Beautiful Lake Cumberland
How to fish Lake Cumberland for Stripers
JANUARY THROUGH MARCH: As the bait fish make their annual run back up to the heads of the creek, the big Stripers closely follow. Large schools of Stripers can be found in as little as 5 to 15 feet of water “way up in the creek”. Do not let the off color water or outright muddy water deter you. If the water is slightly stained, but the wind is light and you have minimal cloud cover, then pulling planner boards with live shad shallow can really produce. As well, throwing large plastic trailer tipped buck tail jigs or vibrating lures and floating stick baits can also produce very well. However, if it bright and/or windy and the water is muddy, it is best to find a transition bank (rock and mud), beach your boat (or tie up) and throw Carolina rigged live shad out on the bottom. Be patient! Remember, if it is muddy the fish will need to both “smell”and “sense”your shad. This technique frequently produces massive Stripers because the muddy water lets you sneak up on these big fish.
APRIL THROUGH JUNE: Although a fair number of quality fish will decide to live back in the creek and can be caught, most of the larger Striper schools will begin their trek out towards the main lake. In early spring, these fish will be moving around quickly, looking to feed heavy before the May spawn. Transitional mud and rock banks half way out towards the main lake are the area to target (with you shad being pulled from the surface to 20 feet deep). This time of year, as you move to the main lake points and transition banks, you have to fish differently than the winter pattern. The issue now will not be that the water is slightly stained or muddy. Rather, the issue is floating sticks, logs and brush. Here, your thought process is reversed. If the wind is light or no wind, the sticks, logs and floating brush make it difficult if not impossible to pull boards as the flotsam tangles your lines. On these days, it is best to find a transition bank (rock and mud), beach you boat (or tie up) and throw Carolina rigged live shad out on the bottom. However, with a medium wind that will blow the flotsam to the bank, pulling planner boards with live shad and throwing large trailer tipped buck tail jigs or vibrating lures can again produce very well. You need to pull your boards “weightless”right up next to the bank, especially sheer rock walls. Main lake flats will produce as well with weightless shad on boards. If it bright and/or really windy, stick to the bottom pattern. Night fishing this time of year throwing very large diving sick baits and hair jigs can produce tremendous stringers of fish. Try to fish near a full moon with light wind, near sheer bluff walls.
JULY THROUGH SEPTEMBER: The fish have now reached their summer pattern, schooling in deep water chasing the ever growing schools of baitfish. You now have the choice of live bait fishing or down rigging artificial lures. Either tactic will produce. The fish will be in 30 to 110 feet of water, moving very quickly around. When you get bit in this scenario, it may be several rods at once. Watch your lines for extremely fast – hard aggressive hits from fish that are moving very fast when they strike. Whether live bait fishing or down rigging, follow the creek channel ledges as the creeks pour into the main lake. As well, fish the river channel edges as they cross the many points on the main lake. Watch your fish finder for large schools of shad.
Your live bait fishing will be pulling boats and floating balloons as bobbers, fishing shad deep from 30 to 80 feet. This will produce day or night. If it is at night or cloudy, always remember to put at least one weightless shad on a balloon all the way in the back twice as far as you would normally put a shad. This is a well proven trick to produce monster Stripers. It is very important to keep in mind that it is extremely difficult to keep shad alive this time of year. The air temperature is in the 90s and the water temperature in the 80s. The shad become weak in your tank and also “die on the line”shortly after deployment. The problem being that you have no way of “knowing”the bait on the line is dead. This can cause a lot of lost productivity time. Most guides therefore down rig this time of year.
OCTOBER THROUGH DECEMBER: In early fall, the above main lake patterns hold true. As November rolls into early December, the baitfish begin to migrate back into the creeks. This time of year can produce some terrific surface action where the creeks flow into the main lake. Huge bait fish schools, staging for their run into the creeks, are viciously attacked by schools of “frenzied”Stripers. Many guides forgo both down rigging and live bait fishing, willing to sit in prime areas (creek channel ledges as the creeks pour into the main lake and later half way up the creek) with their customers as they watch the surface with binoculars for the Stripers to “fire up”and feed. While they are waiting, they jig large hammered slab spoons off the bottom. When the Stripers rise and feed, they power up their gas engines and run to the edge of the school and begin to throw large floating stick baits, hair jigs and medal vibrating baits into the schools of fish. This can produce hot and heavy action, creating quick limits. The down side is that sometimes the fish do not come up. Through the rest of December as the water and air temperature really begin to drop, it is time to move all the way back into the creeks and move back to the bottom fishing techniques.
Always remember to use the wind to your advantage – bait blown in to shore by wind to large fish stacked up feeding on “tired”shad – easy meals.