"Alright! I caught a boot! I hope someone lost this and DIDN'T TOSS IT HERE ON PURPOSE!"
Out on a fishing expedition, and the fish aren't biting. Suddenly, there's a snag on the line. Someone's taken the bait; hook, line, and sinker. A quick flick of the rod and a frantic reeling in reveals your prize to be... an old boot
Several false alarms and several boots later, you start to wonder. Why are there so many boots
? Fish don't wear boots, hell, they don't even have feet. Yet there seem to be more boots in the water than there are fish. And it's not just boots, either. Spare tires, tin cans, other useless junk... why does it seem like you're fishing in Lake Erie?
Well, you're just having a bad run of luck. The bane of fishermen in old cartoons and fishing minigames
alike, Fishing for Sole is when you seem to pull just about everything out of the water... except for fish.
Compare I Got a Rock
and My New Gift Is Lame
for similar lucklessness in receiving gifts.
Anime and Manga
- In an episode of Pokémon, Misty hooks a tea kettle after a surprising struggle.
- Not to mention the first episode where she hooks Ash. "Aw, it's just a kid!"
- Taken to ridiculous extremes in one episode of Detective Conan: fishing in a rain-swollen river, Kogoro hooks something huge...and discovers to his horror that he has hooked his rental car, which was swept away in a flash flood.
- Episode 352 has a straight example where the Detective Boys participate in a fishing tournament and catch a boot.
- The fisherman Ai sits with in the OVA series Video Girl Ai catches a boot which she keeps for a bit.
- The cover of Volume IV of the Mag Garden Comic Book Adaptation of Breath of Fire IV depicts Ryu catching a boot when trying to fish. This is actually an inversion of a very long-running trope in the series where the various Ryus are depicted as expert fishermen (Breath of Fire as a series is famous, nearly infamous, for its Fishing Minigames—especially IV which actually had its Fishing Minigame spun off into a No Export for You Japanese smart-phone game). The same manga (in Volume III) portrays Ryu's Literal Split Personality Fou-lu actually catching fish, adding insult to injury...
- Official Touhou Yon Koma comic Inaba of the Moon, Inaba of the Earth has Kaguya trying her hand at fishing. She manages to fish out random junk like the classic boot, an empty can of mackerel, an old magazine, and Reisen, while missing all the fishes in the lake. As a strip title points out, "in a sense, it's an amazing hit rate".
- Happens to Yuuko at one point in Nichijou. While she's fishing, she reels up an old boot and a kettle. She laughs it off and leaves... and then a giant peach, referencing Momotaro, floats by. Don't ask.
- A José Carioca comic book short features a sort of inversion. Being as poor as he is, he fancies the idea of a free pair of boots, and continues fishing for the other boot. Cut to an annoyed Joe sitting in front of a large pile of fish but still just one boot.
- This is a common gag in Chuck Billy's stories from Monica's Gang. One short was about his cousin catching a pair of shoes which he uses for a long Chain of Deals that ends with him buying a new pair of shoes. He then wonders if all the time spent was worth it.
- In The Smurfs comic book story "You Don't Smurf Progress", a Smurf who is using one of Handy's robot servants to go fishing ends up catching an old sock and other bits of junk from the river.
- Played with in a Don Martin MAD cartoon: a woman fishing while her husband dozes nearby pulls a fish out of the water so forcefully it flies into her husband's yawning mouth and he swallows it. Demanding that she do something about it, the woman then runs the fishing line down his mouth into his stomach... and pulls out a tire!
- In one Astérix album, our hero and Obelix pass by a fisherman at the river, complaining about all of the amphora jars he keeps catching.
- Calvin and Hobbes, having been stranded on an island for 50 years, are forced to eat the tires they catch in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series. Except the whole thing was really All Just a Dream.
- The Aristocats Island: At the end of the episode "A Great Discovery", Jenny has repaired the broken fishing line and is fishing in the lagoon when Berlioz comes along. He takes the fishing line and catches an old boot.
- Happened in Forrest Gump, when they were shrimp fishing; only with a greater variety of junk, including a toilet seat.
- In Time Bandits, the ogre in the Time Of Legends wishes he could get sole.
Ogre: There used to be a time when you could be sure of catching old boots, cans, hatracks, boxes...now it's prawns alla bloody time! Lousy ole ocean!
- In the folktale The Fisherman and the Genie, the title fisherman pulls up several useless items (including a dead donkey) before finding the genie's jar.
