Fishrapper Fishing Articles Section: Auger Wars? Nope, Just Drilling For Answers! Jeff Sundin

Ice Auger Update Feb. 16, 2017 Original Article Auger Wars

It’s been a while since I updated the Auger Wars story and since there have been a few new developments lately, I think this is a good time to do it.
In the original article, I compared several makes and models in an effort to pick out the one auger that was best suited for my needs. If you missed the original article, you can get up to speed by clicking this link to “Auger Wars? Nope, Just Drilling For Answers”.
My choice, the Nils is still punching holes and has served me very well for nearly 3 years. Admittedly, using the Nils auger makes me a member of a cult, a small group of fishermen who believe in spending the extra cash for a machine that won’t let you down. But the truth is, I can honestly say that my decision to spend the extra money for it was a good one.
Nearing the end of the 3rd season, I am just now sending the original 6 inch blade in to the shop for its first sharpening. That’s right, the blade has been punching holes steadily for 2-1/2 years and finally became dull enough to concern me. My decision to buy a spare blade at the time of my original purchase wasn’t a bad idea either, now I can use that one while I wait for the original to come back in the mail.
While the development of gas augers appears to have stalled out for a while. There have been some major improvements in portable electric augers and I’ve used enough of them now to form what I believe is a fair and honest opinion.
I can definitely say that every electric auger I’ve used will serve the purpose of drilling a hole. They are all quiet, they are all light weight and all of them are convenient; but they are not equal.
My first in-depth experience with an electric auger was last winter when a friend showed up at the lake with a K-Drill. Drilling holes with that auger was fun, the blades were sharp and it cut fast.  I was amazed by how much ice we covered and how quickly we did it.
If you’ve already got a ½ inch drill in your garage, then this $200 unit will do everything you need under most circumstances.

image of nils master replacement blade
Nearing the end of the 3rd season, I am just now sending the original 6 inch blade in to the shop for its first sharpening.

image of k-drill auger
Drilling holes with the K-Drill auger was fun, the blades were sharp and it cut fast.  I was amazed by how much ice we covered and how quickly we did it.

Conversely, my experience with the ION auger was not as good. Yes, it does drill a hole, but from my point of view, it was much slower, I could drill 3 holes with my auger before the ION punched through the first one. Now maybe the owner hadn’t kept the blades sharp, and maybe some units are better than others. But I don’t see how I could ever be happy using the one that we had in our hands; it just wouldn’t work for me.
Another important comparison is the cost of batteries. No matter which electric you use, you’re going to need a couple of spare batteries. I did a search on Amazon where you can go with the ION Battery at $140.00 each, or you could choose a De Walt 18 Volt battery for $50.00, maybe less.
I don’t know how much easier a choice could be. In my mind, the K-Drill gets the nod over the ION any day of the week.
By the way, the K-Drill isn’t the only game in town. There are other units that allow you to convert your ½ inch cordless drill into an ice auger. In my case, Nils has me covered again; their $45 conversion will allow me to convert my auger into an electric whenever I need it.

Ice Auger Update Feb. 12, 2015 - If you followed the original article, "Auger Wars" (see below) about my search for an ice auger; one that I could rely as the perfect tool for my style of fishing, then you remember that I promised an update. So after a couple of month on the ice, living with my own decision, here's a look at how the facts "Drill Down".

