a sprat to catch a mackerel

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a sprat to catch a mackerel

A small amount of effort or money to expend or risk that has the potential to yield much greater benefits or rewards. Often used after the verb "set," meaning to use as bait; a sprat is a much smaller fish than a mackerel, so you use the smaller as bait to catch the larger. Primarily heard in UK. When big retailers like them offer cash-back prizes, they are setting sprat to catch a mackerel—the money they make from sucking in customers more than outweighs what they spend in actual payouts.
See also: catch, mackerel

a sprat to catch a mackerel

BRITISH, OLD-FASHIONED
If you describe something you do as a sprat to catch a mackerel, you mean that it involves a small cost or amount of effort but it will bring you great rewards or benefits. Setting a sprat to catch a mackerel, the store is offering in its summer sale a chrome blender for £99 (was £149) to those who spend £50 or more. Note: A sprat is a type of small fish and a mackerel is a larger fish. Both fish may be eaten.
See also: catch, mackerel

a sprat to catch a mackerel

a small expenditure made, or a small risk taken, in the hope of a large or significant gain. British
A sprat is a small sea fish, while a mackerel is rather larger. The phrase has been in use since the mid 19th century and is also found with whale in the place of mackerel .
See also: catch, mackerel

(be) a ˌsprat to catch a ˈmackerel

(informal) (be) a fairly small or unimportant thing which is offered or risked in the hope of getting something bigger or better: The competition and prize of a free car is a sprat to catch a mackerel. The publicity will mean good business for months to come.
Sprat and mackerel are both types of fish. Sprats are very small.
See also: catch, mackerel
References in periodicals archive ?
Thus, the Patagonian sprat shows a pattern of growth and natural mortality characteristic of small pelagic fishes and can be classified as a fast-growing species with a short lifespan.
The West Country Whitebait Fillets are an innovative product which utilises Sprats caught locally from the shores of Devon and Cornwall.
A small fleet of UK sprat fishermen is dedicated to ensuring a sustainable supply of sprats.
Husband and wife Martin and Linda Sargent who both volunteer at the centre, decided to take Sprat in.
The fishing party's report said: "Six months on Taransay and we've not caught Jack Sprat.
Ben tried a sprat and Jeff with the cut-off tail of a mackerel.
Thus Thomas Sprat worried that astrology "withdraws our obedience from the true Image of God [and] affects men with fears, doubts, irresolutions, and terrors.
The Rehearsal (1671) was a burlesque satire of Dryden, written with Thomas Sprat (1635 - 1713) and the 2nd duke of Buckingham (George Villiers), among others.
8 thousand tons, which is associated with a decrease in the production of sprat and other fishery items.
Sprat: The Commission proposes to reduce the TAC for sprat by 11%, to 222,102 tonnes.
Fishing opportunities for turbot will be reduced and the status quo maintained for sprat under the European Commission's proposal, adopted on 3 December, for fishing opportunities (total allowable catches or TACs) for EU-flagged vessels operating in the Black Sea.
Jack Sprat and his missus approaching at one-o''clock.
It goes to show Lough Foyle must be very rich in plankton, sand eels and sprat.
The EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council will increase the cod-fishing quota for Estonia in the Baltic sea while reducing the Baltic herring and sprat quota, reports LETA.