Jim Durham


By Captain Jim Durham – StriperFun Guide Service

DATE OF REPORT: March 8, 2007

• Latest water temperature: 45.3° F surface (Beaver Creek) March 5, 2007

• Latest water temperature: 43.6° F surface (Mouth Greasy Creek) March 4, 2007

• Latest water temperature: 44.2° F surface (Otter Creek) March 3, 2007

• Current lake level is 687.12 feet. Heavy continuous rains last week brought a rapid rise of more than six feet in the lake's level. A high level of release from Wolf Creek Dam is in effect as the level of the lake is supposed to be maintained at a low level of 680 feet above sea level to reduce stress while repair work is in progress. The lake is about 37-39 feet below the tree line, which is about 725' above sea level. I will keep you posted.

Greetings to my avid readers! It has been a little over two weeks since my last report. Sorry, I have been really busy!


As indicated above, heavy continuous rains last week brought a rapid rise of more than six feet in the lake's level. The bait fish are scattered even more then they were in mid February (thus, so are the fish). Such is the life of a Lake Cumberland Striper guide! We are hunting around a lot now to find them.

Some years February and early March can be just terrific fishing (as long as there is a couple of warm rains to help things along). This year (like last year) was one of the slower Februarys, dry and cold.

Truth be told, I am glad it is over.

The weather was more unpredictable than normal and most of the time the fish just lay on the bottom (except to open their mounts occasionally and eat the alewives that were laying down on the bottom right with them!). We caught fish, but not as much as in most years.

I predicted in my last report that a good soaking would get the whole food chain up and running again. Well, it rained, and "normally" the bait fish would have gone crazy and the fish would have turned turn on and begin eating well again.

Unfortunately, it rained 2.8 inches in one day! The creeks muddied up to a thick chocolate color and the water temperature (which had risen to near 50° F) dropped to the temperatures you see above.

Oh great!

Then to make matters worse, the tornados that hit down South (our prayers are with the families who lost loved ones) and the winds that spun off of them (45 mph gusts!) "partnered" with the severe drop in a temperature.

Are you getting the picture yet?

Yup, you got it, the fishing turned slow (we got blown all over the place). We hit one nice 20 pound plus fish on Friday the 2nd, caught Smallmouth on Saturday and one of my guides hit just a couple of fish on Sunday the 4th.

On Monday (finally), the wind was gone the sun came out and "kabam", they began biting well and we loaded up! We had a camera malfunction that day so no photos (sorry).

If I told you we limited every trip it would not be true (and you are too savvy to believe that anyway!). I "call em like I see em"! I hope you appreciate my candor.

This coming weekend will be the first weekend of March and with the warm weather predicted, the "hot" late winter bite should be on! In just a few days, our life circle will welcome in spring again! It is time to tie your strongest line onto your stoutest rods and sharpen your hooks! There are monster Stripers in Lake Cumberland and they are hungry! I am truly "pumped"!

Only the freshest shad will work. The Stripers have a lot of bait to eat (millions of alewive and gizzard shad per square mile) and slow "worn out" bait does not work well (if at all). Customers tell me all the time that the two main reasons they hire a guide is that we always have the freshest bait and we know where to go to catch the big ones!

Beaver Creek should be hot over the weekend! So should Indian Creek, White Oak and Fallbush Creeks.

It is a little different this year winter fishing with the water slightly lower! Normally, I would be way back in a creek somewhere. However, with the water 10 feet lower than standard winter pool, the areas I would normally fish are "dry" (The Blue hole and beyond in Beaver for example). Because of this, I am finding that the Stripers are moving out of the creeks much earlier than normal.

Thus, the "biting" Stripers we are finding are halfway back in the creek, near muddy and rock transition points. The fish we are catching are really nice sized Stripers that are fat with shad! We are using alewives and shiners, fishing in 60 to 70 feet of water pulling boards set at 20 to 55 feet deep. On windy days we are bottom fishing, catching nice Smallies as well!


Thanks to everyone who attended the "Jim Strader's Hunting & Fishing Expo" at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville and came by the StriperFun booth to say hello! It is always good to put a face with a name. My "how to" Striper fishing seminar was widely attended at the Strader show and I enjoyed teaching it.


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. You will catch Catfish, Largemouth, Walleyes and huge Stripers as well.


One of the "Black Bass Specialists" I associate with (Andy Votaw) and I shared a cup of coffee the other day and he provided me a full report on the Smallie and Largemouth scene.

The bass have been fair to good through February (until this last weekend with the windy cold) on the float-n-fly fished on deep points and bluffs on the main lake at the mouth of major creeks and about a third of the way into the creeks. The have been caught 9' to 11' deep using a duck feather fly with a combination of orange, red, pink/blue mixed in. The smallmouth have been fair with several up to 4 lbs caught.

The largemouth bite has been outstanding! The third weekend in February there were four Largemouth caught over 5 lbs with the biggest going 5.14. Cloudy days with a slight (5-10 mph) wind seem to be the most productive.

The jerk bait bite is right around the corner. The water temps need to come up about 55° F and the Smallies will be staged on points adjacent to mud/gravel flats.


