Thursday, November 17, 2022

Auger Review: Which is best for Your Situation?

The world of ice fishing has changed so much in the past twenty years that some do not even recognize the sport anymore. Gone are the days of a couple of poles, a handful of jigs, a five-gallon bucket and a hand auger. Today’s ice angler has as much or more than anglers fishing from a boat. Multiple poles are rigged up, rod lockers, electronics and power augers are standard to most anglers on the ice. The one standard piece of equipment, without it ice fishing would cease to exist, the ice auger has changed the most over the past couple of decades, and has left today's ice anglers with many choices to fit their style of fishing.
You could say the ice auger is the most important tool of ice angling, however most anglers do not give much attention to them. Obviously, everyone needs one to get the day started, but which one is right for you? Perhaps you own several of them and use them for different reasons. To say there is one perfect answer for what you should spend your money on would not be just. Let’s dive into the topic and look at the pros and cons of each type of auger; hand auger, gas auger, propane auger and battery power, and drill augers.

Hand Auger: The only benefit to a hand auger is the price. Many companies make a hand auger version, which is exactly that, you use your hands to operate the auger to drill the holes. It is great to start out with, and if you don’t move a lot while ice fishing you may not need anything else. If you are dredging yourself and gear out on the ice in the middle of winter, you are probably more than capable of drilling a hole in the ice with a hand auger. However, the amount of energy and time it takes throughout a long day of fishing can and will wear you down. This is the biggest deterrent for anyone using a hand auger. They take too much time, and ice shouldn’t be a workout!

Gas Auger: The gas-powered auger really changed the game of ice fishing about twenty years ago when more and more showed up during the winter. More and more people started using gas augers, which at the time was the next evolution of augers on the ice. There are still gas-powered augers out there, you can hear a few fire up across the lake on any given day. They offer anglers a chance to drill dozens and dozens of holes on the lakes and rivers they fish each day. The overall weight of a gas auger was overlooked because of the cutting power it possessed. Cutting through two feet of ice is never a problem with these powerful augers, a huge benefit to these machines. Leaking gas lines and gas tanks seem to be a common theme when dealing with gas powered augers, as well as always having the oil and gas mixed ahead of time. Another downfall of the gas-powered auger is the weight of the machine. If you are pulling your gear out on the lake and have a long walk, you may think twice about buying a gas-powered auger in today’s world. If you have a small vehicle to pull your ice fishing items such as a snowmachine or four-wheeler, then it really doesn’t make any difference. Gas spilling and leaking onto ice shacks and clothing are also another reason anglers have looked to other methods of drilling holes in the ice.

Propane Auger: In the early 2010s the gas-powered auger got some competition. Jiffy and Eskimo came out with a propane powered auger that uses the small 1-pound propane cylinders. These augers have plenty of power without the mess of gasoline and are a popular substitute for gas engines on the ice today. Lakes in the lower half of Iowa rarely see/hear a gas or propane auger due to the lack of ice that grows beyond 18 inches. However, in the northern half of the state where the ice will be nearly two feet thick for a month or more, these augers shine. These augers excel when the ice is thick, and a 1-pound cylinder will have your drilling holes all day long. The downfall, like the gas-powered augers, is the weight. You do not want to be lugging either of these power augers too far on the ice unless you have a machine to haul them in. In my mind the propane augers are much better than the gas options simply because they are clean, and you do not have to worry about gas or anything leaking. These types of augers are a great option when the ice grows thick.

Electric Augers: Several years ago, another version of the ice auger was brought to the market, the electric auger. Again, technology has made everything in our lives easier and this is just another example of that. An electric auger uses a lithium battery to power a motor to turn the auger blade just as in the gas or propane auger. They look very similar, but the electric augers will weigh quite a bit less. This makes it easier to tote around by hand and hop from hole to hole drilling out a section of ice to look for your favorite fish. Lithium batteries are not cheap, nor are the specialized chargers to recharge the battery, so the price on these augers is really the only “con” there is. They are a great cutting tool for the angler that walks on out on the ice or has a machine to pull your gear. These augers have gotten more and more popular the past few years, especially in the northern part of the state where the ice reaches over 18 inches for a large part of the ice fishing season.

Drill Augers: Last, but certainly not least, actually quite the opposite as these are the most popular auger in the state of Iowa currently. The drill auger has literally taken over as the number one choice of augers on the ice. Most families have a nice drill, yes the same drill you would use to drill a hole to hang a picture in your house, which makes this the most affordable “power auger” you can buy. If you already have a drill powered by lithium batteries then you only need to buy the actual auger part. There are many companies that sell their best version of this ice auger and all vary a little bit. By using your drill, you simply attach the auger to your drill like a drill bit. You tighten it on and suddenly you have an ice cutting machine! These are by far the lightest version of any power ice auger you can buy. If you do not own a 1/2inch, 18volt drill, then this may not be the best buy for you, as you could buy the before mentioned electric auger for about the same money as a new drill, batteries and auger combo. Prices vary from company to company and store to store so that is something to consider when buying. There are a couple of downfalls with this auger; you do need to use common sense when operating them. You cannot leave your drill on the wet ice, or in the snow, and you also need to pay attention to the drill so you are not overworking the motor and burning it up. Another downfall with the drill augers is the number of batteries you may need. If you drill less than 50 holes per day in a foot of ice, this auger is ideal, however if you are drilling 50 holes in 2-feet of ice, you are going to need a lot of batteries. Overall, there is a reason that most ice anglers use this method of drilling holes in the ice; simple, low cost and lightweight is hard to beat.

Another consideration: If you are looking into purchasing an ice auger for the upcoming season there is one more thing that you must look for. No matter what auger you chose, many models will come with a metal auger or plastic/composite auger. This will affect the overall cost of the product and the overall weight as well. If you are traveling on the ice with a machine it really doesn’t matter, however, if you pull your gear on the ice, you will want an auger with a plastic or composite auger. The actual operation of the auger is no different, but the weight and ability to move around the ice quicker and more efficiently is a night and day comparison.

The season is upon us, do everyone in your fishing party a favor by sharpening those blades. This will make your work easier and keep your equipment running for many years. Be careful out there, always travel in a group, have a rope, flotation device and ice picks ready, and I hope you never have to use them!

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