AFTCO Timeline













1926 4-year-old Milt Shedd walks with his father onto the Santa Monica pier and looks into the water below beginning his fascination for the ocean and the fish living in it.

1952 (Photo 1) Milt Shedd and friends use live bait for the first time to catch marlin.

Prior to 1952 the conventional way to catch striped marlin in So Cal was to troll dead flying fish on the surface. For Milt Shedd, one of his real thrills in fishing was to figure out a better way to catch them. While cleaning marlin to smoke, he often noticed mackerel, sardines, anchovies, and more in their stomach, but rarely did he find flying fish. He figured if he could cast a live mackerel by a tailing or sleeping marlin his catch rates would improve and they did. As reported in SportFishing Magazine in their January 2000 article reviewing important fishing firsts in saltwater fishing from 1900-2000, “With 200 boats in the So Cal fleet, Milt and his two friends caught 5 of the 8 fish caught by that day.” It did not take long for others to follow Milt’s lead, and sight casting for marlin quickly became common practice in So Cal.

1956 Milt Shedd begins yearly trips with Herb Bell aboard the 5-Bells to Cabo San Lucas. Milt is invited along to help insure fishing success.

1958 (Photo 2) J.C. Axelson founds the Axelson Fishing Tackle Company (AFTCO) in the basement of his double lot bay front home in Newport Beach, CA.

Axelson Mfg Co was a large company with over 1,000 employees that manufactured a number of products including aircraft landing gear, tooling for the oil industry and even the famous Axelson machine lathe. The man who built the company, J.C. Axelson, not only loved the manufacturing process, but fishing as well. As an angler, he could not find roller guides to match his quality standards, so he decided to make his own. What is unusual is where he developed them. After selling his business he bought a home on a double wide lot on the water front of exclusive Lido Island in Newport Beach, CA. To indulge his passion for manufacturing and inventing, he built a full-fledged machine shop in the basement of that waterfront home. That is where J.C. Axelson developed AFTCO roller guides, and no expense was spared in his effort to develop the world’s best roller guides and roller tops.

1963 Milt Shedd and wife, Peggie, found the Mission Bay Research Foundation, which Milt later renames, the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute.

Hubbs has become a major marine research center. In the beginning, it was mainly Milt and Peggie. Peggie did all the accounting on the Shedd family’s kitchen table for the first 6 years. Hubbs was created in order to give something back to the marine resource via science and education. It is common in today’s world for businesses to focus on ways to contribute to their community. What is so unusual here is that this was 1963, not only a full year before SeaWorld was open, but prior to even the thought, in the business world, of concepts such as “cause marketing”, “going green”, or even simply giving back to the community. Milt Shedd truly was a visionary and his passion for the ocean and the creatures that live there drove that vision. He understood that what the future marine world needed most was for people to better understand its many mysteries. He knew that could best be accomplished through science and education. The mission of the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute is “to return to the sea some measure of the benefit derived from it.” Milt was willing and able to return benefit even before any was derived.

1964 (Photo 3) Milt Shedd co-founds SeaWorld and begins his position as SeaWorld Chairman of the Board until retirement in 1985.

The idea for SeaWorld is one that switched from seafood restaurant to an oceanarium. Originally, Milt Shedd and fraternity brother George Millay were going to build and own a seafood restaurant in Long Beach, CA. George had restaurant management experience running restaurants for others, and Milt as an investment banker with experience helping others raise money for their business. Both wanted to own their own business, so they went in together. Their idea was to build a restaurant below sea level so that people could look out into the harbor and see marine life as they dined. The problem was that often the water would be too dirty for people to see anything, and even if it was clear, there might not be much life swimming by. They then figured they would find a way to build a partition out beyond people’s sight so they would actually be looking into a controlled tank that looked like the open harbor. If they could do that, they figured why not expand the concept into an oceanarium. Thus, the idea for SeaWorld was born, and shortly thereafter, fellow fraternity brothers Dave De Motte and Dr. Ken Norris joined the partnership. George took on the role as President and Milt became Chairman of the Board of SeaWorld Inc., a position he held until retirement in 1985.

1967 (Photo 4) J.C. Axelson adds the HD 56 set of roller guides to the product line.