One other auger that caught my attention this winter is Jiffy’s 4G, model 41. It’s a 4-stroke engine that runs on plain, un-mixed gas and it seems to be better at shrugging off cold weather than the LP Gas 4 stroke.
If you’re one of those fanatic drillers who can’t fish without 100 holes, you’re gonna get a workout because at 33 pounds with the smallest drill available, it’s a beast to lug around. If the heavy weight isn’t a factor, then I think you will like the way this auger feels in your hands. After a couple of months in action, the one that I’ve been watching has held up very well.
Re-visiting my own decision about buying the Nils auger and Tanaka Power Head this year, I have to say that I’m pretty proud of myself.
The Tanaka engine is living up to their reputation about being a little bit cold blooded and I frequently need to give 4 or 5 pulls to start it. But it ALWAYS starts and when it does, it cuts through the ice like it’s drilling into warmed butter.
Austin Jones turned me onto a product that helps with the cold starts. A pre-mixed, 50-1, 92 octane gasoline product; it comes packaged in a 32 ounce steel can.
At first glance, it may seem a little expensive, but couple the improved performance with the super convenience of the small, reliable container and I think this is really a winning idea. Beyond that, even drilling as many holes as I do, I’m only going to consume a couple of cans for the entire winter. So overall, cost is of little concern.
At the moment, the only place that I know I can get some is from the Titan Machinery Store in Crookston, MN. Luckily, I have a special courier that run some over when the supply starts getting low. This by the way doesn’t happen very often with the Tanaka.
If you followed my original comments, then you know that I decided to start with the 6 inch drill size. In spite of the fact that I have not lost a single fish because of the smaller hole, I can still see an 8 inch drill in my future. The small drill is wonderful for walking, at 19 pounds, I’m pretty sure that this is the lightest weight power auger out there. But I wish that I’d picked up an additional 8 inch drill for when the ice get thick and driving becomes the primary mode of transportation.
When it’s cold outside, the small holes freeze in faster, forcing me to re-open them or drill new ones. There are times too that I’d appreciate a little more room to work, like when I want to use a camera, or need to get fresh water out of the hole.
I mentioned that I’d bought an extra bit, just in case I needed to send my out for sharpening. I’m not sure if that was a smart decision or not, I’ll let you know if the original one ever needs sharpening. So far, it performs as well as it did on the first hole I drilled back in December.
On the electric auger front, I've been getting second hand reports about the Ice Gator augers. Since I've not seen one, let alone drill a hole with one, I'll reserve comment for later. All that I can say is that I have a friend who's been raving about his and if he remains this happy about it, I'll be forced to take a closer look.

image of a can of True Fuel A pre-mixed, 50-1, 92 octane gas product; TruFuel comes packaged in a 16 ounce steel can.

image of Jiffy 4G Model 41
An auger that caught my attention this winter is Jiffy’s 4G, model 41. It’s a 4-stroke engine that runs on plain, un-mixed gas and it seems to be better at shrugging off cold weather than the LP Gas 4 stroke.

image of Lindy Rally Fish Crankbait

Auger Wars? NOPE! Just Drilling For Answers
Jeff Sundin answers ice auger questions from reader.

Dave Peterson wrote; Hey Jeff, I'm looking for your opinion on buying a new ice auger. I'm 67, in pretty good shape, spear 60-70 % of my winter fishing and I'm due for a good new ice auger. Gas vs Battery? 8" vs 10"? Good model and brand of each?
A) Well Dave, you are not the only one asking this question. In fact, I'm trying to make the same decision for myself right now and after already shelling out some hard earned cash on augers that have disappointed me; I'm trying to get it right this time too.
Tackling this one is tricky because I hate to denigrate a product by citing examples from sampling polls that are too small to provide solid scientific information.
But based solely on my own observations, ice augers on the market today are becoming generally less dependable, not more.
I can't see that it matters if they happen to be Red, Green, Yellow or Blue. Either I or somebody that I know has had one of them. The problem is that sooner or later, too many of them have been disappointed by their latest and greatest auger.
It happened to me last year when I picked up a shiny Red 4-Stroke. At first, the new auger appeared to be the ideal machine. It was quiet, easy starting and absolutely smoke-free. It drilled holes fast too and for a while, all of my friends we're loving it, even one of them who’s loyalty lies with a different brand.
The honeymoon was short lived because before winter's end, it failed me twice; just when I needed it the most!
The first time, it conked out half way through drilling a hole in the morning of a video production. The second time was worse, on a trip to Devils Lake it failed to start, ever. That sweet cutting, light weight auger left me stranded there for almost a week. I spent my entire trip without ever producing a single hole with that auger. Luckily, I had friends who were having better luck with their augers (at the time) and they helped by lending me their machines.
I'll admit that we are a demanding bunch, hard core anglers who ask the machines to perform well, even in rugged conditions. But that said, I still think that we should be able to expect at least one season of relatively trouble free operation from ANY new auger.
From what I've seen, it's clambering to rush new products into a store that causes most of the trouble. Field testing, if it exists at all, is minimal and in many cases it's you, the end user who winds up working the bugs out.

