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Pull it...Twist it...

by: Mitch Bradshaw 11/8/2013
Augers, for ice fishing, have come a long ways in the last several years. Power augers are getting more and more lightweight, while still improving their power. Hand augers are becoming more efficient and faster at punching holes. Having an auger that doesn’t weigh or slow you down and allows you to drill many holes in a short period of time can often be the difference between a good and bad day on the ice. Mobility is a key factor in ice fishing nowadays, so hardwater anglers want an auger that is lightweight, but yet still effective and can get the job done. With early ice approaching for most anglers, I will be touching on the benefits of having a hand auger in your arsenal.

Hand augers play an important role during early and late ice outings. Having a hand auger that can cut through the ice fast gives you the ability to punch a series of holes – making it easier to stay on top of those roaming fish. The Strikemaster Mora hand auger has been cutting holes since 1946 and this auger hits the target where price intersects quality, yielding value no other entry level hand-auger can deliver. Another hand auger model that Strikemaster offers is their Lazer line – which has chrome-alloy stainless steel Lazer blades that cut through the ice like butter. Hand augers are often over looked and viewed as unnecessary when, I believe, they should be a part of every icefisherman’s arsenal. Hand augers can have several roles at early ice. First off, they are much lighter than power augers. Taking a minimalist approach and keeping your equipment lightweight is the name of the game at early and late ice. When moving around from spot to spot, you don’t want a heavy load, and a hand auger is very portable and easy to transport in almost all situations. Secondly, a lot of people like to carry a spud bar with them on the ice, which are often heavy and awkward; a hand auger can give you that same peace of mind as you walk out from the shoreline without the need for additional clunky and hard to carry equipment. Thirdly, hand augers can cut through ice relatively quick so when you’re out on ice around 4-7 inches, drilling holes with a hand auger will be a walk in the park. On ice of that thickness, hand augers will compete with power augers – in terms of speed. Another benefit of hand augers is that they don’t have any mechanical parts and they don’t require much maintenance at all. The key is to be mindful of the blades, if they are dull, chipped, or bent it will take more effort to drill a hole. You can easily replace the blades every 2-3 years or hand sharpen them with a tool. Even during mid-winter ice fishing trips, I will bring my hand auger, as a backup, in case my power auger won’t start, cord breaks, parts fail, etc. Lastly, using a hand auger makes covering water and “hole hopping” much easier. You can carry the lightweight hand auger in one hand while having a rod and flasher in the other with ease. Hole hopping is often overlooked but it can make an outing on the ice a much more productive one.

Choosing the size hole that you want to fish out of can also have weight on what auger will work the best for you. Nowadays, most hand auger manufacturers have options available from 4-inches all way up to 8-inches. Keep in mind the smaller diameter of the hole, the easier it is to drill. Also, auger bits with a smaller diameter will weigh a pound or two less than the larger diameter bits. For example, the 6-inch Mora auger weighs 6 pounds whereas the 8-inch Mora weighs 8 pounds. Most panfishermen prefer to fish smaller holes and lake trout fishermen might prefer a larger hole so they can land the bigger fish easier. There are some days when a 4 or 6-inch hole is ideal when chasing trout, crappies, or bluegills during early ice, but then when you decide to go after walleyes, pike, or lake trout you might want to upgrade to an 8-inch hole. The ability to change the size of the hole without losing performance is very important.

There are several options for hand augers available to us today. The companies that manufacture hand augers include HT Enterprises, Eskimo, Nils, Normark/Finbore, and Strikemaster. Whichever you choose, you want to make sure that you pick an auger that will fit your needs. Don’t worry, there’s a hand auger out there designed for you.

Thanks to a hand auger, I was able to get up into the high country this year on October 27th for my first ice fishing trip of the year – couldn’t have done that with a power auger! You can watch that here! Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at MWBradshaw2@gmail.com.

Blog content © Mitch Bradshaw
Member comments
boogieman, CO   11/8/2013 9:50:13 AM
I love my Nils 6in. Super easy to use, just turn no downward pressure. Much nicer for thinner ice, but it didn’t keep me form fishing north park in the heart of the season. with sharp blades i can get through 20 inches of ice in under a minute, with little effort. Steep price tag unfortunately. I am not a sales rep, just really stoked on my hand auger. I used other hand augers first (mora, barracuda), and there is NO comparison to the ease of cutting. Only down side is when you hook a fish that wont fit through a 6 inch hole!
 
Coyute, CO   11/8/2013 11:14:14 AM
Thanks for the info. From what I've read, a REAL jiggerman would scoff at the notion of using a powered auger. :)
 
brookieflyfisher, CO   11/8/2013 11:27:18 AM
I disagree with the bit about spud bars. A spud is a must-have safety item, just like pfds, spikes, and cleats. To suggest that someone not carry one seems, to me, unwise. Not just a safety item, spud bars are useful for enlarging holes, clearing old holes, etc. The frabill spud I bought was $12 well spent.
 
Mitch Bradshaw (MNBassFisher), CO   11/8/2013 12:22:28 PM
I'm not saying Spud Bars aren't useful or a good item of safety. Sorry to give off that notion, but when I'm hiking 2 miles up a steep trail to a high mountain lake with a heavy pack on which includes a hand auger. You won't see me throwing/attaching a 2-5 ft piece of heavy and awkward metal onto my pack. Throw a few boulders on the ice, walk out a few feet, punch a hole (veryyy easy with a hand auger on less than 6" of ice), measure the ice, and continue doing that all the way out and measure the consistency of the ice thickness. If I can drive right to a lake or am pulling a sled, I'll throw a spud bar in there everytime, but for me early ice trips are usually off the "beaten trail" so convenience and lightweight are needed.
 
reconfisher, CO   11/8/2013 8:05:58 PM
The ole neanderthal rock throw..ahaha. I agree with Mitch on that, use what nature is providing when packing light! I have done it several times.
 
Mitch Bradshaw (MNBassFisher), CO   11/8/2013 10:28:41 PM
Hahah Neanderthal Rock Throw...thats good. That's exactly what I looked like!
 
opencage, CO   11/10/2013 6:10:22 PM
Lots of good info here, thanks Mitch. And congrats on getting out on the ice in October, you are a true icer sir.
 
Pimpin' Trout, CO   11/25/2013 1:35:35 AM
I couldn't agree more with this blog. Hand Augers play a vital role in an ice fisherman's arsenal. I own 3 hand augers, 1 for a back up, one for going out light, and one as a back up to the others. GREAT POST!!!
 
Mitch Bradshaw (MNBassFisher), CO   11/25/2013 9:12:50 AM
Thanks Pimpin'! I was out on the ice yesterday, my buddies didn't have hand augers so they brought their 10 inch Jiffy power augers. We moved spots to target deeper water and found ourselves fishing on 3" of ice. It's safe to say we only brought my hand auger out when we saw that.
 
Mitch Bradshaw
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