1973 Milt and Peggie Shedd purchase AFTCO from Mary Axelson, widow of J.C. Axelson. Peggie assumes daily role as head of accounting, and Milt assumes role as Board Chairman.

1974 Bill Shedd joins AFTCO as Sales Manager.

1975 AFTCO introduces aluminum rod butts.

One of the first things Bill Shedd did when he joined AFTCO in June of 1974, was to drive from Boston, MA to the Florida Keys, visiting east coast customers to learn about their needs. One of the things he saw was that the supply of aluminum rod butts was inconsistent, and the customers often complained about the heavy weight of the butts that were machined from solid bar stock and then drilled. Bill figured if AFTCO could make them in a better way and provide a consistent supply, they could create a good business. When Bill returned to AFTCO, he began to look for a manufacturing solution. While on an offshore fishing trip with his dad Milt, he explained the opportunity, but that he had been unable as of yet to find a proper manufacturing solution. Milt suggested that when they got ashore, they talk to his friend Jim Easton from the Easton Aluminum Company. They went directly from the boat to the nearest payphone to call Jim. As luck would have it, Jim explained that another manufacturer who had begun to work with Easton on aluminum rod butts had just pulled out of the partnership and Easton had several partially completed dies in process. He invited them to come up the next morning and as of 2012, AFTCO butts and Unibutts are still made from JD Easton swaged parts.

1975 (Photo 5) Milt Shedd builds the 67' boat SeaWorld to fish swordfish by harpoon, to collect specimens for SeaWorld, facilitate marine research projects, and most importantly, take family and friends sportfishing.

1977 (Photo 6) Milt Shedd organizes first-ever sonic tagging of broadbill swordfish with Dr. Frank Carey of Wood Hole.

One of the early projects Milt Shedd organized for the Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute was to tag pelagic fish. In the 1960‘s, his efforts led to the tagging of several thousand albacore, bluefin tuna, and marlin as well as 30,000 anchovies. He was also one of the first to tag broadbill swordfish with conventional “spaghetti” tags as he tagged 13 free swimmers from the plank of his boat SeaWorld. Dr. Frank Carey from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution was the leading authority on sonic tagging. He had successfully tagged and followed 16 bluefin tuna and other pelagic game fish, but had been unable to successfully place a sonic tag in a swordfish and wanted to be the first to do so. When Milt learned of the difficulties Dr. Carey was having, he told him that if he would join Milt on the SeaWorld in Cabo San Lucas, Milt would guarantee he could successfully place a sonic tag in free swimming swordfish. Dr. Carey took Milt up on his offer and in the spring of 1977, he joined Milt in Cabo aboard the SeaWorld. Milt was successful in placing sonic tags in five different swordfish and Dr. Carey was able to gather the data he was looking for. More details CLICK HERE

1978 AFTCO moves from 2,400 square foot rented facility in Costa Mesa, CA. to a 6,000 square foot portion of a 24,000 square foot facility newly built by Milt and Peggie Shedd in Irvine, CA.

1978 AFTCO introduces the Unibutt.

The AFTCO aluminum rod butts introduced in 1975 were having great success in large part because of the superior strength-to weight advantage of the JD Easton swaging process. One of AFTCO’s competitors was Frank Johnson from Mold Craft. Frank had developed a product he called the Unibutt that was a two-piece aluminum product that replaced the need for the standard brass reel seat. AFTCO had developed, and was about to introduce, its own product that also replaced the brass reel seat. The main difference being that AFTCO’s product was a true one-piece aluminum product, so there would be no chance for the reel seat to turn around the handle. AFTCO had a better product design and manufacturing process. Frank had a better name with his trademarked Unibutt. Both companies had a respect for each other, and neither wanted to fight the other in court over patent issues, so they decided to join forces. Frank stopped making his product, turned over his Unibutt trademark and patents to AFTCO, and AFTCO paid Frank a license fee on all Unibutt sales for the remaining years on Frank’s patents. The result was the AFTCO Unibutt, a win-win for both parties, and the beginning of a lifelong friendship between the Johnsons and Shedds.

