Jim Durham


We continue to catch really nice Smallmouth while Striper fishing live bait. If you want to "concentrate" on the smallmouth, then the bottom fishing with live bait is the hot ticket for the next 3 to 4 months. The trick is to beach your boat (or tie up) and throw Carolina rigged live (3 to 4 inch) Alewive / Threadfin shad or shiners out on the bottom. Be patient! Remember, the fish will need to "see", "smell" and "sense" your bait. Look for red clay banks near deep water drop offs or deep points. Use no more than 12 pound line with an 8 pound leader and small bass hook. You will catch Catfish, Largemouth and Walleyes as well.


Well, it was Thanksgiving weekend again and the weather was great. The temperature was between 65 to 70 degrees during the day and it was sunny. This kind of weather normally "scatters" the fish and that was certainly the case. We hunted and hunted (and hunted!!!!) the first day for an active school, but just didn't have any luck. As I always tell you, if my report said we caught a limit every time you would know it was a lie.

Bottom line, it was just dead slow on Friday the 24th. We all "caught" some tan. That was about it.

However, Saturday the 25th was much different. We decided to fish late morning to early evening and ran "way" up into one of the creeks (I mean way up there!). I put the boards down and begin to work my way back out. We were fishing 65 to 55 feet deep water with the bait at 52 to 47 feet.

All of the sudden, the 12 inch color Raymarine "lit up like a Christmas tree" with big pronounced red arches! The beeper on the fish finder was screaming, as a big school was moving through. The pre bite "seconds of anticipation" makes the hair stand on end, because you know what is about to happen.


We suddenly had 3 rods go at once and ended up slamming 7 nice fish in 30 minutes. The largest was about 20 pounds with the smallest about 12 pounds. I have attached a photo of some of these brutes below.

Sunday the 26th was slow again (We hunted and hunted and hunted!!!!). The fish are really moving around and will be until the weather settles into a solid early winter pattern.


Its pays to be prepared, for you never know what mother nature will do!

So here it was, November 11th, 6:30 am and I had been catching bait since 3:30 am in shorts and a tee shirt. It was a balmy (for November) 64 degrees. So my group gets on the boat and we fly out to the main lake and deploy a standard 10 rod spread. We had been enjoying a comfortable Westerly wind of about 5 to 7 MPH.

As I looked up to the north, the clouds began to build into huge thunderheads and in about 15 minutes the sky turned extremely dark. In the space of only about 5 minutes the wind then shifted from the West, to coming in from the North and increased to nearly 50 MPH! It was literally "howling"! The waves began to grow and in another 5 minutes we had 5 foot swells with white caps.

Naturally, the "Striper Machine" can handle this with no problem from a safety standpoint (but we "were" truly "rocking the boat" – it was actually pretty funny). From a danger standpoint however, smaller boats (like tiller mount john boats, small bass boats or pontoons) would have had a real problem with this, as the waves were stacked tightly together.

The worst part was the severe drop in temperature. Within another 5 minutes I could begin to see my breath. Basically within an hour the temperature had dropped nearly 30 degrees. This was one nasty fast moving cold front! However, we all had additional warm clothes to put on, I turned on the heater and we fought our way through it.

The bottom line is that you can learn from this lesson.

If you are in a smaller craft that does not take rough water well, then pay close attention to the weather report. Be sure that all of your safety equipment is up to date. Be sure someone knows where you will be on the water (file a float plan), and always make sure you have appropriate clothing for this time of year. You can go to my website (www.striperfun.com) for a direct link to the US Coast Guard Auxiliary site that will help you through this thought process.

Its pays to be prepared, for you never know what mother nature will do!

The fishing was really tough that day with such conditions thrust upon us. There is no way around that. It was just dead slow. A nasty fast moving cold front will do that. I basically moved into a leeward bay near the dam, found a nice school and dropped the bait really deep. By noon, my group had had enough and back to the dock we went. One of my guides did hit a nice 6 fish limit about 2:30 that afternoon. Sometimes, the afternoon bite can be better in late fall – early winter. You never know. You just have to be tough and stay with it!

The cold front held until afternoon on Sunday November 12th. The Striper bite in the morning was slow, although we did catch a couple of fish taking live bait on planner boards shallow off of the creek points.