Luckily, every manufacturer has some tried and true models, machines that have been around for a while and have a proven track record. I believe that there are plenty of good ones out there and you'll have the opportunity to make some good choices. So the real effort lays in "Drilling Down" the list of options.
Consider this, you and I have different fishing styles. You mention up to 70% of your time is spent spearing. That means that you'll need to use it inside of a shelter and perhaps an LP Gas or electric model will serve best your needs.
For me, the auger will be asked to perform almost entirely outside where a 2 stroke would be fine. In other words, if you bump into me on the lake, don't be surprised if I suggest one auger for you and wind up with a different one for myself.
First, the easy part of your question; how big should the holes be, 8 or 10 inches?
For me, an auger with a 10 inch bit is way too much tool for the job that I need to do. Spending most of my ice fishing time searching for Panfish, I'm happier with a smaller, lighter weight machine that drills a 6 or maybe even a 4-1/2 inch hole.
While I'm exploring territory, I do a lot of walking; I'm carrying the auger, so the extra weight of the larger drill is a concern. So are those gigantic holes; I have run into enough ice holes to know that the smaller they are, the less chance I have of getting hurt. If you've ever stepped into one, then you know what I mean, if you haven't, then you're luckier than I am.
So unless I was spending lots of time fishing for Lake Trout in Canada, or monster Pike on Lake of the Woods, a 10 inch hole will never be needed. Besides, it is a lot easy to drill a smaller hole; that's why for fishing Panfish, I'm setting myself up this year with a 6 inch bit instead of the conventional 8 inch.
While I am the world's foremost authority on my own experiences, trying to become a "hands on" expert about all of the choices would take me longer than you want to wait before taking your decision.
Hand testing all of the models and brands is a job too big for me to complete myself. Instead, I can offer some educated guesses, advice that's intended to give you some solid ideas.
Because I like things that work, the first consideration is Reliability. If we could assume that the reliability of every make and model of ice auger is equal, then comparing the features and price is all we'd need to do.
The problem is that they're not equal and for me, the reliability of any ice auger is its number one feature. So somehow, we have to come up with a way of factoring this in to the decision.
Getting an objective answer about reliability isn't always that easy because these days there are so many new products on the market, many of them don't have a "track record".
For that reason, bear in mind that assessments about reliability are really subjective. I'm factoring in anecdotal evidence from trustworthy friends, consumer ratings compiled by retailers and of course, my own personal experience. I've tried to avoid the pitfalls associated with brand loyalty and creative marketing.
I am doing my best! But rest assured there will be folks standing in line to counter my conclusions and offer you the complete opposite advice of mine; so with that caveat, here we go.
Back to Dave and his original comment "I spear 60-70% of my winter fishing". To me, that means that most of the time you are either inside or at least have access to a warm shelter.
Electric Auger Motors have a bright future in ice fishing and continue to get better all of the time. Like the LP Models though, severe cold works against them.
The Ion® 40V Electric Auger is not the only electric on the market, but at the moment, it is leading the way as the industry standard.
I have not had any hands on experience with this unit but I do have friends with experience using them. In fact, I was only minutes away from buying this unit last winter, before I got talked out of it.
People I know tell me that the performance and convenience of these units ranks high and they are generally very well liked. I've seen live demonstrations and under controlled circustances these augers are very impressive.
Experts argue over how many holes you can drill before charging the Lithium battery and that became the rub for me. Everybody agrees that if you don't want to be stranded, so just to be sure you have a backup plan, you do have to carry a spare battery. Besides having the spare battery on hand, you'll have to keep it warm to be sure that it delivers it's full charge when you need it.
The Ion weighs in at 22 lbs. which is really very nice for walking around on the ice as you explore. For some ice fishermen, this will be good option, especially for those who love hoofing it to the early ice fishing spots or need an auger to re-open existing holes in a permanent shelter.
At $529, it's getting close to the high end of the price range and if you fish during extreme conditions, shelling out an extra $149 for a spare battery could put this one over the top. But if you're committed to staying away from gas models, this is a reliable option.
4 Stroke Gas Auger Engines appeared on the scene a few years ago and as I said earlier. I have had firsthand experience with these.
My Honda Powered Strikemaster 4 Stroke Auger, while it was working was wonderful. It started easily, ran quietly without producing any smoke and cut holes in the ice very fast.
The problem is that I can't recommend this unit. Mine has failed me twice; the first time, it conked out half way through drilling a hole as we prepared to fish. The second time, it failed to start at all, leaving me stranded on Devils Lake for almost a week. At the time of this writing, it still does not start.
What disappointed me the most was that when I brought it in for service, I was scolded by the technician! He said that in spite of the fact that I'd only owned it a few weeks and no matter that I had produced less than 100 holes with it, I hadn't changed the oil often enough. My first reaction was what, how often are you supposed to change it, every week?
To be fair with Strikemaster, this issue really lies with the manufacturer of the engine, not the auger. I've had other Strikemaster 2 stroke power augers that have provided me with years of reliable service.
Jiffy's LP Pro Lite 4 is a 4 Stroke LP GAS Auger that I've had experience with these and generally have liked. Because there's no smoke, it works especially well inside of a shelter. It is a really attractive choice for Dave, or anybody who can avoid using them when it gets too cold outside.
On warm days, they start reliably and perform very well either inside or outside. But when the conditions get harsh, like when temperatures are subzero or during super low wind chills, these engines do begin to struggle.

