Published January 13, 2022

Hardwater Action

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan
Theopolis Toliver, left, and Titus Bulow, 11, both Minot, hold a pair of hefty smallmouth bass pulled through the ice at Lake Audubon. [Photo: Kim Fundingsland/The Dakotan]
Theopolis Toliver, left, and Titus Bulow, 11, both Minot, hold a pair of hefty smallmouth bass pulled through the ice at Lake Audubon. [Photo: Kim Fundingsland/The Dakotan]

Ice Angler Shares the Fun

COLEHARBOR–It may be hard to explain but the experience is a blast, particularly when a plan comes together. 

Theopolis Toliver, Minot, thoroughly enjoys ice fishing and helping others share in the fun. On Lake Audubon recently Toliver was having some early success catching smallmouth bass. When another vehicle pulled up nearby and an adult and young boy climbed out and onto the ice, Toliver approached them with a friendly smile and invited them to share in his fishing spot. 

Within a few minutes Al Bulow, Minot, put a big smallmouth on the ice with an assist from Toliver. Moments later he caught another.  

“I love ice fishing. I really do,” said Bulow while looking over his latest catch. “This is a beauty. A dandy.” 

A minute or two later it was grandson Titus’ turn. He pulled out a whopping five pounder that measured 20 inches, which proved to be the largest fish of the day. 

More fish were brought up through holes in the ice too, sometimes doubles. The trio of fishermen almost had a triple, but one of smallies got off just as it came into view. It was a flurry of excitement and congratulatory fist bumps, exactly what Toliver was hoping for. 

A key to ice fishing, he says, is to not make it too complicated. Keep it simple and have fun. 

“A minnow, a hook, a sinker, and fish it near the bottom and you’ll catch fish 90% of the time,” said Toliver. 

Theopolis Toliver, Minot, says he looks forward to the ice fishing season every year, quite an admission from a man who moved from the desert terrain of Las Vegas, Nevada to the frozen North. [Photo: Kim Fundingsland/The Dakotan]

In saying why he enjoyed sharing a few fishing tips, and a productive spot, with others, Toliver explained the difficulties he had in learning about the sport when he first began ice fishing.  

On this day, seeing a grandfather and grandson share in the fun, the reward was obvious. The smiles were broad and the moments unforgettable. It was all about fishing, fun, and friends. 

Favorite Techniques 

Toliver says his “go to” presentation for ice fishing is usually a jigging rap, a well-known lure popular with many open water fishermen too. A difference, says Toliver, is that in the winter he prefers to tip the jigging rap with a minnow or a piece of a minnow. 

“It’s my confidence bait. I would say nine times out of 10 the jigging rap will usually catch something,” said Toliver. “If it’s not working, then I’ll go to something else.” 

Toliver admits to experimenting with new presentations. One of his latest is called a clackin’ rig, a variation of a drop shot presentation used primarily by bass fishermen. 

“A good friend of mine showed me this,” said Toliver while examining the clackin’ rig. “I watched a couple of videos and got intrigued right off the bat. It’s a drop shot rig with a little bit of a rattle. You can use live bait or plastics.” 

A clackin’ rig, a variation of a simple dropshot presentation, was used to catch this smallmouth bass. [Photo: Kim Fundingsland/The Dakotan]

Toliver had excellent response using a small minnow. With the use of live scope electronics it was easy to follow the reaction of fish as he dropped the rig on the bottom, lifted it a short distance, and dropped it again. 

“I like watching the fish react to it,” said Toliver while eyeing the screen on his electronics. “The only downside is that sometimes the fish hit the actual rattle part.” 

The electronics also revealed a rock pile that was attractive to smallmouth bass, a fish that is seldom targeted by ice fishermen.  

“They’ll hold here all winter,” explained Toliver. “They’ll act different day to day, just like any other fish. Sometimes they’ll be super lethargic. Sometimes super aggressive. Sometimes you just need to downsize bait.” 

Toliver said that once smallmouth bass are located, one or two out of a hole drilled in the ice is usually about all that can be expected. However, he says, finding biting fish again isn’t too difficult. 

“Smallmouth bass won’t go for, typically 10-15 feet. They are still in the area,” remarked Toliver. 

Al Bulow, left, and Theopolis Toliver, both Minot, are all smiles after doubling up on smallmouth bass during a recent ice fishing trip to Lake Audubon. [Photo: Kim Fundingsland/The Dakotan]

Indeed, having drilled several holes after locating fish, Toliver simply moved from one to another and kept catching smallmouth. 

“I like to be mobile, if the weather allows it and the fish tell me I have to move,” said Toliver. 

As for ice fishing in general, and why do it, Toliver had this to say. 

“If you are obsessed with fishing and want to fish year-round, ice fishing is the way to go. If you are a fair-weather fisherman, I can’t help you with that one,” laughed Toliver. 

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