We needed some Stripers to try to fill out the limit so about 3:00 pm (yes, I was fishing late that day) I got a tip from one of the other guides (thanks Captain V!) and we ran back out to the main lake for a "last ditch try". We had not been there more than 5 minutes when we found a nice school. I put out the first planner boat at 70 feet deep (I told you the fish were deep on a cold front) and was putting out the second planner board when "whammo" the first rod's tip was "viscously yanked" to the water's edge in a 10th of a second and the drag was screaming like me at tax time! ZZZRRRRRRRRRREEEE!!!

That quick! You just gotta love it!

After a good 15 minute fight, we had cracked a nice 20 pound plus fish. The fish was caught by a 6 year old boy (with just a "little bit" of help from his dad – if you get my drift). We then commenced to hitting several other nice fish. The day ended well (long but successful).

Striper fishing at its best!

StriperFun guides have been catching nice limits of fish on most days, with multiple fish days almost everyday and some huge wall mount trophies as well! I am pleased to announce (based upon demand) that StriperFun has added several new guides. As always, all our guides are licensed and fully insured.

Thus, we have availability for weekend and weekday trips. As well, December still has availability.

We are also already filling up the prime weekend dates for March and April, so plan soon if you want to reserve your date!

I would guess that in another week or two the Stripers will begin to run up into the creeks and reform into huge schools again for their annual "blast the shad on the surface" feeding frenzy.

I can't wait!

So far, we have not seen any major surface activity. But it should start any day. Do not be surprised to occasionally see fish (or catch a big Striper) near the surface chasing bait. The bait can be a lot more active now, making the Stripers more active as well. If you see a school of Stripers on the surface feeding, be sure to not run your boat directly into the school. Come down off of plane at least 150 feet away then approach by trolling motor on high speed. Be patient as well, do not throw until your lure can reach the edges of the school (that is mentally "hard" to do).

Be respective of other boaters as well. Unfortunately, you may not always get the same treatment.

The reality is that the fish usually will not stay up long. However, check the time on your watch and stay in the general area. My experience this time of year is that they re-surface every 6 to 8 minutes as they "herd" the large schools of shad to the surface (like any predators herd their pray). Many times, I find that if I "run" over towards them when I see them come up, by the time I get there they are "back down"! Then, when I look over, they are coming up "right where I just came from"! This is a technique you just have to learn (to be at the right place at the right time). Truthfully, sometimes it is just "luck".

If you do see fish feeding on the surface (watch with your binoculars as you are moving around), you can cast them:

Large "Silver Buddies" or "Silver Pals" (just burn it as fast as you can)

Smack tackle "Gizz 4" and "Crankblade" baits. These are "killer".

Large "hammered spoons" (I like the Bass Pro shop 1.5 ounce model with a white buck tail on the treble and the "Dangerous Dick"). I fish these with a "herky – jerky" style fast.

Big "walking baits" (Zara Spooks – white bottom with a silver top), the "Sammy 100" from Lucky Craft (silver side – blue back) or the Smithwick "Devils Horse" (Silver shiner). You "walk the dog" with these lures.

Large "split back" minnows (I prefer the largest "Bomber Long A" – Silver with blue/black back) or the largest ‘Rattlin Rouge" by Smithwick (Clown color) or the old faithful Cotton Cordell "Red Fin" (Silver – Blue back). You fish these lures "stop and go" very fast.

And of course the old "standby" White jig with a white or chartreuse "Lakeside" 4 inch Striper grub trailer


On bright days, you can find the fish in at least 70 to 100 feet of water with the fish holding between 30 to 65 feet deep. On cloudy days (or earlier and later in the day on bright days), they are holding closer to shore and a little shallower. Some days, the fish are concentrated right in the mouths of the "major" creeks and/or holding near points and on deep walls in these mouths, other days they are smack dab in the middle of creek mouth as it hits the main lake. In a few more weeks they might be further up the creek, but hanging in deep water stacked near the bottom.

You have to hunt to find them. Enjoy the experience of it!

Pay close attention to your fish finder to watch for large schools of shad. Once you locate large schools of shad, the Stripers will be close by (even if you do not mark them).

We have been catching the Stripers the last 2 weeks using (2) different patterns.

On one pattern, we have been fishing live bait slowly on boards in either 100 to 130 feet of water 40 to 70 feet deep over the river channel edges that cross the mouths of the major creeks, or we will move in closer to the channel walls in 70 feet deep and fish 40 to 60 feet deep. You have to try both to decide the best tactic.

