Any Kentucky trout angler worth his waders knows the Cumberland River tailwaters are the happening spot for big browns. Since the establishment of the 20-inch, one-fish-per-day regulation, the quantity and quality of the river’s browns have steadily expanded. Earlier this year the Cumberland yielded the new state-record brown (21 pounds, 33 inches) caught by Thomas Malone on, of all things, a Rat-L-Trap. This success is no surprise to Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources district biologist Doug Stephens. He says recent electrofishing studies netted 2.5 browns per hour that were at or in excess of 20 inches, and everything indicates continued steady growth of this brown-trout fishery. Furthermore, good fishing is available even during these winter months, and there’s less streamside competition. “For bigger fish, the farther down the river you go the better you are,” says Stephens. “Most fishing pressure is in the upper four miles [BRACKET “below the dam”], and most of the big fish are below that.” The heftiest browns can be found downstream of Burkesville, where the habitat is ideal and the fishing pressure light. The current hot lure for the big boys is a two-inch gold and black Countdown Rapala. Contact: Kentucky DFWR, Southeast Fishery District (606-549-1332).