Skip to main content

Fishing world loses icon in Wejebe

Host of Spanish Fly dies in plane crash

Fishing world loses icon in Wejebe
Fishing world loses icon in Wejebe

 

The saltwater fishing world, and especially those who worked with Jose Wejebe, lost a great friend on Friday.

Wejebe, host of Outdoor Channel’s Spanish Fly, died when the single engine plane he was piloting crashed shortly after taking off from Everglades Airpark around 5 p.m. ET.

Friends were the first to announce the tragedy on Facebook, and there has been a steady outpouring of mourning, many noting the tremendous loss to the outdoor world. Jerry McKinnis, who first approached Wejebe to do a show in 1995, said, “It was so hard waking up this morning and not having Jose in the world. I think I lost a brother.”


Mike McKinnis, executive producer at JM Associates who worked closely with Wejebe on his shows, became choked several times speaking of the loss.


“In some way or another, whether on the shoots or as an editor, we were all close to Jose,” he said. “I lost a friend. We did 18 years of his show, and 20 years of one thing or another with him.”

Wejebe was living a true rags-to-riches life. Born in Cuba in 1958, Wejebe’s family escaped Fidel Castro’s revolution by immigrating to Miami. He plied South Florida waters as a youth, but really found his calling after moving to the Keys. His first experience snorkeling set him further on his path to a life and career in marine environs.

“He basically quit high school to become a captain, to become who he was,” Mike McKinnis said. “He knew who he was going to be when he was young. He worked toward learning how to fish, getting a boat and becoming a captain. He was a captain pretty young.”

Wejebe learned the intricacies of saltwater fishing 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.


Jerry McKinnis covered Wejebe out of the blue at a saltwater tournament, but the longtime Fishin’ Hole host left so impressed he contacted Wejebe when ESPN2 asked his production company to come up with a block of outdoors programming.

“We were looking for a saltwater show, and Jerry had met him a couple years before,” Mike McKinnis said.  “Jerry calls him up and asks him if he’d like to do a show with us. Within days, we were down there shooting a show … and never stopped. And we’ve never missed a show.”

The Spanish Fly traveled much of the globe, from the Seychelles off the eastern coast of Africa where crew members where fearful of pirates, to the Coral Sea 300 miles off Australia, to Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, Panama, the Bahamas, the West Coast.


What made Spanish Fly so successful was Wejebe was the whole package.

“It’s passion for what you do. He had it like nobody else in everything -- fishing, photography, underwater photography, flying an airplane, if you can believe that. He’s got a passion,” Mike McKinnis said. “He reminds me of dad because he has the knack of being charismatic and entertaining, but really down home. That’s an interesting combination that not many people have – star power but to be and feel humble on TV.”

Wejebe and his team had just finished a shoot out of Everglades City, and he was the sole occupant of a Comp Air 8. Wejebe had said the eight-seat aircraft would open opportunities for the show.

“It’s definitely a punch in the gut,” Mike McKinnis said. “He had a lot more in him. There was so much more to do. You think about Jerry, he didn’t quit until he was 70, and Jose was heading in that direction, too.”

The loss was felt around the fishing world. Thousands have been commenting on the tremendous loss. Among them was the University of Miami, which honored Wejebe with a fish tag. Others were left simply stunned.

“He was just my friend,” said Mike McKinnis, struggling to compose himself. “ He was just a good friend.”

Wejebe was 54.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

The Hobie MirageDrive 360 pedal propulsion system is the pinnacle of kayak control with more efficient fin designs, glide technology and allows the boat to be moved in any direction.

New for 2021: Elite Archery Bows, Slick Trick Broadheads and CBE Sight

New for 2021: Elite Archery Bows, Slick Trick Broadheads and CBE Sight

Learn more about two new Elite Archery bows, the Enkore and Remedy, two new broadhead from Slick Trick and a new site from Custom Bow Equipment (CBE).

A Bolt Action from Benelli?

A Bolt Action from Benelli?

We know what you're thinking: Isn't Benelli a shotgun company? Of course it is, but decades of shotgun manufacturing actually put Benelli in a unique position to redefine what a hunting rifle should be. Episode 1 reviews some company history to explain how this all came about.

New for 2021: Bear Redemption EKO, Legit RTH Compound Bows

New for 2021: Bear Redemption EKO, Legit RTH Compound Bows

Bear Archery's newest bows - Redemption EKO and Legit RTH - are light, adjustable and fast.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The new bolt gun with a synthetic stock is available in several popular hunting chamberings.Accurate, Affordable, Rugged: CZ-USA 557 Eclipse Bolt-Action SHOT Show

Accurate, Affordable, Rugged: CZ-USA 557 Eclipse Bolt-Action

Game and Fish Staff - December 02, 2020

The new bolt gun with a synthetic stock is available in several popular hunting chamberings.

Refined, durable and well-appointed to provide shooters and hunters with O/U shotguns loaded for performance at affordable prices.New for 2021: Mossberg Reserve Series Over/Under Shotguns SHOT Show

New for 2021: Mossberg Reserve Series Over/Under Shotguns

Game and Fish Staff - January 19, 2021

Refined, durable and well-appointed to provide shooters and hunters with O/U shotguns loaded...

More visible arrow flight to your intended target.New Archery Gear: Easton 6.5 Whiteout Carbon Arrows Bows

New Archery Gear: Easton 6.5 Whiteout Carbon Arrows

Game and Fish Staff - December 16, 2020

More visible arrow flight to your intended target.

A new long-range hunting contender enters the fray.First Look: Winchester's New 6.8 Western Cartridge SHOT Show

First Look: Winchester's New 6.8 Western Cartridge

Drew Warden - January 19, 2021

A new long-range hunting contender enters the fray.

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

As wintertime takes hold, power plant lake bass fishing heats up for anglers that focus on a lake's optimal water temperatures.For Wintertime Power Plant Bass Lakes, Water Temperature is Key Stories

For Wintertime Power Plant Bass Lakes, Water Temperature is Key

Lynn Burkhead, OSG Senior Digital Editor

As wintertime takes hold, power plant lake bass fishing heats up for anglers that focus on a...

Ugly Stik's Santa Claus Bass Tournament featured 298 Santa-suit-wearing anglers at Lake Norman, N.C.Good Deeds: Bass-Fishing Santas Raise $15K in Toys for Kids News

Good Deeds: Bass-Fishing Santas Raise $15K in Toys for Kids

Game and Fish Staff - December 21, 2020

Ugly Stik's Santa Claus Bass Tournament featured 298 Santa-suit-wearing anglers at Lake...

That one little thing we don't think about while on the water, it's what separates the men from the boys.Tough Fishing Lessons Learned – The Landing Part Stories

Tough Fishing Lessons Learned – The Landing Part

Jeff Johnston - September 14, 2020

That one little thing we don't think about while on the water, it's what separates the men...

An hour here, 30 minutes there, 10 casts after work; sometimes that's all it takes.Perspective: Satisfy Fishing Passion When You Can Stories

Perspective: Satisfy Fishing Passion When You Can

Adam Heggenstaller - June 24, 2020

An hour here, 30 minutes there, 10 casts after work; sometimes that's all it takes.

See More Stories

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now