1978 AFTCO introduces Big Foot roller guides and tops.

1978 Milt Shedd puts up the money to start the Hubbs-SeaWorld white seabass hatchery program.

1980 AFTCO introduces Swivel Tops.

1983 Bill Shedd is appointed to serve on the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC), an advisory committee to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

1983 AFTCO introduces Roller Troller outrigger release clips, reel seats and gimbals.

1984 AFTCO introduces Taper Tip gaffs.

1985 Bill Shedd becomes Chairman of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) Government Affairs Committee (formally AFTMA), a position he continues to hold as of 2013.

1986 AFTCO supports Walter Fondren, Bob Hayes, and others in creation of United Sports Fishermen (USF).

1987 AFTCO joins Assemblywoman Doris Allen in legislative effort to ban gillnets in So. CA. waters. Bill Shedd leads economic argument for ban. After failing to pass the legislature, Prop. 132 passes in 1990, and the gillnet ban south of Pt. Conception goes into effect in 1992.

1988 (Photo 7) Peggie Shedd, Milt Shedd and Bill Shedd celebrate AFTCO'S 30th Anniversary.

1988 Bill Shedd helps Bill Ray as co-founder of United Anglers of Southern California (UASC).

1988 (Photo 8) Greg Stotesbury & Bill Shedd fish with Pete Barrett for tuna out of Manasquan Inlet, N.J. Seeing firsthand the number of boats involved in the northeast tuna fishery inspires Bill to create the TAG A Tuna for Tomorrow Tournament. That leads to the AFTCO TAG FLAG Tournament, which becomes the world's most successful tagging recognition and awareness program running for the next 18 years.

Seeing the long line of boats coming back into the Manasquan inlet after a weekend of tuna fishing was a graphic reminder of how important that fishery was. What might happen to it if commercial fishing pressure caused a fishery collapse as it had in so many other fisheries? On his return home, Bill began to look into what data was available on tuna and was surprised to see how little was known about them and how few were being tagged. He decided AFTCO should create a tuna tagging program to help create increased awareness of and participation in tagging tuna. He devised a program to recognize participating anglers, which involved all of the major fishing magazines and a system to make tags more available to anglers. The resulting program called, “Tag a Tuna for Tomorrow” had a major impact on the number of tuna being tagged in the northeast. It was so successful that Ed Scott, who was head of the NMFS tagging program at the time, called Bill asking if AFTCO could create an expanded program that could include billfish. Bill agreed to do so and created the AFTCO TAG FLAG Tournament, which included recognition for both captains and anglers using not only NMFS tags, but TBF tags as well. For more information CLICK HERE for 2007 Marlin Magazine article.

1989 Bill Shedd starts the AFTCO Clothing Division.

During the drive to a father-daughter weekend at Forest Home, a Christian conference center in the local mountains, Bill Shedd was being asked questions about AFTCO by a friend, John Snyder. John was the father of the girl in the back seat with Bill’s two daughters. A successful businessman and bright guy, John quizzed Bill on how AFTCO could continue to grow when it already had such a high market share in its main products, roller guides and Unibutts. Bill named various products to consider and John kept asking what else AFTCO might consider making. Bill finally told John that they needed to look at most anything the serious angler uses for saltwater fishing, including the clothes on his back. That night while lying in bed, Bill thought about the conversation and his focus quickly went to the clothing comment. AFTCO had never before considered clothing, but the more Bill thought and prayed about it while laying awake that night, it became clear to him that other sports like surfing, skiing, golf, tennis and more had clothing lines that serious participants identified with, but fishing did not. It was time for AFTCO to try and fill that void. By the next morning, AFTCO was ready to enter the clothing business. Its first product, the M01 and M01L short remains the world’s most famous saltwater fishing short.

1989 AFTCO Tackle Sales Manager Greg Stotesbury & Bill Shedd begin to lead successful effort on behalf of UASC to remove long lines from California waters.

