What We Consider When Selecting a Drill Auger
Why use a cordless drill and a convertible auger?
Before battery tech reached its current level of performance, the idea that you could generate enough power to run a beast of a drill, and keep that power coming all day in cold weather, was just a pipe-dream.
You needed internal combustion - gasoline or propane - to meet those demands.
But now, cordless drills and their batteries are more than capable of spinning an 8-inch auger just as well as a gas motor, but without the ear-shattering buzz, the stinking odor, the weight, or the risk of spilling gas or oil.
And unlike gas and propane, electric drills start instantly. Keeping the batteries in good shape is as simple as throwing them in a cooler or insulating bag.
No hassle, no fuss.
And the overall weight of a drill and auger is as light or lighter than the very best - and most expensive - electric augers available.
Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives:
Electric augers - Electric augers are gaining popularity rapidly.
The best of the bunch are powered by large lithium-ion batteries that offer long run times and plenty of torque to chew through the hardest, thickest ice. They don’t give up any power or performance to gasoline or propane, but they typically do cost a bit more.
They also start instantly, run quietly, and don’t produce any dangerous emissions. That makes them ideal for use in a shelter or shanty.
The only downside to electric ice augers is the need to recharge. There’s no instant top-up like with gasoline or propane, and cold can kill the life of cheap batteries.
That’s one reason why quality matters: you need a top-flight electric auger to get the performance you want.
Overall weight tends to be much higher than a drill and auger combo, while performance isn’t. That’s pushing more and more anglers toward the pistol bit option.
Check out our full buying guide on the best electric ice augers
Propane augers - Propane augers are driven by internal combustion engines.
Fueled by a small propane tank that can be easily replaced in seconds, propane augers offer all the benefits of gasoline, but with easier refueling and no dangerous fumes. They can be used indoors, which is great, but they’re even more unreliable in the cold than gasoline - and just as loud.
These drawbacks have led to their virtual disappearance from the market, with only Jiffy and Eskimo still producing a propane auger.
Check out our buying guide for the best propane ice fishing augers
Manual augers - Manual augers are simple and reliable, and they’re easily the lightest option on the ice. They’re also dead quiet and (obviously) fine to use in a shelter or shanty. Finally, they’re also a lot less expensive than any powered option.
But unless you’re super fit, drilling more than a few holes - or running a big hand auger at all - is going to be a real challenge. Most ice fishermen prefer a powered ice auger, and there’s no question that they save time and energy.
That doesn’t make manual augers a bad pick, just a very specific one that reflects trade-offs about weight, portability, ice thickness, and the number of holes to be drilled.
Check out our full buying guide on the best manual ice augers
Gasoline augers - Gas-powered augers are the old standby.
Powerful enough for any ice, they’ve got brawn to spare. And, of course, you can carry as much fuel with you as you want, so you can drill pretty much as many holes as you want.
But they’re heavy, loud, and produce deadly fumes that make them outdoor-only. People die every year because they don’t heed this warning, and if you like the idea of being able to run an auger in a shelter, these are absolutely not an option to consider.
They also can be downright cranky in the cold, leading to frustration and wasted time trying to get them to start.
And spilling gasoline on the ice is a great way to kill fishing in a lake forever.
Check out our buying guide and reviews of the best gas ice auger
Auger diameter and length
Which auger diameter you choose depends on how much weight you’re willing to carry as well as the size of the fish you plan to catch.
As you can see from the videos, powerful drills have no trouble spinning an 8-inch auger through feet of ice, so don’t let that worry you.
For smaller species like panfish, a six-inch hole is fine. For big pike, muskie, and lake trout, you probably need that ten-inch auger. But keep two things in mind. First, the bigger the hole, the easier it is for you to drop something in it. And second, if children will be around, it’s essential to size the holes so they can’t accidentally fall through.
Auger length matters, too.
First, you might need to drill through really thick ice, depending on where you live. So make sure your auger’s long enough for the hard water you’ll be fishing.
Second, the shorter the auger’s overall length, the more bending you need to do. And since convertible augers typically were designed for a long handle above them, ditching that for a short drill means more bending than you might expect.
There’s no question that longer is better with a convertible auger.
Blade quality and type
Nothing about an auger predicts performance as well as its blade design.
- Chipper blades - are serrated, and they excel at cutting dirty, uneven ice. They’re also great for re-opening iced-over holes, but they do create more friction with each turn, working your drill harder and burning more battery power.
- Shaver blades - are sharp, plain edges that take paper-thin slices of ice off on each pass. They’re best for drilling clean, even ice.
Typically, you get longer battery life from shaver blades, but they’ll dull very quickly in sandy or dirty ice, and if you hit a rock, prepare for trouble.
If you fish from a “permanent” ice shelter and will be clearing a lot of frozen holes over the winter, the K-Drill might be the best choice for you. Ditto if you fish rivers where sand and dirt are likely to be an issue.
But if you frequently run 30, 40, or even 50 holes in clean ice, nothing beats the StrikeMaster. It’s faster than anything you’ve ever seen, and it doesn’t give up an ounce of performance to the best electric and gas augers.
Finally, if weight is your biggest concern, Eskimo is the way to go. Their augers are the lightest option on the market, and if you’re tired of toting a heavy auger out on the ice from hole to hole, the Eskimo will put a smile on your face.
We can’t tell you which auger on our shortlist is best for you, but we can guarantee that they all work hard and eat ice like they're starving.
As always, we hope this article has been helpful, and if you have a question or a comment, please leave a message below.