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 ?
The growth parameters of Patagonian sprat obtained from the present study resembled those obtained by Gru & Cousseau (1982) for the Santa Cruz coast in Argentina and the Falkland Islands, particularly in the growth coefficient (K) (Table 3).
On the other hand, the decision on sprat - no change in the TAC of 11.75 tonnes - is in line with the Commission proposal.
The West Country Whitebait Fillets are an innovative product which utilises Sprats caught locally from the shores of Devon and Cornwall."
SPRAT the unwanted Coventry pooch who went on national television hoping to get a friendly owner, has finally found a loving home.
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." Efforts by proponents of astrology such as John Childrey to reform the art by founding it upon heliocentrism and Baconian empiricism received a cool reception in the Royal Society: the association of astrology with sectarianism and radical politics was too strong.
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.
YESTERDAY'S SOLUTIONS WEE THINKER ACROSS: 7 Echoing 9 Imply 10 Aural 11 Addenda 12 Ads 13 Jettison 16 National 17 Emu 19 Caribou 21 Molar 22 Maker 23 Yardarm DOWN: 1 Getaway 2 Charisma 3 Kill 4Windmill 5 Spin 6 Bylaw 8 Glastonbury 13 Jailbird 14 Overleaf 15 Supreme 18 Scamp 20 Rake 21 More QUICKIE ACROSS: 1 Hardpressed 8 Her 9 Mop 11 Aimless 12 Rhino 13 Try 14 Tea 15 Peanuts 17 Hob 19 Inch 21 Rode 23 Acre 25 Gnaw 27 Wet 29 Economy 31 Opt 34 Pen 36 Slime 37 Receive 38 Sun 39 Led 40 Storyteller DOWN: 1 Heir 2 Army 3 Deep end 4 Rising 5 Sprat 6 Emit 7 Done 8 Hatch 10 Poach 16 Sir 18 Bra 20 New 22 Owe 24 Comical 25 Gloss 26 In a rut 28 Toned 30 Clear 32 Plus 33 Tint 34 Pile 35 Ever
The European Commission proposed, on 22 August, to increase quotas for Eastern cod and herring in the Central Baltic and Gulf of Bothnia, but to reduce total allowable catches (TACs) for five other stocks (Western herring, Western cod, plaice, salmon and sprat).
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.
The EU quotas for turbot and sprat will not be reduced in 2012, it has been made clear, with the only two member states affected by the decision being Bulgaria and Romania.
Jack Sprat and his missus approaching at one-o''clock." Mo turns her back and starts to swab the counter with unusual vim and vigour.
It goes to show Lough Foyle must be very rich in plankton, sand eels and sprat."