Augers punch our portals to the world beneath the ice. Thankfully, never before have hardwater warriors had so many fast-slicing, reliable options at our disposal.
It's a welcome change of pace from the old-school machines of misery that extracted a vengeance in pain and sweat for every hole drilled back in the sport's dark ages.
Clam Ice Auger Conversion Kit
StrikeMaster Lazer Synthetic hand auger
H.T. Enterprises PFP-5 Panfish Hand Auger
For example, while I treasure memories of youthful days spent ice fishing with family and friends, I wince when thinking of the torturously dull hand drill we wielded on our adventures.
Today, it's hard to buy a bad auger — which means the prospect of throwing down a string of fresh holes no longer inspires dread.
Better yet, with fuel choices running from gasoline to propane and electricity, plus a number of fine hand-powered units, it's easier than ever to find an auger that perfectly fits your needs, budget, and style of fishing.
Here's a look at a few top picks:
Known for their iconic blue shelters and toasty ice suits, Clam Outdoors is also helping change the way anglers look at augers.
Thanks to the Clam Ice Auger Conversion Kit, you don't need to purchase or haul a heavy powerhead. Just let your 18-volt cordless drill do the work.
The lightweight and extremely portable system converts a run-of-the-mill high-torque, lithium battery-powered drill found in most shops and garages into a hardwater weapon capable of carving 6-inch holes in the icepack with ease.
Introduced a few seasons back, the system has proven itself in the trenches. Testing on a two-foot sheet of ice revealed it could quickly transform 700 inches of ice into slushy shavings on a single charge.
Legendary iceman Dave Genz, who's used the Ice Conversion Kit extensively, says the 14-pound package requires far less effort to lug around the lake than traditional power augers. "At my age, it makes drilling holes a whole lot easier," he says.
Smart features include a tempered stainless bit, anodized aluminum frame, rubber-dipped handles, and an industrial ball bearing that absorbs load from the auger, shielding the drill from life-shortening torque. As a plus, for 2015 Clam engineers tweaked the design so you can use the drill without shucking the chuck.
Comes complete with drill plate bracket, necessary mounting hardware, auger assembly, and handle. A 16-inch extension is available for hard-core drilling in ice more than two feet thick.
For gas fans, Clam also offers the Edge Power Auger. Sporting a stoic and ultra-reliable 2½-horsepower German engine, it features a high-alloy aluminum transmission case, oil-impregnated bushings, and powdered metal gearing. Available with 8- and 10-inch auger bits.
I've put one of the Edge augers through its paces over the past couple of seasons and can attest that it's one fast, efficient, and powerful ally in the never-ending quest to conquer the ice.
Eskimo augers have earned a reputation for cutting power, speed, and durability. The tradition continues this season with a variety of hand-, gasoline-, and propane-powered options.
For example, propane augers are gaining ground thanks to low emissions and ease of use. Eskimo's HC40 high-compression, 4-cycle propane model is designed to further raise the bar by taking full advantage of the propane's higher octane rating, utilizing a higher compression ratio to squeeze more power and mileage out of a smaller package.
Features include an Auto Prime Fuel System, Quantum auger blades, foam handle grip, and all-ball-bearing transmission. Comes in 8- and 10-inch options.
H.T. Enterprises offers a variety of affordable hand drills. Designed for run-and-gun panfish specialists, the 5-inch, PFP-5 Panfish Hand Auger in its Polar Fire family retails for under 60 bucks and is admirably lightweight and fast cutting.
Features include an offset, double-grip adjustable handle and razor-sharp, heat-hardened chromium blades with fine curves for smooth yet aggressive cuts.
ION unleashed an 8-inch electric drill on the northland back in 2012, and followed up shortly thereafter with a 6-inch option well suited to panfish fans.
Weighing just 22 pounds, the downsized version is fueled by a 40V MAX lithium-ion battery the company promises can punch more than 72 holes through two feet of ice on a single charge.
Other features include a brushless electric motor; high-efficiency, planetary gear transmission; 34-inch steel auger, sold with 12-inch extension; aluminum yoke; and Straight Through blades that resist catching at breakthrough, putting an end to jarring jerks and stops.
The 8-inch Ion offers similar amenities and drills 40 holes per charge. It is sold in two versions, one of which offers a reverse switch for simplified hole flushing.
Ever an industry stalwart, Jiffy continues producing standout augers in a variety of configurations.
