Jose Wejebe was more than a TV personality. He was an inspiration to thousands of friends, fans, and followers, creating a passion for fishing, boating, and the ocean lifestyle that he so loved. His background and history tell a story of a passionate man who would have said that the Spanish Fly lives on in everyone who followed and loved him.
Born in Havana, Cuba in 1958, Jose Wejebe and his family fleeing Fidel Castros’ revolution moved to South Florida to start a new life. Growing up in Miami, Jose cut his teeth on the waters of South Florida. His first experience with fins and a snorkel at a young age was a life changing experience that marked the beginning of Jose’s marine based career and life.
Logging hours on the water in the small skiff he purchased himself, Jose received his Captain’s license at the age of eighteen and began his career as an inshore charter captain in the warm waters of Biscayne Bay, Florida Bay, and the Florida Keys. Seeking out fishing greats and pioneers, Jose learned from the best including Stu Apt, Flip Pallot and Lefty Kreh. His travels and passion for learning new fishing and rigging techniques took him all over the world where he learned new and non-traditional methods. Jose took this knowledge back to his home waters of the Florida Keys and shared it with his charter clients and leaders among the fishing industry. Building relationships with trade leaders such as Shimano, Mercury and other boating manufacturers, Jose was an integral part in the development of the booming light-tackle industry.
“His travels and passion for learning new fishing and rigging techniques took him all over the world…”
After joining long-time friend Flip Pallot for the filming of several episodes of Walker’s Cay Chronicles, Jose was approached by producer, Jerry McKinnis, to star in his own show on the brand-new ESPN2 network. In 1995, the first episode of Spanish Fly was aired. Filled with breathtaking underwater footage, spectacular cinematography, complimentary editing and Jose’s signature on-screen style, the show shot to the top of the ratings. Using techniques he learned throughout his travels, the light-tackle saltwater guru showed viewers each week a unique interactive style of fishing that no one had done before. Added in 2001, Jose debuted a new, unique “short show” on ESPN called Vida Del Mar (meaning “life of the sea”). The 2-4 minute vignettes reflected an intriguing perspective on how life below the surface can make us all better fishermen.
While Jose was not filming Spanish Fly, he found time to work for several charities including Make a Wish Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis and Big Brothers and Big Sisters. One of his deepest passions was to take care of others in need and he added value where he could to support these important causes. He used his competence as a professional angler and television personality to take time to fish with children and teach the next generation of anglers. His warm and genuine personality, deep compassion, and uplifting enthusiasm made him an inspiration to many. Jose lived life to the fullest pursuing many hobbies and activities besides fishing. He threw his heart and soul into learning and becoming the best he could at whatever undertaking he took on; becoming a private pilot was one of them. The freedom offered by flying was comparable to being on the water and Jose spent many hours in the air piloting his own plane. Tragically, on April 6, 2012, friends, family, and fans were shocked to hear that Jose’s plane had crashed shortly after take off in Everglades City. Jose was the only person in the plane, and did not survive.
The loss of a man like Jose was heartbreaking to all who loved him. He made anyone he came in contact with feel that they were special. As a devoted family man, Jose was the best son, brother, and father one could ever ask for. To his many friends he was more than just a friend, he was like a brother to them all. And to fans around the world, there was a unique connection and he created a community of people who loved fishing, the ocean, and the entire experience. Jose would have said that he alone was not the Spanish Fly; Spanish Fly is all of us who have been inspired by him. It is a passion, a lifestyle. Jose shared his lifestyle with everyone he knew and everyone who watched, and he would have wanted this to continue. No matter your location or profession, amateur or professional, if you share the same passion, you have the Spanish Fly spirit with-in you. We are all the Spanish Fly. For more information on Jose, Click here.