Ice Auger Buyer's Guide at Cabela's

Ice Auger Buyer's Guide

Author: Frank Ross

I recall my first exposure to ice-fishing. My brother-in-law is a Minnesotan who believes in doing things in the truest traditions of the northland – hand-drilled holes and sitting on an overturned bucket. It didn’t take me long to see why better options were developed.

Punching a hole through 3 feet of ice takes a lot of upper body strength, and that’s just one hole. If you intend to do it numerous times a day, you better do some toning up before the season arrives. With apologies to my stouter kin, I prefer the "newer traditions" of a power auger and a heated shelter.

With winter coming up quickly, and many anglers considering upgrading their gear, an ice auger is high on most lists. The name Dave Genz is renowned in ice fishing circles, so I called him to see what advice he might have for both rookies and vets of the hard-water drilling game.

Genz spends the winter traveling all over the northern tier states competing in ice-fishing tournaments, and he has probably drilled more holes in the ice than any other human being on the planet. Back in the ’70s he drilled holes for a tournament to earn extra money. He drilled 400 holes in one day, at 25 cents per hole. "That was hard-earned money," he said.

Bit size is the first thing we discussed, because he feels that anglers overestimate their needs and wear themselves out unnecessarily. "I wish I knew of a spot where I could catch fish that wouldn’t come through an 8-inch hole. Guys that fish with tip-ups like big holes, but the average angler doesn’t need a 10-inch hole," he said.

Since the size of the hole has a direct correlation to the amount of torque required to drill it, anglers taking the manual route will want to be judicious in their desire to open a large hole. While torque isn’t an issue with power augers, you still have to carry it around, and the added size increases weight.

Also, the style of ice-fishing you do will have a bearing on auger selection. Genz notes that many anglers cut one or two holes and sit on them until they refreeze. "I use a run-and-gun style of fishing. If the hole is freezing over it’s because I’ve been there too long without bringing a fish up through the hole. With today’s modern electronics, it’s easy to find that spot on a spot. You simply cut a hole, check it with your Vexlar® and drop a line. If a fish doesn’t show up in five or six minutes, I’m looking," Genz said.

Hand Auger Hand augers
Hand augers are economical, cleaner and quieter, depending on the amount of huffing and puffing you do; however, many anglers prefer this simple approach. Hand augers are lighter to carry, don’t need gas or oil, produce less vibration and noise while cutting – and they always start on the first pull. Another advantage to hand augers is body heat. If you get cold and the fish aren’t biting, just move to another location and drill a few more holes. You’ll warm up quickly. The most common size for hand augers is the 6-inch blade, but they are available in 4-inch and 8-inch models. When selecting a hand auger, consider the average depth of ice in your area. The combination of ice depth and hole size will have a significant impact on the number of holes you’ll be willing to drill.

Power Ice Auger Power augers
Power augers come in a variety of sizes and features. Due to recent innovations in design, the dividing line separating the two major types is drawn in oil. Since the introduction of the first power auger, two-cycle motors have been the mainstay. They do a yeoman’s job of drilling but have some drawbacks, not the least of which is oil residue that collects on the muffler and usually finds its way onto clothing and other gear. Now anglers have the option of four-cycle motors. With four-cycle motors you don’t have to mix your gas and oil, they burn cleaner, start easier and run smoother. The other differentiating feature of four-cycle augers is price. These units cost a little more than two-cycle augers, so you’ll have to weigh the advantages against your ice-fishing budget, balanced with the number of times you will use it each year.

The third option for power augers is electric. These units are environmentally friendly, produce no fumes and are very quiet. An onboard rechargeable battery provides the power, but an auxiliary 12-volt battery can be used to extend your drilling time. This unit has similar speed and power with a 40 to 1 gear ratio. Choose from three bit sizes of 5-, 6- and 7-inches. Drilling depth is also similar, with a 42" length.

Reduced weight is another advantage with newer models that feature improved bit designs, combined with four-cycle motors. These models weigh as little as 20 pounds, and compared with older models that tipped the scales at 35 pounds, that’s a major improvement toward reducing shoulder and arm fatigue.

Replacement Blades Blades
Blades haven’t changed much over the years. Bits come with a single blade, two blades and four blades for the ultimate in cutting speed. Serrated blades are the latest improvement. You’ll find augers with only serrated blades, or with a combination of standard and serrated. Serrated blades seem to cut better because they gnaw away at smaller sections like teeth, breaking up the surface more easily. One blade feature that is worth looking at is the pivot-tip or power-point center blade. This type of tip bites into the surface and prevents the blade from wobbling around on the ice, so you start a hole faster and avoid the fatigue of fighting the wobble.

Auger Hauler Accessories
Regardless of which type or size auger you choose, a few accessories are all but mandatory. Most important is a blade cover. Ice augers have very sharp blades that tend to cut anything they come into contact with. That includes the interior of your vehicle and gear that may accidentally touch them while transporting your auger during the day’s fishing. An auger hauler is another very useful piece of gear. It makes it easier to haul an auger, has a storage compartment for tools and spark plugs, protects anything that might come into contact with the motor or blade, and it keeps your auger from getting scratched or damaged during transport.

When you fire up an auger, whether it’s a hand or powered auger, good footing is a must. A good pair of ice cleats will keep your feet firmly planted throughout the day. Traditional spikes are effective, but check out the latest Coil Ice Cleats. They won’t damage the interior of your vehicle, so if you forget to take them off it’s not a big problem – and they bite the ice like a polar bear on a seal.

Click this link to review all ice-fishing accessories and related gear.