Jim Durham

By Captain Jim Durham – StriperFun Guide Service
Staff Writer for fishin.com

DATE OF REPORT: January 30, 2007

• Latest water temperature: 48.3° F surface (Beaver Creek) January 29, 2007

• Latest water temperature: 48.6° F surface (Mouth Greasy Creek) January 28, 2007

• Latest water temperature: 48.2° F surface (Otter Creek) January 27, 2007

• Current lake level is 688.48 feet. Release of water through Wolf Creek Dam is at a very high rate during some periods of the day, as the lake's level is being lowered to 680 above sea level by Feb. 12. The lake is about 35-37 feet below the tree line, which is about 725 feet above sea level. I will keep you posted.

Greetings to my avid readers! It has been a week since my last report.


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.

I frankly have been truly disgusted at the poor job most of the media has done in reporting on this story. As I taught fishing at the Louisville and Cincinnati Bass Pro Shops the last two weekends on Saturday and Sunday (thanks to all StriperFun clients and friends who came by to say hello!), 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!

It is truly frustrating to have this issue "blown out of proportion" by unscrupulous media types looking to sell newspapers and airtime by taking advantage of this sensitive issue and twisting the story to make it sensational.

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 (currently today at 688). 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 have "pre fabricated ramp extensions" that can be quickly put in place.

If I had to guess, I would say it would take at least 45 to 90 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!


The creeks are clear from the previous report's rains and with the muddy water dissipating, the water temperature dropped. The bait fish scattered some as well (thus, so did the fish).

Such is the life of a Lake Cumberland Striper guide!

We are hunting around some to find them. The fish we are finding are halfway back in the creek, near muddy and rock transition points. We found a school on January 19th and caught some nice keepers! We were using alewives and fishing in 45 feet of water pulling boards set at 20 to 25 feet deep. A photo of the nice catch is below!

Jim paste photo here

When we went back to that spot a day or so later, the fish were moving in and out. We lost a nice fish (that happens to guides too, read my old reports) and just could not get them to bite.

Then the very next day, we went right back and "kabam", we caught a nice limit! You just have to be persistent and believe in the patterns that work for you (and have worked for years) during the time of year you are fishing.

If you are using a guide, be patient with your guide as well. You may not catch as many Stripers this time of year, but you have a better chance of landing a true "monster" Striper. On a slow day, just enjoy the beauty of Lake Cumberland. All good things come to those who are persistent! I find that if I maintain a positive attitude, the lake will relinquish great bounty!


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!

February and March can be just terrific months to catch Monster Stripers, with lots of numbers and major trophies caught. For some reason, February is sometimes slow for us guides. Maybe it is the cold weather.

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. February still has availability. Come enjoy the terrific winter fishing!

We are also already filling up the prime weekend dates for March, 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!

Winter time Umbrella bite!

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.

Smallmouth / Striper "bottom bite"

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.

Transition Zone Fishing

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.

Standard winter Pattern

The Stripers are now well up into the creeks and have reformed 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: Bass
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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