Pike are the most misunderstood of fish. Dubbed the freshwater wolf they make annual appearances in tabloid newspapers for allegedly trying to drag dogs into the deep and even launching attacks on humans.
In reality, far from a river monster the pike is a cautious, cunning and canny predator, and while small ones can be relatively easy to catch, it takes great skill and an intimate knowledge of the species to consistently land large pike.
Paul Gustafson is one of that elite band, with almost 100 pike of 20lb and over to his name, who for four decades has sought scientific explanations to help improve his understanding of how and why pike behave as they do.
The author and producer of three successful videos on pike fishing, the Oxford-born angler has spent 3½ years distilling a lifetime's experience into his latest work, which aims to help anglers better understand their quarry and help them catch more and bigger pike.
Oxfordshire's lakes and rivers naturally figure highly in the book, but over 324 pages, this beautifully produced volume details every aspect of pike angling, from tackle and bait to location, whether that is local rivers, lakes and gravel pits, to far-flung lochs and loughs.
Gustafson goes much further than delivering a simple how-to-catch-em guide, but covers everything from choice of boats, and a list of essential items all big-pike anglers should carry, to selecting the right camera, so passers-by can capture a decent shot of a heavyweight catch.
The book is superbly illustrated with a mix of crystal clear diagrams and photographs and expertly mixes a wide variety of topics from scientific studies on the pike's sense of smell and vision, to night fishing for pike and a look at the challenges that pike angling faces in the future.
Gustafson has also generously given space to a number of other experts to contribute chapters on their particular areas of expertise, from the ever-entertaining 'piking pirate' Gord Burton on the lure of big pike, and Bob Church and Mick Willis on fly fishing for pike, to fishing in Ireland by Al Rawlings.
But most intriguing of all is the final chapter written by the late Fred Buller, not long before his death, on why, despite the rise in man-made fisheries as a growing source of huge pike, that he felt one place in Ireland might still hold the key to producing a true world record-breaker.
All experienced anglers will find something new and illuminating in these pages and for an angler trying to catch that first big pike, this book will become their Bible.

  • How to catch big pike, by Paul Gustafson is published in hardback by Robinson, £35 See paulgustafson.com