image of Eskimo Shark Ice Auger drilling hole
Eskimo's Shark 51.7cc Ice Auger happens to be the auger that kept us going last winter when the others failed. It has features that I really like and I cannot find anyone who has complained about reliability.

image of Nils Power auger
The Winner for Sundin - The Nils USA Power Auger has achieved a fantastic reputation among it's cult following. Their fans are intensely loyal and every Nils auger owner that I have talked to raves about them.

image of Strikmaster Lazer Mag on the ice
When the going gets tough, some augers quit going. We found that severe cold temperatures worked against our 4 Stroke models, idling them just when we needed them most. Sundin says; "2 Stroke Gas Auger engines are still the most widely available and because I spend most of my time fishing outside using a portable shelter, the smoke from a 2 stroke isn't a problem for me".
For us, really cold conditions have caused these units to lose power, slowing down the drilling time. Occasionally they will not idle properly and sometimes we've seen them fail to run until we can get them warmed up again. Whenever they do warm back up, they have always worked fine again. So, if you can avoid the coldest days, this one could be for you.
By the way, the chipper style blades found on Jiffy's models are good for re-opening existing holes too and carrying extra 1 pound LP cylinders is convenient. Much more so than carrying spare gasoline or expensive batteries.
At 28 lbs., the 8 inch model is a little heavier than I'd like, especially during early ice when I'm on foot. But some folks swear that the added weight equals extra strength and durability.
2 Stroke Gas Auger engines are still the most widely available and because I spend most of my time fishing outside using a portable shelter, the smoke from a 2 stroke doesn't bother me.
So until I see an alternative that really kicks ... I am going to stick with the proven reliability of the 2 stroke, that's still the best option for the way I fish.
You'll notice that I don't list every single make and model of auger. That's because while I was doing my own research, I already paired the list down to the ones that I believe would best serve my needs. If you don't see your favorite model, it doesn't mean that I didn't look at it. So, here's the way it breaks down for me. Drum Roll Please ...
3rd Runner Up - Strikemaster's Lazer Mag has been around for a long time. In fact, I still have one that I've been using for several years and it's going to continue serving as my backup. It's already been delivered to the shop where they are going to give it a full tune up and re-build the carburetor.
I like the Lazer style blades because they drill holes fast and I like the light weight too. At 25 pounds, this is one of the easier units to carry on the ice. Overall, I've been well satisfied with mine and if you chose one, you wouldn't get any argument out of me.
2nd Runner Up - Jiffy's 4G Lite Ice Auger really got me thinking. On paper, it looks really interesting. At 26 lbs., the weight isn't horrible and Jiffy's 2-2-2 warranty (two-year engine, transmission and STX blades warranty) is really attractive too.
