Fishermen who graduated from Middleton High School in the early 1970s might do a double take if they happen to be watching "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing" on ESPN2 at 8:30 a.m. March 12. The fellow with the white goatee fishing with Poveromo for redfish at the Mayport Jetties near Jacksonville is none other than Kirk Waltz, Middleton Class of 1973, now one of the Jacksonville-area's top fishing guides.
After 20 years "working seven days a week, a zillion hours" in the food service industry, Waltz, who settled in Jacksonville in 1983, said he burned out and wanted to explore other options.
"I was sitting with my wife one day thinking about what I was going to do and she said, 'Why don't you fish for a living?' I looked at her after I fell off my chair into the floor and she said, 'You're real good at it. Just pray about it.' So I went to my pastor and talked with him and he said it sounds like you need to make that your career," Waltz recalled.
Waltz hooked up with guide Kevin Faver, who was putting together a group of guides, and also joined with Faver and former NFL player Jeff Lageman in a Saturday morning radio program called the Outdoors Show (www.outdoorsshow.com). They also have been putting together a television show.
Waltz and Poveromo connected through some mutual friends, Pat Stinson who does photo layouts for L&S Bait Company (MirrOlure), and noted king mackerel tournament angler Dave Workman.
"I have a specialty, deep-jigging the Mayport Jetties for big redfish," Waltz said. "The way I work the rocks is unique. I get on the trolling motor, take light tackle spinning rods and jigs and throw three-, four-, five-inch menhaden. I catch some pretty nice redfish."
Poveromo told Waltz to pick a time when they would have the best opportunity and booked three days for filming the show last May and "by the grace of the Almighty the fish were there."
The filming didn't go without a few challenges. Waltz, who stands 6-2, had to adapt from his 24-foot Sea Fox bay boat (which was used as a camera boat) to Poveromo's 17-foot Mako "Shallow-Water Marc." And the bait wasn't exactly cooperative starting out.
"I've done a lot of TV shows over the years, but they brought enough cameras and equipment to fill the bottom of my boat. It was like a whole family moved in. They had housings for the cameras to do underwater shots, and poles to attach to the housings," Waltz said.
Waltz said there's plenty of pressure to perform, but Poveromo put him at ease from the beginning, telling him fishing is unpredictable.
Waltz's fishing is based on the tides, much like fishing the Charleston Jetties, and Poveromo wanted to start fishing at daylight. Waltz called connections to get the biggest mud minnows in case menhaden (also known as pogys) weren't available. The first day they fished for three hours without a bite before Poveromo finally hooked and landed a 10-pound bluefish on a mud minnow.
"I'm thinking I'm dying on the vine," Waltz said. "We were fishing an area called the Chum Hole and I see a lone pelican dive about two miles away. We went over to my boat and got my cast net and as the good Lord would have it there was a giant school of pogys in a big black ball. I told George the game was on. We each put on big ol' pogys and as soon as mine hits the bottom it gets hammered. We caught fish for the next three hours straight. The biggest was 34 inches. Most were 6 1/2 to 10, 12 pounds. It was perfect. It's a lot of fun to see everything come to fruition. We came back the next day, the bait turned again and boom. We fished for 1 1/2 hours and he said, 'We're done. Let's do an open and close. I can go home early and spend some extra time with my family.'"
In addition to its inaugural showing March 12, the show will be rebroadcast on ESPN2 at 6 a.m. on March 18 and 6:30 a.m. on March 19.