RAGS TO FISHES

Capt. Trey Walker Dietz

It’s still early, but the temperature’s hit triple digits. Already, sweat rolls off Captain Trey Walker’s face as he heads out across the Florida bay.

He cuts the motor and trolls up to the dock. There’s no wind, the heat reflecting off the water like a silent adversary. Ripples gently knock the side of the boat as the vessel comes to rest. 

In silence, Captain Walker kits out his three passengers, handing out rods, throwing on pinch fish. 

Trey Walker Dietz on Sarasota Bay

Back country fishermen, his crew has made the trip to Sarasota for a corporate tournament. They’re after a trophy fish, a “gator fish,” says the Captain. “They weren’t too worried about winning,” he smiles, “but I’m a competitive person”.

Sarasota is a nationally registered estuary, “one of best in the nation,” says Trey. Lots of grass flats, some decent dock fishing, mangrove islands, sand bars. We’ve got all you can ask for here in Sarasota”.

It’s local knowledge that’s brought them to this spot. Underneath the dock, there’s a pocket that’s been washed out by the draw of a big boat. It’s filled with fish. Trey makes a perfect cast. Before he can put the bail back on the reel, the fish is on the line. 

The tournament’s just begun and already they have a trophy fish, a 21.5-inch trout. Minutes later, a snook, at 42 inches. Throughout that long, hot day—at the dock, the grass flats, the mangroves—the men wrestle in fish as fast as they can bait a hook.


“We had a rotation, two guys with rods and one guy writing down the sizes. Pulled in 65 or 70 Snook in an hour,” he says.


It hasn’t always been this easy.

Back before he was Captain Walker, Trey was a kid in 4-H. “I’ve always loved the outdoors. I raced dirt bikes most of my childhood. When my parents got divorced I lost the feeling. I took up fishing to get away, clear my mind and escape,” he says.


He spent his summers working on his grandfather’s boat, the Bay Walker, and the dream took hold: a life on the water.

Trey joined the army right out of high school and, a year later, received a medical discharge. 

After that, it was “grunt labor” for Trey as he worked towards his dream, installing garage doors, landscaping, pressure washing.


Soon, Trey started running fishing charters full time with his grandfather. “I’d never woken up for a job and thought man I’m dead ass tired, but I can’t get enough,” Trey says. “I’d wake at five. We’d spend the day on the Gheenee, get back, clean off the fish wedged in the cracks of the hold, the rod lockers, empty the boxes, head on home through all the traffic and all the bullshit. I’d get on home, get a bit of time to myself—and head straight back out on the water”.

After hours, in his 15.5 foot Gheenee, Trey applied himself to perfecting the art of fishing, to finding bait faster, learning from the tides and the temperature of the water.

Insatiable, this wasn’t enough for Trey. He wanted to be captain. “I started running other people’s boats. I was running two trips a day and still mating for my grandfather, but I still wasn’t making enough money. I’d drive out to rich neighborhoods, wait for folks to drive through the gates and follow them in there. I’d take what people had thrown out—old couches, ceiling fans, bird cages, bricks, anything—and I’d put them up on Craig’s List.”


Finally, Trey saved enough to gain his captain’s license. 

“When I got my license I realized what I had made in a week I could make in a day. But I couldn’t rely on other people’s boats. I had saved a bit of a down payment for my own boat, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Then one of my Grandfather’s clients, an amazing guy called Ziggy, offered to put up the money for the down payment on a custom-built boat. Since then, I’ve just been climbing the totem pole”.


Finally, Trey saved enough to gain his captain’s license. 

“When I got my license I realized what I had made in a week I could make in a day. But I couldn’t rely on other people’s boats. I had saved a bit of a down payment for my own boat, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Then one of my Grandfather’s clients, an amazing guy called Ziggy, offered to put up the money for the down payment on a custom-built boat. Since then, I’ve just been climbing the totem pole”.

These days, Captain Trey Walker is living his dream, running fishing charters throughout the islands of Sarasota on the Bay Walker Too, named in honor of his grandfather.

He runs his business in the meticulous way he’s pursued all his goals so far. “I’m particular about my gear,” he says. “I buy the same gear for my customers that I’d use myself”. And every piece counts. “You could tie the best knot, you can have the fattest rod and reel and have the biggest fish on the line, but if that hook breaks at the bend, you’ve lost it”.

Trey’s unstoppable spirit has begun to get him noticed.  

Now KONG’s on board, sponsoring the Captain with made-in-the-USA, military-grade coolers, and Trey feels his gear’s complete. “I need my gear to function perfectly, the way it’s meant to. I need to be able to fit a 30-pound King Fish in my cooler, and I need it ice cold. My gear’s got to last. KONG is all that.”

Despite his success, Trey hasn’t forgotten his struggle. “I’m all about supporting American workers, keeping our money in the country. The fact that KONG makes its gear right here is a big winner for me.”


A second-generation fishing captain, Trey has an eye on his legacy. “I’ve got the hooks in my mind to create the third generation,” he laughs. “If I could pass the torch down, that would be the highlight of my life. I’ve got the boat and the gear, they’re built to last. Someday I want to pass them on, along with what I’ve learned.”


And that tournament? Trey’s crew took out every trophy. “We got every prize there was,” he grins. “That was one trip l’ll never forget.”

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