But after the experiences we had with 4 stroke augers last winter, I'm going to wait until I have a chance to see that the bugs are worked out. I have used this one myself and most of the time it was great. Still, there were those days, the really cold ones that we had to fish whether we wanted to or not. Most folks don't fish on days like that and for them, these augers could be ideal. They have a loyal following already and I'm sure that I'll cross paths with a couple of them this winter. When I do, I'm going to pay a lot of attention.
1st Runner Up - Eskimo's Shark 51.7cc Ice Auger happens to be the auger that kept us going on Devils Lake last winter when the others failed. It has features that I really like and I cannot find anyone who has complained about reliability. Most everyone agrees that the Eskimo is a work horse and it's another good choice for any application where weight wasn't a consideration. I could easily have chosen this auger for myself. But at 32 pounds, this one is just too heavy for me. If the added weight isn't a problem for you, then I suggest that you take a close look at this one.
My Winner - The Nils USA Power Auger has achieved a fantastic reputation among it's cult followers. Their fans are intensely loyal and every Nils auger owner that I have talked to raves about them.
Remember the old saying; "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with b......t! Well, Nils haven't spent a ton of money on brilliant marketing campaigns and that's why you may not have learned about them yet. But if grass roots, word of mouth advertising impresses you, then you will eventually become impressed.
At first glance, they appear to be a little clunky; industrial looking. But an auger doesn't have to be pretty, I don't want to marry an ice auger, I just want to drill holes with it. For me, an auger that works when it's supposed to is a lot more than pretty, it's beautiful!
Nils offers interchangeable everything. The power head can be purchased alone or combined with a 4-1/2", 6" or 8" blade. You can remove the power head and replace it with a hand crank to convert your power auger into a hand auger.
For Trout fishermen who visit "non-motorized" waters, or for anglers who like to hoof it to early season spots, that's a nice feature.
By the way, Nils already enjoys a great reputation for hand augers and Nils owners are fiercely loyal about their "power by arm-strong" models too.
Rigged up with the 6" drill, the weight is only 20 pounds and with the 8" drill weighs in at 22 pounds. That makes this one the lightest weight power auger that I can find.
When I order it, I will heed the advice of anglers who have warned me to get an extra set of blades. That's because in the event that I dull mine prematurely, it's unlikely that I'll be able to walk into the bait shop for a quick replacement.
At $619.00, it's definitely going to chew up a big chunk of my ice fishing budget. But if it lives up to its reputation, it's going to be a money saver in the long run.
For the weekend warrior, this one could be a no-brainer because of Nils 7 year, consumer warranty. Seven years is a lot of time to warranty anything and it tells me something about the faith that they have in this auger. Even pros who are usually excluded from warranty get 2 years and that's really attractive to me too.

image of Tom Neustrom ice fishing for Walleye

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