To create the gasoline-powered 4G Lite, the company put its standard four-cycle phenom on a weight-loss program and trimmed the heft by 18 percent.
Despite the reduced poundage, it retains solid features such as a commercial-grade 4-stroke OHV 38cc engine, High Torque Transmission and XT drill assembly with Ripper blade and D-Ice'r Armor. Runs on straight gas, eliminating the need to mix oil. Available with 6- or 8-inch drill assemblies.
Propane proponents will appreciate Jiffy's Pro4 Lite, which runs on bottled fuel. The quiet, dependable drill also offers a 4-stroke, 38cc OHV commercial engine, without the risk of flooding inherent with gasoline bloodlines.
Like its gas-powered kin, Jiffy's Pro II Lectric is a powerhouse. Features include a high-output electric motor, heavy-duty wiring, and steel-geared, High Torque Transmission that nurtures the transfer of energy to squeeze more holes from less battery power.
Speaking of the battery, it isn't hidden under the trademark yellow cowling. You'll need to tap an external 12-volt power source such as an ATV or automotive battery with the 8-foot cable supplied with the drill. Look for 6- and 8-inch models, both sold with an XT Drill Assembly and Ripper Blade.
The K-Drill is another option for converting your hand-held electric drill into a lightweight powerhead.
Weighing just 10 pounds, it can be paired with a variety of 18-volt drills, but the company recommends Milwaukee's M18 — which comes with two battery packs, each capable of drilling 20 holes through 24 inches of ice.
K-Drills feature high-carbon steel chipper blades that excel at re-drilling old holes; a unique centering pin that reduces blade jump; and composite flutes that won't throw ice all over the inside of a fish house. Available in 6- and 8-inch options.
Nils Master's quick-cutting lineup includes a variety of hand and power drills from 4.5- up to the newest 10-inch sizes. Power options include 270 or 350 Tanaka engines, plus all models convert to hand augers should you want to flex your muscles.
Nils' helmsman JP Raatikainen also reports the company will offer a new Icegator 42 electric option for the 2015-'16 winter season. "We joined forces to offer an electric option using our auger shaft and Icegator's made-in-the-USA motor," he explains.
For its part, Icegator offers 12-, 24- and 42-volt electric powerheads that work with various gas and hand augers, including Nils, Eskimo, and Mora.
It also added a 9½-inch auger assembly, which features a removable flight system so you can add fluting as the ice gets deeper. A special cutter head also reduces arm-wrenching breakthroughs at the bottom of the ice.
Pair the new auger with Icegator's 42-Volt Annihilator head, and the company says you can bore 80 holes through 36 inches of ice on a single lithium-ion battery charge.
On the lead-acid front, the Attacker II runs on a sealed and insulated 24-volt battery pack. It offers both forward and reverse locomotion — the latter being handy for sloughing slush beneath the ice. Spinning at 360 rpms, it cuts more than 30 holes through 28 inches of ice on a single charge.
StrikeMaster is no stranger to the auger scene, and offers a full lineup of hand-, electric-, and gas-powered machines.
When manual drilling gets the nod, the Lazer Synthetic Ultra-Lite hand auger is a lightweight yet hard-hitting option. Built with a durable synthetic auger flight and blade carriage armed with Mora chrome-alloy stainless Lazer blades, it's ready for battle yet light enough to fuel marathon marches and drill sessions.
Other nice touches include cushioned, ergonomic handles with adjustable height settings, plus handy two-piece construction. Look for 4- and 6-inch sizes.
In StrikeMaster's power auger collection, the Lazer Lite 6-inch model tips the scale at a mere 21 pounds, making it the perfect lightweight companion. Powered by a 2-stroke, 32cc Solo engine that cranks out 1.5 horsepower, it sports twin stainless steel Mora Lazer blades.
When brute force is required, StrikeMaster's Chipper Magnum is a solid choice. Its 42cc, 2.5-horsepower Solo powerhead and boron steel chipper blade make short work of thick ice and refrozen holes.
Both the Lazer Lite and Chipper Magnum feature a polymer gear casting, Vandar high-impact handles, and an American-made, 40:1 transmission stoked with heat-treated steel gears.
Collectively, this crop of new age augers allows us to slice the ice more quickly and easily than ever, fueling more efficient fishing that in turn boosts our odds of success into the stratosphere.