As many know, I love most any kind of fishing and I’m always looking forward to that next trip to the beach or lake. Growing up in Pensacola, Fla., fishing was as important as playing baseball, basketball and other sports; dare I say it was religion.
That’s why last month I was very upset to learn that popular fishing guide and television host Jose Wejebe, 54, died in a single engine plane crash in Everglades City, Fla. Simply put; there will never be another angler/person like him.
Like many during the mid-1990s, I would watch his early morning Saturday TV show, The Spanish Fly, on ESPN. Whether he was fly fishing or using conventional gear, Wejebe found the bite and caught and released numerous magnificent fish. And needless to say, his show provided plenty of inspiration to have similar experiences in the Gulf of Mexico, Intercoastal Waterway and bayous. His enthusiasm was contagious, excitement genuine and skills unparalleled; thus a brand was born.
Wejebe developed a loyal following through his TV show, and numerous corporate sponsors took notice. At the time of his death, his list of sponsors included a who’s who of the fishing industry – e.g. Costa Del Mar, Mercury Marine, Hell’s Bay Boats, Shimano and more. Companies believed in him, which was evident by the longstanding sponsorships he maintained with them.
In some instances, Wejebe actually helped improve the products of the companies that sponsored him. For example, Chris Peterson, president of Hell’s Bay Boats in Titusville, Fla., noted at a memorial for the angler, that Wejebe was “always trying to make the boats better and better and helped us push the envelope.”
Wejebe not only caught fish and entertained millions of fishing enthusiasts, he also dedicated a considerable amount of his time and expertise to numerous charitable causes. According to an article in Saltwater Sportsman by Pete Johnson, Wejebe donated “hundreds of hours to causes not only involving conservation, but especially those for children such as Make-A-Wish, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and the Redbone Celebrity Tournament Series raising funds for cystic fibrosis research.”
One of my favorite stories, as told by reporters Johnson and Brian Milne, was the one involving Christian Goodpaster, a young cystic fibrosis patient from N.C. Goodpaster, who was waiting for a double lung transplant, was granted a Make-A-Wish trip to fish in the Redbone tournament with his TV idol Wejebe. According to reports, they became “instant buddies.” Several years later, Wejebe invited Goodpaster, then a college student, to fish on his TV show.
Not long after that, Goodpaster had finally succumbed to his battle with cystic fibrosis and complications from the lung transplants. Following his passing, Wejebe dedicated the January, 11, 2009 episode of the Spanish Fly to Goodpaster’s memory. He also posted an emotional letter by Goodpaster on SpanishFlyTV.com and its closing is what stood out to me (like it did for Milne).
While it speaks to Wejebe’s death, I believe it also addresses the daily challenges we face in business and our personal lives.
“It’s not always easy to be strong but if you keep your faith and a smile on your face, it will take you farther than you ever imagined. Live your own life doing the things you love the most and you’ll look forward to tomorrow. A day where more memories can be made. For me fishing has been my cure. Not just a way of life, but puts life back into me.”