As the Executive Director of the Jose Wejebe Spanish Fly Memorial Foundation, and Jose’s daughter, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and optimism as I look back on the incredible journey of the Spanish Fly Shark Tournament. We wanted to do something different as far as a tournament. With no other shark tournaments in the Florida Keys, and implementing a conservation aspect to it with the ability to gather important data, and utilizing new technology like the app Fishing Chaos to track official catches, this event not only celebrates the spirit of competition but also honors the legacy of my beloved father, Jose Wejebe.

The outpouring of support and camaraderie witnessed during the tournament fills my heart with hope for the future. Meeting new faces and reconnecting with familiar ones reminded me of the profound impact my father had on the fishing community. It was truly humbling to hear everyone’s kind words and to witness the passion shared by all who participated.

At the heart of our tournament lies a commitment to conservation and education. We are proud to partner with organizations like the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, leveraging events like these to gather valuable data about the Florida Keys and its bull shark population. Through our collective efforts, we aim to contribute meaningfully to the preservation of our marine ecosystems for generations to come.

The tournament was not just about competition; it was a celebration of community and collaboration. At the Captains Meeting, Vice President Joe Trip spoke on our developing mentorship program, inspiring participants to get involved and pay it forward. Director Luke Kelly spoke on the issues that we currently face in the Keys, and how this tournament and JWF hopes to facilitate and communicate those concerns.

I am deeply grateful to our sponsors—Costa, SeaDek, Starbrite, Chumming Flags, Skinny Water Culture, and Spanish Fly—for their generous support, making this event possible and ensuring every participant went home with cherished memories and swag bags filled with excitement. And to our Headliner Sponsor Professional Marine, as a local business their continued growth of support over the years does not go unnoticed, and it is more than appreciated.

During the awards ceremony, we had the privilege of inviting volunteers and donors from conservation foundations to join in the festivities. Dr. Patrick Rice’s presentation on his shark deterrent, “Repel Sharks,” was both enlightening and inspiring, reflecting the innovative spirit that my father embodied. He shared how in the early stages of developing the deterrent and how Jose gave him ideas and insight how it could be done.

While the turnout may have been lower than anticipated, the impact was profound. Six teams, braving the elements and honoring my father’s memory, released a total of 35 bull sharks over two days—an emotional tribute during the 12th anniversary of his passing.

Our first-place winners not only received exquisite hand-carved trophies from David Allen Wirth, but also got to choose between a custom Spanish Fly Power Pole or a set of Shimano rods and reels.

In the offshore division, Calico Creek emerged triumphant, led by Captain Mike Barratta and his dedicated team. Second place in the offshore division went to Cowboy Cowgirl Sportfishing, led by Key West’s Captain Mark Baumgarten and Captain John Payne of Big Pine Key, Florida. The team caught and released three bull sharks while fishing on the Cowgirl. Colorado teammates consisted of Deryk Harpster, Tony Harpster, Leo Haro, Colton Waters and Keegan Waters.

Team Seaborn also released three bull sharks, but ended the tournament in the offshore division’s third place based on time. Fishing with Key West’s Captain Jason Brewer on Seaborn were Troy White, Lukas White and Taylor Hughes, all of Ontario, Canada; and Key Wester Timothy King.

In the inshore division, the Don Tiburon team, under the leadership of Captain Kyle Kelso, showcased perseverance and adaptability, securing a well-deserved victory with six sharks released. Second place in the inshore division went to the Tail Chasin’ team with one release with Captain Gabe Nyblad of Little Torch Key, Florida, guided anglers Will Saputo and Tom Bremer, both of Traverse City, Michigan.

As we bid farewell to our first tournament, I am filled with optimism for the future. Together, we will continue to grow and evolve, honoring my father’s legacy while charting new waters in conservation, education, and making fishing dreams come true.

Here’s to the Spanish Fly Shark Tournament and the countless adventures that lie ahead. Tight lines and fair winds to all! Save the date for next year! April 3, 4 and 5, 2025 in Key West!

With heartfelt gratitude,

Krissy Wejebe

Executive Director, Jose Wejebe Spanish Fly Memorial Foundation