By Joe Bucher
The term “inside turn” was first coined by the legendary Buck Perry, and it basically describes an abrupt bend or turn in underwater bottom contour. More specifically, it is a turn in bottom contour that creates a point of some kind (see illustration). Some inside turns are gradual bends, while other times they are abrupt angles of 90 degrees or more. Any inside turn has the potential to hold a musky, but the more extreme ones seem to be the best overall. The only way to know if an inside turn is any good for muskies is to fish them repeatedly under a variety of conditions.
Not all inside turns hold fish. Some are definitely a lot better than others. Sometimes the reasons are obvious, but don’t be surprised to find some really good looking ones not as productive as they should be while other less attractive ones are musky magnets. The obviously good inside turns generally have a combination of elements that make them special. A number of factors come into play that moves fish into a specific inside turn at any given time.
SEASONAL INSIDE TURNS
Some of the best inside turns are seasonal in productivity. For example, the best springtime inside turns usually contain lots of shallow cover, warm water and baitfish. A classic shallow weed patch on one side of a point, located on the north side of the lake or large bay is bound to hold some muskies early in the year. It might also be a good fall spot if it contains quick access to deep water along with healthy weed growth or some other form of cover or bottom content that muskies prefer.
In fact, my biggest Wisconsin musky this past fall came on an inside turn of this nature. This is one of the best overall inside turns I have ever fished in my home state waters, and it consistently produces action in all four seasons including thru the ice. It is indeed positioned on the north side of the lake. It is also part of the single largest shallow food shelf on that lake. Finally, it is adjacent to a lot of very deep water. A spot like this has all the elements to hold a big musky shallow at virtually anytime, and I’ve caught big muskies from this spot spring, summer and fall.
However, inside turns like this are nearly always better when the wind is blowing into them. While they can definitely still hold a musky on leeward calm-like conditions, wave action slapping into them seems to activate muskies and other gamefish. Wind and wave action in such spots also forces any predator fish to face into the wave-created current and move up to the front upwind edge of the cover or contour. This pinpoints their location and focus. My experiences suggest if you do encounter a shallow fish in such a spot with the waves are slapping into it, that fish is apt to be very aggressive.
The direction of the wind and subsequent wave action sure does seem to have a bearing on the productivity of inside turns overall. I find myself seeking out inside turns on any given day according to the prevailing wind direction. Shallow rock muskies are generally far more aggressive when there is wave action washing over them than when it is calm. In fact, shallow boulders on a classic inside turn might only hold a fish when there is wind. Some of my biggest musky catches on rocks have been encountered on exactly these kinds of conditions including a big one I connected with recently just prior to a violent storm.
Throughout most of the day, the weather was balmy. Sunny, hot flat summer-like weather with almost no wind. Musky action was virtually nil all day long. However, while eating supper, I noticed the sudden appearance of heavy cloud cover in the southwest. Distant thunder also began to rumble. The wind suddenly picked up out of the southwest with an occasional spit of rain. My camera crew and I left the dock and raced towards a nearby spot I knew held a big fish. Admittedly, I was concerned that the storm would reach us before I could even get a single cast in. Fortunately, the bad weather held its ground in the distance as I eased the trolling motor down and slipped in to position.
My boat was tucked up very close to a steep shoreline so I could quickly dodge out of the storm if needed. However, right in front of me was a large shallow rock bar that extended far off shore. My goal was to fish the steep shore until I hit the inside turn of this bar, and then work my way outwards – following the contour of the big shallow bar. I could hear waves washing over top the shallowest portions of the reef, as I launched a long cast with a topwater lure towards the shallow rocks of that inside turn. A sudden crack of lightning nearby made all of us in the boat duck our heads. Everyone was openly talking about heading around the corner into a protected cove until the storm passed thru, when a musky over 50 inches long exploded out of the water with my lure in its mouth in a wild head thrashing rage.
The sky opened up and rain started to pour down as I battled the brute to boatside. Eventually, I slipped the net under it. Posing briefly with it for the TV camera before letting it swim away to fight another day, I couldn’t help but note how quickly things can change in the world of musky hunting. Nothing had occurred for hours, yet being in the right place at precisely the right time changed my whole day. It was one of the biggest muskies I had taken the entire season. It came from a classic inside turn once again.
Inside turns in calm water should not be discarded from your milk runs entirely. I have witnessed a number of scenarios where cover such as a weed patch on an inside turn only produced when it was calm with direct sunlight exposure. This is particularly true for both spring and fall muskies. Mid day high sun angles and calm conditions might be what is needed to activate muskies during cold water conditions. Cold front ridden summers might also result in muskies preferring calm water, sunlight, and a rise in water temps. This is an ideal time to tag a real trophy on a topwater lure at mid day. If weed growth is at or near the surface, your best bet is to run a topwater bait over this spot and not risk snagging up on weeds. The key here is to make a cast that lands past the intended target so you do not spook the fish with lure splash down.
As simple as this sounds, I have watched many fishing partners over the years make this critical mistake on calm water cover muskies. The first mistake is in selecting a subsurface bait to begin with since it has a higher tendency to snag up and disrupt the weeds. The 2nd mistake is to drop the cast too short plopping it right in the weedy cover. Both mistakes result in a spooked fish and a disrupted spot. Neither of which triggers a strike. This is a critical point worth remembering if you want to “up your game” so to speak to another level. How you place your casts and present your lure on small spots like a weed patch in an inside turn, definitely determines whether you catch a fish or not in many cases. Perfect cast placement and good execution with your lure gives you a chance to trigger a positive response from a fish in that weed patch. A bad cast and/or poor performance with the bait rarely works.
Finally, it’s important to note that deep water on inside turns becomes the key musky magnet as the water cools more throughout the fall season. You might not tag a fish on the shallow top of an inside turn later on in autumn, but cover such as sunken wood or big boulders, that exists along the drop off or even along the deepest edge of that bend, might produce a super lunker near ice up. Some of my biggest muskies in November came from inside turns, but very deep hunkered next to a big log or a pile of rocks, as well as being suspended off-bottom.
Make certain you thoroughly check the deeper portions of an inside turn later on in the fall. It will become less likely to find a big one shallow as the water dips below 50 degrees. Yet, you might find a pack of muskies holding on an inside turn in greater depths at this time. How deep you should fish has no limit. I’ve caught muskies as deep as 40 feet on weighted live bait rigs during deer gun season (mid November thru early December).
Trolling deep divers can be deadly for inside turn muskies in the later part of the fall. What’s also worth checking is the deep open water directly adjacent to a steep breaking inside turn with a lot of hard bottom. Fall spawning baitfish such as ciscoes often bunch up near an inside turn on a southern shoreline when the cold wind blows big waves into it. Making repeated trolling passes at various levels around a high potential area can pay back big rewards. Don’t be surprised if you encounter several big muskies on the same spot throughout the day.
Final tip: Tight trolling turns with a short line really trigger strikes in the later fall on good inside turns or “corners” as some like to call such spots. If you have a GPS, watch your trail plotter closely and retrace this path when you encounter a strike. More often than not, muskies will prefer lures traveling in a specific direction and will strike on the turn!