The other pattern is to "drop shot". What I do is to come off the main lake and go back into some "cuts" (small coves) that go back in 75 to 300 yards off the main lake and that have at least one deep sided cliff. On rough weather or sudden cold snap days, the weather may drive the fish off the main lake and back into these cuts. We then "drop" on the fish. What this means is that you hand each fishermen their own rod to hold (no boards), you use a 3 to 4 ounce weight and then when you spot fish down near the bottom holding back in these cuts you "drop" the bait down on them until you can feel the heavy weight hit the bottom and then reel up (1 or 2 slow cranks on the reel). You then hold the boat in position with the trolling motor over top of the fish (it may be tough to do in the high wind!) and have the fishermen slowly raise and lower the bait no more than a foot at a time.

Be sure to hold on to the rod tightly! A fast moving Striper can rip a rod out of your hand in a 10th of a second!

One thing to also consider that can produce major trophies is to drop shot the main lake "humps". Have you ever driven down the highway (while thinking about fishing – that is 24/7 for me) and seen a large field below the surface of the road and right in the middle is just a large "hump" of land, maybe 20 to 30 feet higher than the surrounding land?. Well, if you can learn to read a GPS/Plotter or a Topographical map, you will find the same thing dead out in the middle of the lake. Water around these humps may be 80 to 130 feet deep, with the tops of the humps only 35 to 50 feet from the surface.

These are "meeting places" for bait fish and predators. The food chain lives here. But they can be tough to fish in the wind (to stay over top of the hump) and the fish move in and out. But if you can be patient and master this technique, you can land some major fish. You may not catch the numbers, but you may catch a true monster! It is many times a "feast or famine" issue, but it is exciting fishing.

On fair weather days, the hits have been savage, with the rod tips being bent over to the water's edge in an instant. However, on the cooler weather days, the fish bite much less aggressively and just "pull" the boards down instead of "yanking" the boards down. This may give you a tendency to want to "set the hook hard".

Don't do it!

If you use the correct equipment, the fish will hook himself. Just pick up the rod, lean back and begin to reel medium fast and steady. If you set the hook hard (like you would on a Bass) you will tear the hook out and/or break your line and lose the fish.

Basically, we are using these (2) patterns to limit out on many days, with usually multiple fish days most days.

It is an exciting time to be fishing now!

Over the last several years, I have been providing you the most recent report of the Striper fishing conditions on Lake Cumberland. Basically, whether we are using lures or live bait, whether we are fishing main lake or creeks or walls or flats, the depth they are biting and of course the success StriperFun Guide Service guides are having! I have also reported on a number of subjects and techniques, including but not limited to:

Downrigging techniques

Fishing the Canyon Walls

Fishing open water schools

Fishing the "jumps" (when the fish come up in large schools to feed)

Lure types we use

How to fish hair jigs in shallow water

How to fish jigging spoons

Reading fish finders and GPS systems

Planner board and straight line techniques

Reaction strikes (how to create them while live bait and artificial lure fishing)

How to catch and protect your bait

Lake etiquette

Lake safety

Captain Jim Durham

Toll free 866-575-3770

United States Coast Guard

Merchant Marine Officer License No. 1037731

Kentucky State Guide License # 007



Fish Species: Stripers, Smallmouth
Bait Used:
Tackle Used:
Method Used:
Water Depth:
Water Temperature:
Wind Direction:
Wind Speed:

Do you want to leave a comment? Login or register now to leave a comment.

No comments so far

Jim Durham

About The Author: Captain Jim Durham

Company: StriperFun™ Fishing Guide Service

Area Reporting: Lake Cumberland

Bio: Specializing in "Trophy" Striper Fishing, Captain Jim Durham is a Kentucky State licensed guide who has fished Lake Cumberland year round for over 40 years. As a former B.A.S.S. tournament circuit winner, Captain Jim also holds a U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Marine Captain's License. Captain Jim and all his StriperFun Guides are fully insured.  Fully insured, let Captain Jim and StriperFun Guide Service take you on safe, fun and unforgettable fishing trip to catch a "Trophy Striper"of a lifetime!

Click Here For Past Fishing Reports by Captain Jim Durham