W2 Profile: Caleb Payne

by Chris McCotter

This month’s focus for our W2 Profile piece is Caleb Payne, owner of Feel The Payne Bait & Tackle.

    Payne, 43, of Wakefield, Virginia is also the operator of the new Feel The Payne Bass Tournament Trail.

   Over the winter, Payne bought G-Daddy’s shop and proceeded to lease the space next to it, knocking out a wall and doubling the square footage to around 4,000 – the largest tackle shop in the area. Inside Payne has created a haven for the area’s bass anglers stocking much of the must-have tackle while also maintaining the feel of an old school bait shop by offering the live and frozen baits many area anglers use in the brackish water of the lower James.

  We asked Payne to recall what got him into fishing.
  “ My Dad. My earliest memory was going to Brittles Mill Pond immediately after church when I was about four, catching bream off the banks. My dad wasn’t into traditional ball sports, he was into the outdoors. So, my love of fishing came from just spending time with him.”
  As a tackle shop owner and bass trail director it appears Payne prefers bass fishing, but we wanted to ask and make sure.  

  “I definitely prefer bass fishing.  Just the challenge of trying to figure out the puzzle every time out is the draw. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m happy any time I get to wet a line.”

   We also asked him why  he wanted to operate a tackle shop? 

  “There was a need in the area for a quality tackle shop. People don’t want to drive 30 minutes to an hour to get high quality rods reels or tackle, nor should they have to. I just want to be the little shop that did. I want people in the area to think of us first when it’s time to get new gear.”

 Payne also noted the timing was fortuitous to open the shop.

  “When Sammy and Tina decided to get out of the business, and I was looking for a change.”
  This month, Payne is also planning on opening a second location in Wakefield. Payne’s passion for tackle is obvious and he noted what makes his shops different from others. 

   “Our selection. I’ve sourced a lot of stuff you can’t find in other tackle shops in the area. We were the first in the state of Virginia to offer Bates Fishing Co. rods and reels. We are Virginia’s exclusive dealer of Hammer Fishing Rods and Tater Baits. We are also the only store in the area that carries the Diawa Steez Frogs and Bull Frogs.”
    Also part of Payne’s brand umbrella is the new Feel The Payne Bass Tournament Trail. This is a team (you can fish solo) trail that will visit area waters like Roanoke Rapids, the Chowan River Edenton, the James River, the Nottoway River, Chickahominy River, Kerr Reservoir with a two-day championship October 12-13 on Kerr out of Nutbush.

  We asked Payne why he started the trail and what does he hope to accomplish with it? 

  “The tournament trail was something that I felt would help get the store’s name out there. There was a need for tournaments that offered a better pot than the $30 to $50 dollar tournaments in the area. Bass guys always want to prove they’re the best, so I decided to start a trail (all of which are open tournaments with no membership fees). I’m hoping to attract a bunch of guys and gals that want to prove they’re the best in the area and win enough money to make it worthwhile for them.”
   Like all of our W2 Profile subjects, we asked Payne if he had a mentor.   

  “Lol! If I had a mentor, they’d probably tell me not to do this!”
  So where is Payne’s favorite place to fish?

  “I’m a river guy. I love the Chowan River system. My favorite place to fish all time though is the New River, especially the stretch right below the Claytor Lake dam.”
   Now, while Feel The Payne will definitely have a bass tackle shop feel to it, Payne will not turn his back on local anglers that prefer to use bait when fishing.
  “Live bait pays the bills. The way I see it is, you might have two chances with people on live bait. If you’re out once, you might get a second chance. I prioritize making sure I always have live bait. When the local guys weren’t able to keep up with the demand, I started driving about four hours to make sure I didn’t run out.”

 Currently, Payne says the percentage between freshwater and saltwater anglers that patronize his shop is probably 70/30 but says he’s really investing a lot of time and money into enhancing the shop’s saltwater offerings. 

  “I’m hoping to get that number to about 50/50 by my one-year mark on August 1st.”    

Michael was born and raised in central Virginia, he grew up fishing from banks and docks when he had the opportunity. As a kid he enjoyed being outdoors, playing a variety of sports, and drawing. Despite having a challenging childhood, Michael has created a good life for him-self and his family. He went on to pursue a career in the electrical field and finished a 4-year apprenticeship program in 2012. Michael previously worked as an industrial electrical superintendent for Rudy L. Hawkins Electrical in central Virginia. Outside of fishing, Michael enjoys spending time with his family. He is a proud father of two amazing boys but unfortunately Michael lost his oldest son in 2016.  A priority for Michael is Community involvement, connecting with people, and bringing people together.     

    Over the years, Michael has competed in local and regional tournaments. He started his tournament career fishing with his uncle and as a co-angler. Michael has fished tour-naments since 2008 (Bass Opens, MLF BFL’S, Elite 70, CATT Team Trail, and small club leagues), and participated in numerous opportunities to educate families and young an-glers as well as support veterans looking for opportunities to fish. He is always most ex-cited about the opportunity to fish with kids at the Bass Pro Shops Kids Catch and Release. His most proud experience is fishing the 2019 Super Kids & Wounded Warrior Tournament, sponsored by senior pro and Bassmaster Classic winner Woo Dave’s. It was a true joy as Michael’s partner, a wounded warrior, took 1st place. That opportunity, along with support for the 9th Annual Bass Fishing Benefit for the Children’s Hospital of Rich-mond at VCU just reinforced Michael’s desire to increase his commitment to improving and sharing the sport of fishing.

These experiences feed Michael’s passion to give back to this sport and fuel his dream of one day scoring a win at the professional level. To follow his fishing adventures and promotional activities, please visit Instagram – @MBJFishing, Facebook – @MBJFishing.

Editor’s Note: Payne will open location #2 at 163 North Country Dr., Wakefield this month.

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