- In the children's book The Family Under The Bridge, the protagonist, a Parisian hobo, keeps a shoe he found because he might come across its mate someday. As it happens, he sees a man fish it out of the river.
- In Samurai Sentai Shinkenger episode 7, the blue ranger has to go fishing for his mecha. He's shown pulling up a boot, which he adds to a pile of trash.
- Power Rangers Samurai recycled the plotline, but not the gag - in that episode, anyway. It shows up in "Runaway Spike" instead, where Bulk and Spike end up finally getting some work helping Antonio with his fish business. They actually manage to bring in a fair few fish, while it's Antonio who ends up reeling in a boot.
- Almost invoked in Red Dwarf, in which Lister notes that his fishing trips were mainly For the Lulz and, if anything, he went condom fishing.
- On Deadliest Catch this is the basis of many of the pranks that crab boat crews try to pull on each other. This comes in two flavors:
- One version is to haul up a crab pot belonging to another boat, dump out whatever crab is already in said pot, and load it with other stuff (garbage is one common example). Sometimes, to add on more insult, the pot would also be tampered with (welding the door shut is common; one boat also slipped a section of pipe down a crab pot's line so as to essentially make it difficult for the targeted boat's crew to haul it up).
- The second, wackier version is to replace the crab pot in question with something else entirely. The examples shown in the series were a porta-potty and a wrecked pickup truck, the latter of which impressed even the victims!
- SCTV parodied Siskel & Ebert showing them reviewing Robert Altman's "Henry", soon after his Popeye movie - the clip was a drawn-out scene picturing this trope. They weren't impressed.
- The prologue for Young Hercules episode 16 has Iolaus catch a boot fishing, complete with a pun about "filet of sole".
- In The Red Green Show, in one of the scene transitions a line descends through the screen, tightens and hauls up an old leather boot.
- Swedish board game Old Pike features, in addition to the titular Old Pike and a big deck of different small fish: an old boot, an old hat, an "electric eel" (which looks a bit like a fluorescent tube bent like an S) and a tin of sardines. The two last cards are the reason that the rulebook states you need seven live fish to win. Emphasis from the original.
- While fishing in World of Warcraft with fishing skill lower than the required for the zone, significant part (up to all of them) of catches will be useless junk, like twigs...and occasionally An Old Boot (which can't even be worn). However, even at high enough levels to not catch any junk, plenty of actual fish is useless to the degree of not even being a worthy Vendor Trash. It also sometimes is inverted, with rare non-fish catches being more valuable, or at least cosmetic.
- It can happen in the Animal Crossing series. You can get boots, cans, and tires. It's impossible to know that they're junk ahead of time, since they look and fight back just like real fish. (No idea how or why they fight, but they do.) In City Folk, some villagers may end up locked out of their houses, leaving you to fish for the key. In New Leaf, you can prevent this by enacting the "Beautify Our Town" ordinance which, among other effects, keeps you from fishing up garbage.
- Every Suikoden game since the second have included a fishing-game, and the 'Boot' has always been a possible alternate catch. Two amusing details: Those Boots are actually equippable an an Accessory item, which is somewhat odd unless they always come in pairs. And you actually have a 'biggest size caught' listing for the Boot as well as the various types of fish, only instead of being measured in centimeters, it's measured in boot size...
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess both plays this straight and subverts it. Non-fish objects that you can catch include the usual junk like sticks, cans, and old cartwheels, but also some good things such as an empty bottle, a bag of rupees, or the most effective fishing lure in the game. The sign in the fishing hole area warning people not to throw junk in the water might be a Lampshade Hanging, or it might just be a clue about dredging up the good stuff.
- The game even seems to imply that fishing up an Empty Bottle is a more valuable treasure than any fish and snagging it helps with the litter problem since you're recycling the bottle.
- And The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening has a guy fishing up a "necklace" belonging to the local mermaid (in the Japanese version, it's her bra).
- Ultima Online had this happen and decrease in likeliness as you gained more skill. Due to poor balancing the boots were a far better catch then the fish; food was in abundant supply and boots sold for more.
- Maraqua from Neopets has "Underwater Fishing", where boots, tin cans, driftwood, broken fishing poles, and other pieces of junk are frequent catches.
- Occurs in some of the Harvest Moon games that feature fishing, such as Friends of Mineral Town.
- In Harvest Moon DS, you actually have to catch a Bottle so you can propose to the mermaid, Leia.
