Critical Concepts required for striper fishing are much harder to master than most other species of fish. One thing to note is that Striper's normally run in schools (well, most of the time) and cover lots of water following pods of bait fish, which on lake Cumberland is normally shad. This awesome predator can cruise at 7mph with burst of speeds recorded up to 45mph. This is why you must always keep a firm grip on the rod especially casting. I have witnessed several rods getting stripped from the anglers hands. Can you image getting hit by a car at 45mph? This is why they can be under your boat at 7:00 AM and miles down the lake by afternoon, and somewhere else entirely tomorrow. Unlike largemouth, stripers gorge themselves until they are full and won't feed again until their stomachs are empty. Stripers are very sensitive to light than largemouth and much easier to spook. You can put down an entire feeding school for hours motoring over them or banging the hull of the boat. What stripers lack in predictability, they more than make up in other ways. They are a solid fighting fish that do not jump much. But, you can be rest assured, they will fight you all the way to the boat. Striper do grow fast, especially in Lake Cumberland, where conditions are right for them to thrive and to grow to trophy sizes!
Another important factor that is overlooked by most anglers are the weather patterns and especially the barometer. More important is how changes in barometric pressure relates to Striper Fishing. A barometer is a scientific instrument used to measure atmospheric pressure. It can measure the pressure exerted by the atmosphere by using water, air, or mercury. Pressure tendency can forecast short term changes in the weather. Numerous measurements of air pressure are used within surface weather analysis to help find surface troughs, high pressure systems, and frontal boundaries. This makes it an excellent tool to aid in how weather effects the feeding behavior of these fish.
Have you ever wondered why you can limit out one day and the next you are marking fish everywhere on the electronics but you cannot entice the bite? It could be that a low pressure front is building. When the barometer is low and dropping, a storm is present, or on the way. When the barometer is high, the weather is fair and dry. An exception to the rule is when sitting on the water under a few storm clouds and a small rain shower occurs. This causes the barometer to rise. It is for this phenomenon why it is said that the fishing is vary good after a rain shower. Not a full blown storm mind you, just a nice rain, striper hate lightening!!!
The barometer is a useful tool to help unlock some of the mysteries of fishing and more importantly, catching. Atmospheric pressure fluctuations affect the air bladder in the fish. When the barometer is low, the bite is off, as the fish will spend most of their efforts on equalizing their air bladder and pay less attention to feeding. However, when the pressure is high the chances for catching fish are far greater. Fish will generally feed at the onset of a storm and between the approaching fronts, or as the barometer rises and falls through the course of the day.
Pay attention to your surroundings! Situational awareness and attention to detail concerning your surroundings can help you make good sound decisions. For example; The surrounding Wildlife know the weather due to changes in barometric pressure. When the surrounding birds and other wildlife are active and being theirselves, the barometric pressure is stable or high. The majority of wildlife can sense an approaching storm, so next time your out on the water be mindful of this concept. For those of us who have been caught on the water in storms you'll notice that it can get pretty quiet on and around the lake when the pressure is dropping because of an approaching storm.
Click here for a historical plot from the last seven (7) days from the Louisville, Standiford Field, KY. This location is Northwest of Lake Cumberland but close enough to get an idea of the pattern and how it might have impacted your trip.
The thermocline and how it relates to Striper Fishing Locating feeding fish is one of the most important skills a fisherman can develop. You can mark fish on your sonar and not entice them to strike your bait if they are not in their "feeding zone". Most species of fish have a preferred temperature of water that they will actively feed in. Find this area of temperature with fish present and you will greatly increase your chances of catching fish. Remember, fish are cold blooded. In water too cold, fish will be dormant, sluggish and will not feed. In water too warm, they will be seeking a more comfortable better oxygenated environment. So an understanding of how the different temperature levels of lakes will help. On most lakes, water temperatures tend to settle into horizontal layers of warm water and cold water that are separated by a moderating layer. This is known as the "thermocline". The thermocline typically will be the most active "feeding zone". Simply put, the thermocline is a thin layer of water in a lake which is sandwiched between the upper layer of water (the epilimnion) and the lower, colder layer of water (hypolimnion). During the summer months, surface water is heated by the sun and the surface temp could be higher and usually is than 87° F or more. This floats over a layer of colder more dense water, the hypolimnion. Between these two layers you have a thin layer (the thermocline) which the water temperature and oxygen ratio is generally considered the stripers "comfort zone".
Sunlight is a factor to consider when seeking the comfort zone of striped bass. Usually the thermocline where the light is just right and the oxygen is comfortable for the stripers. However stripers like other bass species can see ultraviolet rays and do not have eyelids, their pupils do not adjust as humans do. Also remember sunlight will diffuse differently depending on the time of day and water conditions. Early morning and late afternoon the suns rays will be at more of an angle and not as intense. Midday with the sun directly overhead, very intense, and of course don't forget the favored overcast day. Wind (wave action) will also affect the suns penetration into the water, as will the clarity of the water. In the heat of summer, early fall, and deep winter striped bass will be in and around the thermocline. In fact, depending on weather conditions (high summer temps) stripers can be found in the hypolimnion, sometimes catching them in 40 feet or deeper water. The bottom section of a lake is where everything settles to decay thus eating up the oxygen and is not a good place to find striped bass. In spring and fall stripers usually have more options depending on weather patterns and the thermocline does not play as much of a role in targeting them.
Quality sonar units available on the market today can identify and display the thermocline quite well. Keep in mind, on large/deep lakes the thermocline depth and density can vary from area to area. This is especially true on Lake Cumberland where the thermocline varies greatly from one end of the lake to the other.
Another Critical Concept that must be mastered in order to become a serious anglers is technique. This to most fisherman simply means, "the delivery" or presentation techniques of the lures and baits. However, proper technique spans a much broader spectrum than simple presentation. Presentation is important mind you, but is simply a subcategory of a much broader picture. I believe understanding technique is what separates the average fisherman from those that are serious about mastering the art and craft of fishing, as well as putting fish in the boat. Professional fisherman fall into this category. It is the ability to locate the targeted species of fish based upon your understanding of the current conditions and your surroundings.
- What are the weather conditions? (Is is hot & sunny, partly cloudy or overcast? What about wind conditions?)
- Should I fish on the bank? If so, which one?
- Are the fish deep or shallow?
- What about the lake conditions?
- Where are the bait fish?
- Where are the pods of fish?
- There are so many variables how do I know when or what to do what???
Hire a Local Guide
The fastest and easiest way to learn some local technique and really gain some first hand knowledge is to hire a local professional guide. The professionals not only know the fishing grounds like the back of their hand, they also are masters of the art and craft of targeting certain species of fish. They know the patterns of the fish based upon years of experience, the calendar, fish migration cycles, the surrounding lake and weather conditions and of course, proper technique. This is what puts you on the fish! Once the fish are located, they then apply the second part of the methodology, the presentation. Choosing the correct presentation, proper bait and fishing patterns, by understanding current conditions factored into the equation. Armed with this knowledge and a little help from your electronics, you are on your way to mastering one of the main critical concepts of becoming a successful striper angler.
We welcome the opportunity to arm you with some of this first hand knowledge and experience, as well as helping you become a better angler. Please contact us for more information or to schedule your next adventure. You'll be glad you did!