In 1989 Bill Shedd received a call from a California Department of Fish & Game employee (who will remain unnamed) expressing concern about an experimental shark longline fishery. The person said it was being set up to take the experimental fishery to a full fledged fishery, and if that did in fact happen, the So Cal mako shark nursery area was in big trouble. The individual said they did not know who else to call, and wanted to make sure that Bill understood that somebody needed to do something or the mako resource was sure to collapse. Bill decided that AFTCO would take this longline issue on as a company project and that it would be operated out of the AFTCO offices under the banner and support of UASC. Since Bill was still in the middle of the gillnet fight, Greg Stotesbury was assigned to head up the effort. Greg knew a lot about the mako fishery as he had spent a great deal of time fishing makos with his dad and brothers. Over the next several years, Greg and other AFTCO staff members spent over 1,000 hours on the effort and when the gill net fight ended, Bill joined in on the longline fight. The result was that longlines were not allowed to establish themselves in So Cal. The experimental shark longline fishery was defeated as was a separate AFTCO/UASC effort to develop a conventional longline fishery in CA. In other areas of the US such as NE, SE Gulf and Hawaii, longliners were able to establish themselves. Once in place they are difficult to remove. AFTCO’s effort to keep long lines out of CA waters early on remains one of our proudest moments in our long marine conservation history. More details CLICK HERE

1990 (Photo 9 & 10) AFTCO roller guide and roller top shapes have now become so famous with fishermen that the US Patent Office begins to grant AFTCO trademark rights for the shapes of their roller guides and tops. These rights are granted because the AFTCO company and brand are now easily identified by the shapes of their now famous roller guides and roller tops.

1991 Bill Shedd organizes sportfishing community involvement to raise white seabass hatched at Hubbs. He forms the UASC White Seabass Committee and remains its Chairman in 2013.

1993 Milt & Bill Shedd, along with AFTCO attorney Mike Duffy support Hubbs in their effort to secure funding for the hatchery from the CA. Coastal Commission through SONGS mitigation money.

1993 AFTCO introduces Lightweight roller guides and tops.

1993 Milt Shedd joins with Dan Frumkes on behalf of UASC to create the "Rigs-To- Reefs" program in California. AFTCO attorney Mike Duffy and Bill Shedd also join the team.

1994 Bill Shedd becomes AFTCO President.

1994 Bill Shedd is elected to the Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute Board of Directors.

1996 Milt Shedd helps found the UCLA Marine Science Center.

Toward the end of his life, Milt Shedd combined his lifelong interest to learn about the ocean with his desire to support his alma mater, UCLA, in an effort to help them create the UCLA Marine Science Center. He gave them direct funding and his 67 foot boat, the SeaWorld. His signature enthusiastic leadership, helped them develop other funding and a business plan for the effort. Among other things, the UCLA Marine Science Center provides courses for high school teachers to learn about ocean issues so they can better educate the kids in their classrooms. This was a fitting effort for Milt and his longtime belief that the best way to ensure a healthy ocean in the future was to educate the people who are here today.

1998 AFTCO introduces the Storabutt, Goldfinger release clips, bait nets and fishing kites.

1999 (Photo 11) AFTCO becomes licensee for Guy Harvey all over print shirts.

1999 Bill Shedd is elected to the Board of Directors of the California Artificial Reef Enhancement Program (CARE).

2000 AFTCO now officially stands for the American Fishing Tackle Company.

When J.C. Axelson started AFTCO in 1958, the acronym stood for the Axelson Fishing Tackle Mfg. Co. Because the name was too long, AFTCO is what was stamped on the products, and over the years the company and its products became known as AFTCO, as opposed to the full name. Over time, people began to assume that AFTCO must stand for the American Fishing Tackle Company and referred to it that way in articles in fishing magazines, correspondence back to the company and in general conversation. Rather than fight this natural progression and thought, AFTCO embraced it and officially registered the name AFTCO with the US Patent Office to represent the American Fishing Tackle Co.

2002 Milt Shedd passes.

Milt Shedd’s passing on 5/24/02 was announced on CNN, and covered widely by the media. He was referred to as the ‘Walt Disney of the Sea,” a successful businessman, a devoted husband, and a visionary with a competitive nature in all he did. For those of us who remain at AFTCO, he is remembered as a friend, a man who loved to fish like no other, and a man with a unique passion for the ocean and curiosity to know more about it. His personal integrity, drive and strength, his desire for AFTCO to produce quality products and deliver on time, and his interest to have AFTCO contribute back to the marine resource and the sportfishing community, will forever have a lasting impact on our company and our people.