The place back in the creeks where the muddy water meets the clear water is what we call a "Transition Zone". Learning to fish the transition zone effectively can produce great results for you.

There can be a drastic difference in the water temperature in a short stretch of creek based solely upon the density of the water. MUDDY WATER IS THICKER AND THUS WARMER!

So, what does this mean?

It means that the bait fish prefer the warmer water and will "stack up" right in or within a half a mile from the "transition zone" (either back into the really muddy water or back towards the clear water where the temperature transition is beginning). As always, find the bait and the Stripers will be nearby to their food! Use your temperature gauge and fish finder, hunt around and you can strike pay dirt!

Do not be afraid to fish the muddy water. Many times you can "sneak up" on some big Stripers in the muddy water. Throw large noisy shad imitators or large Striper jigs as well to produce.


The following is a follow up to the Special Report of a week ago I sent out regarding a formal press release from the U.S. Corp of Engineers (COE) on January 22, 2007 regarding Lake Cumberland, a leak that was found near the dam (a couple of years back) and how the Corp is now going to deal with it starting immediately. I continue to receive calls and emails from my readers and clients regarding concerns over a variety of issues.

As the press release indicates (and as we lake people have known for nearly three years), Lake Cumberland has a leak that was found near the dam (a couple of years back) and the COE is finally going to fix it starting immediately.

As I have taught fishing at the Louisville and Cincinnati Bass Pro Shops (thanks to all StriperFun clients and friends who came by to say hello!) and at other fishing locations, I got the same question / statement from literally hundreds of people. What people told me again and again was:

"I heard they drained Lake Cumberland"!

I politely told everyone that "No", they did not drain the lake!

The bottom line is that, "No, the sky is not falling" (there is no great emergency)!

Although the dam needs to be fixed and the water will be a little lower than winter pool for a while (they are lowering the lake slightly from 690 to 680 feet by February 12), there will still be plenty of water! Lake Cumberland will still be larger than Dale Hollow by over 10,000 acres, larger than Norris Lake by about 5000 acres and will still be the third largest lake in Kentucky! I firmly believe that the fishing should remain steady (and good!). When the Corp lowered the lake in the mid seventies for dam repair, the fishing was terrific. It should be again!

The wintertime average for the lake is about 690 feet. The overall consensus from the COE is that "The pool restrictions at 680 feet could be in place for 5-7 years".

From my 40 plus years coming to the lake, it has been my experience that this winter level (690) remains constant (many years) for 90 or so days between late November through mid February. So, we are already accustomed to this lower water level for about a ¼ of the year as it is!

Lowering the lake to 680 feet (ten feet less than winter normal) will have a slight but negligible effect on boating and fishing during the winter months. There may be certain coves you are used to going into that you can no longer go into because they are too shallow, etc.

What may be affected, at least for a short while, is boat launching access to the lake. However, the U.S. Corp of Engineers press release said they were going to have "extension of boat ramps to allow additional access to the lake at this lower level". This has now been confirmed, with Corp personnel already in process of inspecting and measuring various ramps. The word is they are taking bids from contractors with "pre fabricated ramp extensions" that can be quickly put in place.

If I had to guess, I would say it would take at least 30 to 75 days to get many of the ramps extended. This may very well "temporarily" affect launching large cruisers or houseboats from many ramps (at least until they can be extended). The Corp is supposed to announce which ramps will be functional and when, in the near future.

You can still launch fishing boats from a number of areas in low water, as long as you have a four wheel drive.

The bottom line is that, for now, it will be business as usual at the Lake!

StriperFun Guide Service will keep putting our clients on big fish and nothing will change. In fact, we should have less logs and trash in the water during the spring months!

Jim Dicken of Fishing Guide Home Page & Fishin.com has written an excellent editorial on the conditions at the dam that provides accurate and clear data, especially in light of the recent "media over hyping" that claimed Lake Cumberland was shortly being lowered to 650 feet. Please click the link below to read his terrific report:



I hope that you are fired up for the 2007 fishing season (I know I am)!

Things have definitely slowed down around the marinas, with most (non-fishing boats) winterized. This time of year gets quiet. The pleasure boaters are done for the year and it's just the Bass fishermen and us "Monster" Striper hunters that are left.

That is OK with me.

It gave me time to finish up StriperFun's new "how to" DVD video "Striper Fish like a Pro"! Our new and exciting Striper fishing "Pro Tips" video is now for sale. You can click the link at the end of this report to go to the StriperFun website and then click the new "view the StriperFun video trailer" link to see some great action shots and all the proven techniques you can learn from the instructional video. We are already taking orders for the video and look forward to hearing from you!

March can be just terrific months to catch Monster Stripers, with lots of numbers and major trophies caught.

Don't let the colder weather hold you back!

The big Stripers "love the colder water" and get very active. All of StriperFun's guide boats are covered and heated as well, so come see us. 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. March still has availability. Come enjoy the terrific late winter / early spring fishing!

We are also already filling up the prime weekend dates for April, May and June, so plan soon if you want to reserve your spring – early summer weekend date!


