The typical ice fishing excursion used to involved one of two methods for cutting through the ice: A manual auger which worked well as long as the ice was 12 inches or less, or a gas-powered drill which had lots of power but also lots of fumes and maintenance.
The good thing is that ice augers have come a long way, and in addition to electric ice augers, manufacturers are making effective drill bits that you can use with your power drill. That’s right — your Makita, Dewalt, or Milwaukee drill can basically become your ice auger.
The drill bits for ice augers are worth considering, but there are also some pros and cons. Here is our roundup on them.
Pros of Using Ice Drill Bits
The ice auger drill bits that can be used in conjunction with your power drill are:
- Faster than a hand auger.
- Light weight and easy to carry from the vehicle out to the fishing location and back. Extremely portable if you are a walk-on ice-fisherman who wants to keep a light load, and one that you can easily carry on your back or a small sled. Combined with other new gear like a sonar ball to serve as your flasher, you can really lighten the load compared to the olden days when ever piece of ice fishing equipment weighed 20 lbs.
- Less expensive than some of the gas and electric augers dedicated to just drilling in ice
- Low maintenance and usually have blades that can be changed when they start to get dull
- Generally, they have safety plates at the top that will prevent you from dropping your drill or losing the auger in the water below the ice
- Not as noisy as gas powered units, and they do not create harmful carbon monoxide fumes, or the possibility of gas spills that could leak through your hole and spoil your fishing
- Use a device that you already own — your power drill — so you no longer have a bunch of money and storage space tied-up in a special-purpose piece of equipment
The drill bits also have some shortcomings.
Cons of Using Ice Drill Bits
- Smaller in Size. These drill bits are generally smaller in diameter than the dedicated auger bits. The holes they create are smaller and if you want a larger hole you are going to have to drill adjacent holes and break the ice that separates them. Not a problem if you will be catching Perch or Crappies, but it could be a factor if you need to pull in a large Northern or Muskie.
- Easier to Break. They are easier to buckle or break under the pressure of trying to cut through the ice.
- Operate Slower. They are not as fast as the augers designed specifically to cut through ice.
- Less Battery Life. These drills don’t have the same battery life as a dedicated electric ice auger, and won’t cut as much ice as a gas auger can on one tank of gas. Expect anywhere from 6-10 holes per charge, depending on the ice thickness.
- Safety Considerations. They can be more dangerous to use if you aren’t used to them. The dedicated augers are designed with proper safety handles so you hold the handle firmly in one hand and the motorized section in the other hand, with the impact of ice-drilling in mind. This stops the torque from the drill in operation from twisting your wrist or allowing the machine to get away from you. The drill that you keep in your garage more than likely does not have this handle design. You can buy adaptors to fashion a stabilizing handle on your drill, but the adaptor handle will not be as sturdy as the ones on dedicated ice augers.
2 Recommended Ice Drill Bits
To be fair let’s take a closer look at two of the most popular ice drill augers, which happen to be our favorites on the market today. We will give you the good and bad, but both are recommended models.
Eskimo Pistol Bit
Eskimo just might be emerging as our favorite ice fishing brand at the moment. Crafted from a nylon Polymer Flite. This material allows the flite to be more flexible and less likely to be affected by the freezing temperatures or possible impact. This material is also very lightweight so the entire tool is kept lighter and is easier to transport.
The inner stem shaft is aluminum. That keeps weight down, and helps the transfer of power from the drill to the cutting head to be faster.
The bottom of the device is home to steel blades that cut smoothly. The steel blades are replaceable and that increases the durability and life-span of the unit.
The Eskimo comes in a 6-inch or 8-inch model. We recommend the 8-inch because it includes a better centering guide, and an 8-inch hole gives you more room to work with when you have that highly-active fish on the line.
To operate this auger drill you are going to need a ½ inch chuck, high-torque, cordless drill motor. The drill needs to have a side stabilizer arm and must be at least an 18-volt device.
Compatible with a wide range of drill brands.
- This device has an aggressive cutting head that gets a good bite and does not easily skip across the ice surface.
- It is fast and will use very little battery power to create a hole.
- You do not have to worry about spilled gas, or lugging gas along with you.
- Does not create exhaust smoke like dedicated gas augers.
- The centering point makes the auger safer to use and reduces possibility of personal injury.
- The safety plate at the top assures that you are not going to lose your drill or the auger through the hole you are creating.
- If you are not firmly holding the side handle of your drill the unit can spin violently from the ice’s torque, potentially injuring your wrist.
- This unit really needs to be operated with a brushless drill.
StrikeMaster Lazer Drill
This device is designed to be used with the cordless drill that most homeowners already have. It is perfectly proportioned, and honed to cut through the ice quickly with less walking across the top, and less possible danger.
The drill is lightweight so transporting the device is easier. Even though the weight of the item is reduced the strength of the item remains strong and dependable.
You need a drill with a ½” chuck. The drill should be battery powered and it needs to have at least an 18 Volt battery for sufficient power. The drill also needs to have a stabilizing.
- Lightweight and easy to transport
- Cuts fast and may cut a hole through the ice in four times less time than the typical gas auger
- Does not create smoke or gas fume odors insider your shanty
- Eliminates the need to carry fuel that can spill, or add extra weight to your equipment.
- Less noisy than the typical gas-powered machine.
- Low maintenance.
- Replaceable blades.
- Works with the majority of drill brands.
- Can cause injury if you are not holding the stabilizer arm firmly while operating the device – but this is the case with all ice drill bits.
- The blades dull very easily, so sharpen them often.
- Will burn the brushes up in a drill motor that has them. You have to have a brushless drill motor.
The option to attach an ice drill auger to your drill does help reduce the cost of having a powered auger. They powered auger is faster than the manual hand-auger. They also reduce the amounts of things you have to have storage space for in your garage or tool shed.