ISLAMORADA, Fla. — Jose Wejebe is best known for his TV show, Spanish Fly. He earned his fame through hard work, local celebrity and a little bit of luck — exactly what it takes to catch a few fish.
Wejebe grew up in South Florida, moved to The Keys and guided out of Key West for 25 years. As he traveled and learned more about the sport and competed successfully in several tournaments, Wejebe became a household name in The Keys, on par with Sandy Moret, Stu Apte and Flip Pallot.
By now, it's arguable that he has surpassed them.
He will host ESPN's coverage of the ESPN Saltwater Series Redbone Celebrity Tournaments. Wejebe credits the Redbone Series as giving him his start down the path to TV host.
"It was 14 or 15 years ago, I was fishing a Redbone and met Jerry McKinnis from ESPN." he said. "We started a relationship that eventually brought me to where I am today."
In 1995, ESPN2 was relatively new and had very little programming. McKinnis needed content, remembered the Key West guide and developed an idea. McKinnis got in contact with Wejebe to pitch the idea of doing a fishing show.
"Jerry called me and said, 'Let's take a chance. We'll follow you around for a while and see what happens,'" Wejebe recalls. "We did just that, and it turned out so well that Spanish Fly really took some roots."
While Wejebe couldn't be happier with his position, he does have one reservation about becoming the Spanish Fly, one that any angler would struggle with.
"It really cuts into your time on the water," he said, in what was an understatement coming from a veteran guide. "All you see is 22 or 25 minutes of the best," Wejebe said. "That takes a whole day, sometimes two, to shoot. What you don't see is the effort that goes into the setup, the underwater shots, negotiating with the networks, pleasing the sponsors or any of the background stuff."
That aside, Wejebe is excited to host ESPN's coverage of the Redbone series and be a pundit rather than competitor.
"When you take the money away from a tournament, it takes on a whole new character," Wejebe said. "Money will make guys who are usually nice into not-so-nice guys. That's why the Redbone is so awesome; it's for a great cause and the stress from needing to win really isn't there. It really has helped a lot of people. Besides, my career did get started at a Redbone event."