Memorial tournament raises money for late fisherman’s wife, daughter

OKEECHOBEE — On May 19, the Nik Kayler Memorial Tournament was held to honor the late fisherman who tragically passed away in January on Lake Okeechobee as well as to raise money for his wife and daughter.

Starting at safe light, over 100 boats launched onto Lake Okeechobee to compete in the tournament. And despite the rainy weather, the tournament had a great turnout. The memorial tournament also featured a raffle, silent auction and 50/50 drawing held at Okee-Tantie under the pavilion.

Fishermen hold up their catches during the weigh-in at the Nik Kayler Memorial Tournament on Saturday, May 19. Photo by Richard Marion.

First place in the tournament took home $2,500, with second winning $1,250 and third $1,000. Fifty percent of the entries were donated to the family of Nik Kayler, with the other half paid to the participating field.

Okeechobee Fishing Headquarters owner Mike Krause reports that all together, the tournament raised over $23,000.

“The turnout was amazing,” said Mr. Krause. “The amount of people and just the support we had from the community was outstanding. I can’t say enough good about Okeechobee. The people came out, knowing how bad the weather was going to be, sometimes for nothing more than to buy a barbecue sandwich. I think we raised over $1,000 on barbecue sandwiches alone.”

Okeechobee Fishing Headquarters owner Mike Krause (center, wearing blue hat) performed emcee duties during the weigh-in for the tournament.

The winning weight at the tournament was 38 pounds and 5 ounces on a five-fish limit, with the biggest fish prize weighing in at a whopping 9 pounds, 11 ounces. It was a productive day on the lake for the fisherman, as more than a quarter of them caught over 20 pounds during the tournament.

Mr. Krause, along with John Tavano and Breezy McMillan, played an instrumental role in pulling together the resources needed to have the tournament and fundraiser.

The memorial tournament caps off what has been a tremendous outpouring of support for Nik’s wife, Kelly, and their daughter. In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, people not only from Okeechobee but all around the world donated close to $90,000 to the family via a donation page set up on the website gofundme.com, completely blowing past the original goal of $15,000.

Mr. Krause is unsure whether the tournament will become an annual event.

“I had a number of people come up to ask me if this was going to be a yearly thing,” he said. “I talked to Kelly that afternoon and told her I couldn’t make a promise that I couldn’t keep, because I put everything I had into this tournament, and physically and mentally I was just whipped. But sometime later on as our season starts up and I see everyone else’s schedule for next year, I will look at it again. I’ll see if it’s something we’re able to do. Can’t say yes and can’t say no; right now it’s a possibility that we’ll bring it back yearly.”

In a post on the official Okeechobee Fishing Headquarters Facebook page, Mr. Krause summed up the event by saying: “There are no words that can truly describe what took place. Yes, there was a fishing tournament to honor one of us, but more importantly to me, it was about a family. The Fishing Family doing what the Fishing Family does.”

One commenter on the post made the case for why the memorial tournament should be an annual event, saying: “I know it was an incredible amount of work for everything involved, but there is no better way to honor Nik than an annual tournament that focuses on boater safety. Thank you, Mike!”

Regardless of whether the event becomes yearly, it was still an outstanding example of the Okeechobee community coming together to support a family in their time of need.

Attendees at the Nik Kayler Memorial Tournament sign a poster board and write well wishes to the Kayler family. Photo by R. Marion.

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