This week’s feature is with Isaac Payne, the head fishing coach at Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD).
Payne was born in New Orleans, but has lived in several different places prior to residing in Savannah. “Growing up I spent time in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale Florida, but I consider Stone Mountain/Lithonia, Georgia home. It is where I spent most of my young adult life. My wife and I moved to Savannah three years ago with our dog, Ricky Bobby.”
In his younger years, Payne played soccer but once he started to fish, he never put down his fishing rod. “As a kid, I was introduced to fishing by my dad who took me to a Floridian lake for fun where I caught catfish, bream, and bluegill. Actually, when I caught my first fish, I was hooked and every day for the past 28 years that love has grown,” he says.
Payne is also a military combat veteran.
“I joined the Marines in 2003, two years after 9/11, because I wanted to do my part and help protect our country. Also by serving in the military, I earned benefits to help me attend college.”
He went on to add, “I served eight honorable years and a tour of duty in 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Upon returning home as a combat veteran I received an Honorable Discharge and decided to finish school at SCAD.”
When asked how he landed in Savannah, he replied, “I enrolled at the SCAD Atlanta location where I completed foundation studies as a sculpture major. After taking classes and doing some research I decided to major in industrial design, which was only available at the Savannah location where I finished a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree.”
According to Payne, fishing is one of the fastest growing sports and most universities or colleges have fishing clubs organized by students. “There are only a select few universities across the country that offers athletic scholarships for the sport of fishing. I am proud that SCAD awards scholarships for men’s and women’s fishing. We are the only program in Georgia offering such scholarships. Besides, we are the first and only fishing program across the nation to have a women’s fishing team”
Payne said that recruiting for fishing scholarships can be complex, due to all the aspects of being a competitive angler. He adds that some high schools have organized fishing teams that compete in regional and national tournaments. These tournaments are hosted by organizations like Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS) as well as The Bass Federation (TBF), and Fishing League Worldwide (FLW).
“I travel to events to meet high school anglers along with their coaches and families, to get a feel for prospective recruits. Some of the fishing skills I look for are fishing experience, passion for fishing, fishing knowledge, and understanding of equipment associated with competitive fishing. Even though it is important to be an artist-angler on the SCAD fishing team, academic studies are a top priority.”
A first-year coach, Payne has already signed his first recruiting class which includes many championship anglers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee. He explains that SCAD is the first art and design university in the United States with a fishing program for males and females.
The team practices locally at Lake Mayer, the Savannah River, and some of the lakes nearby. He also mentioned fishing at Clarks Hill Lake with future plans to visit Lake Hartwell, Lake Sinclair and Lake Marion.
When asked how points are scored and if fishing had any rules, he stated that “fishing is scored by weight of the fish. Anglers are allowed to keep a maximum of 5 fish per day during competition. The team having the highest cumulative weight for the event takes the first-place trophy.” When it comes to rules he added “there are official rules that we follow when fishing for recreation and tournaments. We follow guidelines from the Department of Natural Resources, tournament rules from BASS, FLW, and the Association of Collegiate Anglers. These guidelines also cover areas such as sportsmanship, codes of conduct, eligibility, and safety.”
Payne views Savannah as a wonderful city with a lot of character, architecture, and history. “Savannah draws tourists from all over the world, allowing local residents to learn new things from others while continuing to explore the metropolitan area. I really appreciate all the people, events, restaurants, museums, and best of all the surrounding water for fishing.”