Remembering Jose

Todd's Fishing Angel

About 10 years ago I took my daughter (now 30) to SW FL to fish for a week.  I had just purchased a Sea Cat catamaran to start ocean fishing. Not knowing anything about saltwater fishing, we were just trying everything!!  Out of nowhere, Jose came up to my boat to say hi & ask if we were ok!!!  He obviously knew we didn't know what we were doing!!!

He took over an hour to give us instructions, draw locations on our chart to fish, what to fish with, & how to rig our baits!!  We caught more fish that week than I can even tell you about!!!

He told us he came over to help us because he loved the fact I was fishing with my daughter, because he loved fishing with his!!!

The funny thing is, we had no idea who he was until later, he never even told us his name!!!  My daughter referred to him as the "fishing angel" for years!!!

Jose Begins Testing Shimano Gear

RT and Jose "grew up" in the same generation fishing guides in the Florida Keys. While Bradley and his family were busy hooking up one fish after another RT shared some stories about my father.  

"We were taking tackle apart underneath my house.  Your dad was always fascinated on how things worked, and how to make it better.  He said to me that his dream was to have his own TV show where he could share his knowledge with the world just how legendary fishermen Stu Apte, and Steve Huff shared with him."  

In the late 80's Jose sent Shimano a letter purposing how he could help improve some of their tackle. Shimano began sending him gear, and asked him to try and break it.  He tested their gear on, and off the water. At home he would take a rod put it underneath the couch and footrest cushion.  He would weigh me, and then boost me up onto the rod holding me gently for balance. I would bounce up and down until it broke.  We were a good team when it came to breaking stuff.  Our dining room table was never used for eating.  It was his work station full of broken reels that he took apart, and his notes to send off to Shimano.  It was also where he would tie his flies, and feathers could be found all throughout the house.  His hard work paid off. Shimano relied on Jose, and credits him greatly with their success in the saltwater fishing world.  

Jose's Hero Christian Goodpaster

In various interviews Jose was sometimes asked "Who is your hero?"  You would think it would be one of his fishing mentors, but in fact in was a young man named Christian Goodpaster. Christian was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis before his second birthday.  In 2000 Make A Wish asked Christian what his wish was; "My wish was to go fishing with my idol, Jose Wejebe the "Spanish Fly" in the Celebrity Redbone Tournament. I soon learned my "wish" would become reality, and was I forever changed!"

"One of my favorite memories that often comes to mind is the time I first met Jose at the Checca Redbone. Everyone at our table was finishing up their steaks at the kickoff party. Some of the people had a few pieces left over. At this point Jose politely asks my mother if he may have the rest of her steak. Bite by bite, one by one, he eventually makes his way around our table finishing up the leftover steak. I was astonished and amused by this incredible feat! Who would have guessed my idol of many years would be  so open to ask for leftovers at our table. I couldn't believe how down to earth he was. I can't say enough for Jose. He is truly a great guy and friend." 

After Christian's wish they remained "bros". They would exchange fishing stories, and Jose would send him tackle if he needed it. In 2007 Christian's health took a turn for the worse. With that in mind Jose invited him back to the Keys, and to be on the show.  "Today isn't just another day, today I'm fishing and filming with Jose Wejebe in the Florida Keys. Our quarry; fish and reflections of the past and present. A celebration of the "bro's!"

Jose asked Christian during his interview "How do wrap your head around that fact that when you got your lung transplant they tell you that you basically have five years." Christian replied "When you have CF it's only a matter of time before you pass away.  You shut a door when you have this transplant, and its only a matter of time before you die from infection or rejection."

For most fishing is a vacation, a time to get your mind off work, or to spend time with those you love. "For me nature possesses healing power and the will power to pull though another day no matter what I'm going though. I live to fish, I fish to live. 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." 

Jose was Christian's idol, and Christian was Jose's hero. I'm sure they make a great team, and now get to fish together forever.

Jose's First Job in the Water 1976

Miami Seaquarium was Jose's first job that gave him an introduction to life under the water as a diver. Divers were the brunt of many jokes, and tasks included anything from helping with medical assists on the animals, to unloading fish shipments.

Most of the jobs took brawn more than brain, thus the theme of many practical jokes.  For example, announcements for the next showtime someone might say "Dolphin show at 5:00, for the divers that means the big hand in on the twelve, and the little hand is on the five."  This was all in good fun, and Jose knew how to take a joke.

Jose's favorite thing as a diver was to feed the various sea creatures in the Underwater Reef Tank. He had a relationship with all the turtles, moray eels, and big groupers.  He used food training with the moray eels to come out of their holes, and wrap themselves around his arms.  Tourists watching through the glass loved it.  Here was a muscular young man, with a huge metal diving helmet on his head, yet he was so gentle, and calm with these fierce looking creatures.  He was totally at ease in the water.

Not knowing this at the time he was on his way to becoming one of the most respected, and loved fisherman of his time.

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