Authorities search for Florida co-angler
by Dave Altman, Editor
The worst case scenario happened on the first day of the FLW Tournament year when one of the Costa Series boats failed to return to the weigh-in. While the boater was later found alive, the remainder of the tournament was cancelled as the search continued for his co-angler.
Authorities continue to search massive Lake Okeechobee for co-angler Nik Kayler of Apopka, Fla. Nik has fished more than 60 FLW Tour events.(photo courtesy flwfishing.com)
Boater William (Bill) Kisiah of Slidell, La. was found after dark on the first day of the tournament. Details have not yet been released.(Photo courtesy flwfishing.com)
Both Kisiah and Kayler are experienced anglers. According to FLW, boater Kisiah is a nine-year veteran of FLW Series competition and Kayler has fished in 61 previous FLW events as a co-angler. As a result of the disappearance of Kayler, the FLW released this statement today.
“January 5, 2018
*UPDATE 11:45 a.m. Friday*
In order to concentrate all efforts on the ongoing search for co-angler Nik Kayler, FLW officials have decided to cancel the remaining competition day at the Costa FLW Series tournament on Lake Okeechobee.
At this time, air search and recovery operations are still being conducted under the guidance of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and local authorities. FLW is assisting the search operations.
Final tournament standings will be determined by day one of competition.”
At 730 square miles, Okeechobee is like a small, freshwater ocean–a giant round tub–averaging just 9 feet in depth–that you cannot see across and whose waters can be brutal when the wind is up.
There were more than 40 Georgia boaters and co-anglers competing in this event, which kicked off the FLW 2018 season. The full field of 250 boats took off yesterday at first light.
After yesterday’s Day 1, the leader on the boater side was Alabama angler Terry Tucker with a five fish limit of 21-5. There were also two Georgians in the Top 10: Brian Elder of Locust Grove with 15-12 and Macon’s Clayton Batts with 14-11. Both had five fish limits. On the co-angler side, there were three Georgians in the Top 10 after the tournament’s first day.
Okeechobee can be a daunting place. Georgia Big Stick Clay Johns knows what it’s like to be stranded on Lake Okeechobee. Two years ago during an FLW tournament out of Clewiston (at the South end of the lake), Clay’s engine blew up while he was on the North end along the West wall. With a dead cell-phone, Clay flagged down fellow Georgia Big Stick Rodger Beaver. Rodger stopped and took Clay’s co-angler (and their fish) a ride into the weigh-in. While the fish counted and Clay did get a check, the problem was they didn’t send anyone out to look for Clay until AFTER the weigh-in, when it was dark and getting darker.
“I was trolling toward Clewiston and I was taking waves over the back of the boat,” Clay told georgiabigsticks.com. “About 9 p.m., my trolling motor batteries were shot, the wind was kicking my boat sideways so I’m just hoping the wind would blow me into the weeds somewhere.”
Clay said he had just about given up hope when it got late. “Then, about 11 p.m. I heard something in the distance that turned out to be a rescue boat.”
Meanwhile, it has been nearly 24 hours since Bill Kisiah’s Ranger did not return to the weigh-in. And it was just 5 hours ago that FLW canceled the tournament.
Prayers are lifted for co-angler Nik Kayler.