SAVANNAH, Ga. — Isaac Payne’s vision of starting a bass fishing club at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has resulted in him being hired to coach the school’s first intercollegiate varsity fishing team.
During his stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, Payne envisioned going to college to design lures and create a bass fishing team at his school once he got out of the service.
“I knew I was going to do that when I was deployed in Iraq in 2009,” Payne recalled. “I knew that if I made it home safely, I was going to achieve this dream and follow the vision I had.”
His dream became reality when Payne was admitted to SCAD and eventually started a B.A.S.S. Nation bass club at the school in December 2013. The club’s biggest highlight was during the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Wild Card event in June 2014 at Lake Barkley where Payne and his partner, Connor Mannina, finished 21st out of 76 teams.
The club’s success the past couple of years spurred interest from the school’s administration to consider bass fishing as one of its varsity sports.
“I had an interview with our school and I convinced them how important bass fishing was, and they gave it a shot,” Payne said.
Payne was one of three candidates interviewed for the coaching position of the new fishing team, and he was hired in August as the school’s first head men’s and women’s fishing coach.
“We offer a women’s and men’s fishing team, so we will have at least six women and at least six guys on our team” said Payne, who noted they will all fish together in tournaments.
The club will continue to fish next spring, and the new varsity team will start competing in fall 2016. That gives Payne a full year to sign recruits.
Because SCAD will be offering scholarships for the fishing team, the new coach hopes to recruit some of the top anglers in the country.
“I also want to recruit from different areas and make the team better with different styles of fishing,” he said. “I am talking to people in Arizona, Colorado and Florida to build a team that can collaborate and build a system that helps them do well on and off the water.”
The team’s budget will allow its anglers to compete in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series as well as other circuits.
“If I am able to recruit the best to come to our team, there is no reason we can’t go to a national championship,” Payne said of his goal for the inaugural team.
Payne’s five-year plan for his program includes ensuring all the members of his initial recruiting class graduate, winning some trophies for the school’s trophy case and establishing internships to help his team members work toward careers in the fishing industry.