- Happens also in the fishing minigames at Gaia Online. Interestingly enough, you can trade your garbage for special hats at the fishing shop, which in turn managed to create a market for lake garbage. Like the saying goes, one man's rubbish is another man's treasure...
- The short-lived minor meme: "Johnny K. is a litterbug", referring to the amounts of trash that could be dredged up by Gambino Island.
- There's actually a special enhancement exclusively used to invoke this trope in Final Fantasy XI, although the situation is reversed compared to World of Warcraft, as most items fished up really are junk, and most of the fish will result in a better profit(Although the junk was more valuable before, but it got heavily nerfed due to massive RMT exploiting).
- In Runescape, there's a chance of catching a boots with a big fishing net. With that method, it's also possible to receive gloves.
- In Chrono Cross, one of the fisherman Korcha's special attacks has him reel in a monster that hits the enemies. Sometimes, however, he'll reel in a boot that does nothing.
- The "7Seas" Mini-Game in Second Life has a variety of boots you can catch with your fishing pole. Like the Suikoden example above, these are wearable items and often have shiny bling.
- In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, you can provide a fisherman with a sturdy wooden pole. Then you can go outside and set fire to a Djinni that did you absolutely no wrong, just so it'll hop into the pond to cool off and get hooked.
"Okay, it's cool, but I don't think we can eat this for dinner... do you want it?"
- Happens constantly in Rune Factory 3. Which wouldn't be so bad, except that they don't stack. Hopefully you wanted that entire inventory of boots and cans.
- In the text-based MMORPG World of Hollow, fishing can net you various fish, a boot, or even a new fishing pole. It's a bit of a game to see if you can fish new poles out of the lake faster than you break them on fish that get away.
- The drakeskin boots in Blades of Avernum (the best boots available among the predesigned items) are obtained in one of the predesigned scenarios by fishing at a particular spot after achieving a high Luck Stat. The message prompt is exactly as follows: "You have a fantastic stroke of luck! You fish out a pair of boots."
- MMORPG Mabinogi has a fishing skill and minigame. Aside from fish, catches include any number of different items, including quests, clothing and armour, crafting items, etc. Some items can only be found via fishing. The higher the player's rank, the more valuable the items (and fish) that can be caught.
- In one case, the "how did that stuff get down there" question was answered: a fashion designer decided the best way to publicize his new line was to dump the entire collection into various bodies of water and sell bait (instead of the clothes themselves) to see people try to fish them up.
- Torchlight and the FATE series involve fishing minigames where the fish sometimes contain items. It's usually jewelry or gems, but sometimes other things. There are also actual fish, which when fed to your pet turn it into a powerful Pet Monstrosity.
- Happens in The Sims 2: Seasons. Not only do you catch boots, but you can put them in your blender and drink them and watch your Sims have wacky reactions to boot smoothies. You can also have them mounted on the wall like a prized catch.
- Averted in The Sims Medieval. You can fish all you like and you only ever catch fish.
- As of the most recent updates, catching worn leather boots is possible in Minecraft. So is catching raw leather, bones, poisonous pufferfish, and enchanted artifacts, as well as actual edible fish.
- Terraria 1.2.4 adds fishing to the gameplay. There are several "failure" items that can be caught, like old shoes, seaweed, and old tin cans.
- Case 43 of Criminal Case opens with Jones reeling in (part of) the victim's corpse.
- Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky has a fishing minigame at Valleria Shore in chapter 1. Besides five different kinds of fish of increasing rarity and value, you can also catch "Holey Boots".
- Parodied extensively in the Futurama episode "The Deep South", when the crew goes fishing. Leela catches a boot with a harpoon. Then she gets something that must be good, since it's 20 times heavier than a boot... and it's a crate containing 10 pairs of boots. She gets confident about the next one since the thing is clearly moving... and then pulls up a boot being eaten by Zoidberg. And they were fishing this at the exact center of the Atlantic Ocean.
- Parodied in Family Guy, where Peter's terrible fishing trip results in a tire, a boot, a tin can and a book of clichés.
- Inverted in Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, when Ickis disappointingly catches a fish. As a monster who eats garbage, he would rather catch an old boot any day.
- In the Ben 10: Omniverse episode "Gone Fishin'", Ben turns into Ripjaws in an effort to catch fish more quickly. Even then, he ends up with a boot for his efforts.
- In the first 30-second short of The Little Rascals, Alfalfa and Spanky are fishing when they catch two identical boots. The boys are scared away when the boots start walking. The boots had live fish in them.