Game-Changer: The Clam Drill Plate
By Yvonne Brown
Another hardwater season is upon us, and, like most ice anglers, I’ve been working on my equipment for another fun winter. I began ice fishing about 10 years ago and, over a period of several years, purchased various pieces of equipment to make my trips out more accessible, more comfortable and more time efficient. Of course, an auger is an absolute must and one of the first upgrades I made, after a couple of ice fishing seasons, was to go from a hand auger to a gas-powered one.
A Weighty Mistake
At the time, I thought buying a powered auger with a 51cc engine was a good investment and it did serve its purpose but, as I normally walk out on the ice, it wasn’t too long before I found this 36-lb. set up quite heavy and cumbersome to use. As well, there were times when I didn’t have the muscle power to pull the start cord or shoulder problems prevented me from using the machine altogether and I had to resort back to a hand auger.
The Clam Drill Plate
I needed an auger that would be both reliable and manageable, so I began to research the various options available. In 2013, Clam Outdoors launched their new conversion kit that, coupled with a cordless electric drill and auger bit, provided a great lightweight, inexpensive and portable solution. Assembled, my new set up (with a 6” auger bit) is only 12 lb. and has made a huge difference in transporting my gear out on the ice. Using an electric drill that I already had and the bit from my hand auger, it was also an inexpensive transition. Click here to see more.
Another reason I like using this set up is that it’s more environmentally friendly than gas-powered augers. It’s quieter to run, you don’t need fossil fuels to run it and there are no fumes to deal with. In testing, Clam pro-staff were able to drill 700 inches of ice with one battery charge and improvements to the drill plate were made in 2014 after receiving consumer feedback.
I’ve been using the Clam drill plate five-plus seasons now and I don’t think I would ever go back to a gas auger. On outings and at Ontario Women Angler events, other ice anglers always seem curious when they see the drill set up in use, so I offer to let them try it out and drill a few holes. I must admit, I’ve made more than a few converts!
When I first started using the Clam drill plate, I was primarily targeting panfish through the ice and the DeWalt cordless hand drill I had worked fine for drilling 6” holes but I ran into trouble when switched to an 8” auger bit for larger species. My drill was underpowered and not brushless, so it wasn’t long before I had smoke coming out of the motor.
Clam recommends using an 18-volt, brushless drill so, after scouring the ice fishing forum pages, I invested in a Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18V Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless 1/2-inch drill and upgraded the 2Ah (amp hours) battery to a 5Ah. So far, I have never run out of power, even on the coldest days, but still carry an extra battery with me just in case.
To reduce play in the drill plate trigger, several ice anglers add a return spring to the trigger shaft. Kim Drana (aka BadgerFarmGirl) from Wisconsin Women Fish created the video here to not only show all the steps in assembling the Clam drill plate but also to include instructions for adding the return spring.
The Clam Power Drive Gear Box
For those wanting to use the drill plate with 8-10” auger bits, Clam recommends adding the power drive gear box. https://shop.Clamoutdoors.com/power-drive-gear-box.html This accessory was designed to increase auger power and to reduce torque on the drill, increasing its life. The gear box costs approximately $110 – $130 CDN and increases the weight of your set up by nearly two pounds. You can also purchase the drill plate with the gear box already installed for a cost of around $200. I have read mixed reviews on the gear box and I will be trying it for the first time for pike and lake trout fishing in 2022.
Yvonne Brown is an Inverary-based Outdoor Writer and founder of Ontario Women Anglers.
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