is common for any event.