Nothing can be more important (especially in cold weather when you do not want to get stranded) then to make sure your boat, motor and electronic equipment (radio, fish finder etc.) is all in good working order. As a professional charter Captain who fishes for a living, I always make sure our guide boats are in "tip top" condition at all times for the safety and comfort of my clients. To accomplish this goal, I always rely on Chris Owen the owner of Marine Maintenance Inc. (MMI) for all of my boat maintenance: www.mmiboatingservices.com MMI shows up on time and gets the job done on schedule and for the price quoted! I highly recommend them!


I continue to spend time with Brian Wilson, the owner of Cumberland Pro lures. I always relish the opportunity to spend some time fishing with any lure manufacturer learning how they fish their own product. Cumberland Pro Lures makes some of the best Striper jigs available and I use them now exclusively.

So, we have been going out in the Striper Machine and pulling www.cumberlandpro.com Umbrella rigs, locating and pulling through schools of suspended fish. We have been fishing 4 rigs at a time, 2 rigs with chartreuse hair - Blue Head ¾ ounce Striper Spinner jigs with blue blades chartreuse trailers, and 2 rigs with ½ ounce Striper Spinner jigs with "Shad pattern" with Pearl trailers.

This puts 36 Striper Spinner jigs in front of the fish at the same time, creating a large "artificial school" of baitfish. The fish were hanging on the canyon walls in 50 to 60 feet of water, holding about 10 feet off of the bottom.

We would see the school of bait on the 12 inch color Raymarine C 120 fish finder and when ever we saw the "telltale arches" of big Stripers hovering near the bait, we would pop the engine into neutral and let the 4 rigs slowly drop into the "hot" zone. You can also make a hard turn which will also cause the lures to drop.

It is a reaction bite that you get with the Umbrella rigs. The 36 jigs drop into the fish and then when you re-engage the boat into drive, your artificial school of jigs appears to be "fleeing" the Stripers.

"Kapowwwww!!! They absolutely "slam" these lures! You can see this hot technique on the new "How To" Striper Fish like a Pro video.


One of my favorite techniques (I use when pulling boards in the winter) is to throw a large white and white hair jig or chartreuse and white hair jig (see types below) rigged with a 4 inch plastic trailer. The trick to catching these "ultra shallow" fish is to actually cast the jig "up on the shore". The reason being, that the "splash" of the large jig in the shallow water will many times "spook" a large Striper. If you fish shallow water in the winter often enough you will experience the sick feeling of seeing your lure hit the water and see an immediate "swirl" of a large "startled" fish fleeing for deep water! So, to combat this problem, we cast our jigs up on the shore. Then, as we take up the slack of the line to get it tight, we then "hop" the jig (with a quick raising of the rod and a slight jerk on the lure) quietly into the water. Because the jig is heavy, it will have a tendency to snag on rocks and submerged wood. As soon as you hop your jig into the water you need to raise your rod tip high and reel quickly. This will virtually eliminate most snagging of the jigs on the bottom.

This type of fishing can be really exciting! As you hop your lure into the water and begin to quickly retrieve your jig from the edge of the shore, it will begin to smack into rocks, wood etc. This can cause a "reaction" bite (like a large mouth smacking a crank bait after it careens off of a stump). It works on Stripers too! You will many times experience the same "swirl" of a large Striper's tail in the shallow water. The difference is that now the fish isn't running away, it is flying to eat your lure! You need to be ready as soon as you hop the lure in and begin the retrieve. We catch many Stripers that are hanging around eating bait fish right on the edge of the shore. A soon as you hop the lure in they many times will slam it! This is especially true on windy days when the wind is blowing in towards the bank you are fishing. The wind blows in the bait fish that are "tired" from fight the wind. They make easy prey for the Stripers, so always pay attention to the wind direction when you chose a bank to fish.


The Stripers are coming out of the creeks and will soon reform into huge schools again for their annual "blast the shad on the surface" feeding frenzy. 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:

1. Large Cumberland Pro Lures "Silver Pals" (just burn it as fast as you can)

2. Smack Tackle "Gizz 4" and "Crankblade" baits. These are "killer".

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. And of course the old "standby" Cumberland Pro Striper Spinner jig with a white or chartreuse "Lakeside" 4 inch Striper grub trailer

Striper fishing at its best!

StriperFun has a lot planned for the near future, including a new book and more "How To" videos (click the link at the top of the report to see the newest video trailer). Stay tuned to fishin.com for more! If you have any other ideas techniques or subjects you want me to write about, drop me a line!

I am many times asked "What are the advantages to hiring a guide"? In essence, you hire a guide to utilize the guide's many years of experience and lake knowledge, to learn new tactics and techniques to increase your chance of "landing the big one!" Guides use top of the line equipment and the freshest live bait. Also, if you cannot afford your own boat, it is a very cost effective way for you or your group to fish (cost per fisherman). Even professional fishermen hire guides to learn a lake and new techniques!

If you need help with artificial or live bait concepts, or for techniques "reading" fish finders, feel free to call me for more information. We hope to see you on the lake! Good fishin!!



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: Striper
Bait Used: Alewives
Tackle Used:
Method Used:
Water Depth:
Water Temperature: 45 degrees
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