McALLEN — Anglers from across the state dropped anchor at the McAllen Convention Center on Friday for the first day of the 34th annual All Valley Boat Show.

Dozens of boats, jet skis and kayaks were on display Friday, along with rods, reels, lures and everything else you’d need to catch a fish.

There were, in fact, even live fish on display: for five bucks, kids could try their hand at snagging a catfish out of a tank in the middle of the room with a rod and reel.

“It’s a family atmosphere,” said Cleve Ford, president of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Boating Trades Association and owner of Dargel Boats in Donna.

According to Ford, the geography of South Texas makes fishing a big deal in the RGV

“One of the things in the Valley that we’re famous for is our outdoor life: hunting, fishing, we’ve got some of the best whitetail hunting and we have the best bay fishing in Texas,” he said. “We’re a very unique fishery.”

Ford says that in many ways the All Valley Boat Show is tailored specifically to that unique fishery and its fishermen.

“It’s one of the few actual boat shows in the Valley, and because our waters are so unique down here in South Texas, it provides us a way to showcase products that are specifically engineered to work in the waters of the Rio Grande Valley and the Laguna Madre,” he said. “Eighty percent of our water is less than two feet deep; it takes a special boat to run in less than two feet of water, and so that’s why if you come to this show you see a lot different style of boat than what you’ll see in Houston or Dallas or San Antonio.”

Attendees wonder pasted boats on display a at the 34th annual All Valley Boat Show at the McAllen Convention Center on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

In addition to drawing local vendors and shoppers, Ford says the association invites vendors from across the state to participate.

Hunter Welch, a fishing rod manufacturer from Galveston County, says he regularly attends the show.

“It gets me in touch with all my customers down here, they get to see me in person and we get to make new customers,” Welch said. “We get to show them hands-on all the new products and if they have any questions about the products, in person is always the best way to do it. Also if there’s any warranty issues or anything like that, we can handle that in person. And they get to listen to my jokes.”

Swapping jokes, telling tales and socializing are a big part of the show, Welch says.

The people here are all super nice,” he said.

Welch says he’s seen the show grow since he started attending.

“I feel like every year we’re down here it’s getting more popular, we’re gaining more and more customers,” he said.

One of those new attendees was Captain JR Garcia, an alligator gar fishing guide from Arroyo City.

“It’s been going awesome, we’ve seen a lot of new customers already, and repeated clients that came by to see our new gear,” Garcia said.

Garcia says he intends to take part in the All Valley Boat Show for the foreseeable future.

The show will continue Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

Admission is $9 for adults and free for children under 12.