Fish or cut bait

Fish or cut bait is an American idiom. We will examine the meaning of the idiom fish or cut bait, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To fish or cut bait is a challenge that means to either get to work and produce results or provide support to someone else who can get to work and produce results. The image invoked is of two men fishing with one rod. If the man fishing is not having any luck, he could be encouraged to relinquish the rod to his partner and provide him support by cutting up bait. The expression fish or cut bait came into use in the United States in the mid-1800s. A phrase with a similar meaning is lead, follow, or get out of the way.

Examples

And that’s what the Big Ten leaders have been grappling with for months, and most especially in the past few days when the fish-or-cut-bait decision needs to be made. (Sports Illustrated)

“We just really need to fish or cut bait with the decision to go online and work toward that,” said Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, of Helena. (The Missoulian)

After more than two years of analyzing the options, including a $130,000 engineering study, town leaders must fish or cut bait. (The Mountaineer)