2002 Bill Shedd is elected to the IGFA Board of Trustees and later as Co-Chairman of the IGFA Fisheries Conservation Committee.

2003 Cody Shedd joins AFTCO as General Manager of AFTCO Clothing.

2004 Christie Shedd joins AFTCO in customer service department.

2004 AFTCO becomes licensee for all Guy Harvey sportswear including Guy Harvey T Shirts .

2004 Milt Shedd is inducted into the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

2005 AFTCO purchases 4 archival tags for yellowfin tuna tagging project. AFTCO and the Shedd family have now purchased some of the first archival tags placed in yellowfin, bluefin, swordfish and marlin.

2006 AFTCO introduces Maxforce harness and fighting belts along with fiberglass gaffs.

2006 Dave Elm, AFTCO Tackle Production Manager, is elected as UASC Chairman of the Board.

2006 Peggie Shedd releases the 1,000,000th white seabass at the Hubbs-SeaWorld hatchery in Carlsbad. The fish was named "Milty" after Milt Shedd, "Father" of the program.

2006 AFTCO purchases Bluefever fishing gloves from Steve Behrens and partners, and incorporates the line into AFTCO.

2006 AFTCO donates 5,000 Guy Harvey t-shirts to people in Alabama and Mississippi affected by Hurricane Katrina. AFTCO'S Gulf Coast clothing rep, Jim Whitten, distributes the shirts through his church in Alabama. Bill Shedd linked up his church in California to provide people and funding to help restore houses in Alabama and Mississippi. Both Jim and Bill lead work parties to help restore homes.

2007 Guy Harvey, Mark Ellert, Charlie Forman and Bill Shedd form Guy Harvey Outpost Resorts , a partnership to develop a Guy Harvey hospitality brand.

2007 Bill Shedd is elected Chairman of the Board of the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute.

2008 $25,000 is contributed for seed money to help enable Barbara Block develop a film about the plight of bluefin and her Tag A Giant program.

2008 Bill Shedd joins Board of Directors for the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF).

2008 Guy Harvey and AFTCO join forces to raise over $20,000 for the Save the Summer Flounder Fund (SSFF).

2009 AFTCO joins with David Pekin in the development of Reel Drag Technologies (RDT), a system that allows the angler to know exactly where his drag is set at any given time.

2009 AFTCO opens the www.guyharveysportswear.com e-commerce site.

2010 Bill Shedd joins Board of Directors for the Center for Coastal Conservation.

2010 (Photo 12) Bimini Big Game Club reopens as the first Guy Harvey Outpost Resort.

2010 (Photo 13) AFTCO and Guy Harvey team up with AFTCO's retail partners and sales reps to raise $500,000 to support marine research projects for studying possible implications from the BP oil spill.

2011 Bill & Jill Shedd, and their 4 children purchase a 117,000 square foot building in Santa Ana, CA. to consolidate all of AFTCO's operations from 5 separate buildings into one. Move is slated for April 2012.

2011 Bill Shedd meets with Doug Olander during ASA Sportfishing Summit to discuss how best to support removal of administration's silly "Idle Iron Policy" to expedite removal of offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. This leads to editorial leadership from Doug and Sport Fishing Magazine. Also Guy Harvey paints a Rigs-to Reefs design for a T-shirt that AFTCO sells. $2 per shirt gos to support the CCA's efforts to remove the policy and protect the reefs.

2012 Casey Shedd joins AFTCO team as director of Ecommerce.

2012 AFTCO opens new www.aftco.com site featuring not only AFTCO products, but also licensed products by Guy Harvey and Al Agnew.

2012 AFTCO contributes $50,000 to Save CA. Fishing to support UASC's MLPA lawsuit. Reasonable angler access is critical not only for the sportfishing community and industry, but also for a healthy resource. This $50,000 is part of AFTCO's $200,000 donation to support PSO efforts to bring reasonable balance to California's MPA process.

2012 AFTCO renews focus on its own AFTCO clothing line with expanded boardshorts line, and Fish Ninja performance sun shirts.

2013 AFTCO and Guy Harvey create "new look" in Guy Harvey t-shirts with colorful Hot Tropic Collection and more.