The American Fishing Tackle Company – better known as AFTCO – was established in 1958 in the Newport Beach basement of big game tackle pioneer J. C. Axelson. He created the AFTCO Roller Guide, advancing big game fishing to new heights and becoming the standard seen on top of offshore rods worldwide.
In 1973, Milt and Peggie Shedd purchased AFTCO. With Milt’s passion and dedication for both angler rights and marine conservation, he brought an evolution to the company resulting in an unwavering commitment not only to help protect marine resources, but to ensure a sustainable fishery for future generations.
Milt and Peggie’s son, Bill, joined AFTCO in 1974 and by 1989 the company introduced its first line of AFTCO Fishing Clothing.
Soon after Bill came aboard, Milt suggested that he needed to give back to the ocean. Although AFTCO pledged 10% to “Protect & Conserve,” the company and the Shedd family have actually contributed significantly more than that throughout the years.
Then, at this year’s ICAST, an invitation had gone out that had read, in part: “… During this year’s show, while AFTCO was still there to display products and do business, we elected to put Conservation First with a “simple” booth allowing us to avoid shipping, labor, and other expenses normally associated with a tradeshow.”
An animated Bill Shedd stood on a table, looking over the guests and members of the media.
After crediting his sons Casey and Cody with hatching the “booth” idea, he explained that “… Bright young minds with a bold plan were carrying on the family and company tradition of leading by example.”
Instead of a commercial booth that had to be shipped across country from California to Florida, using backdrops that were constructed from pegboard and plywood plus AFTCO gaff handles to hang the clothing; low-cost carpet purchased from Home Depot for $300 (much cheaper than the nice, padded rental carpet offered by the show), they saved a total of $20,000.
AFTCO then matched that amount with $22,000, increasing the amount contributed to $42,000 for six of their conservation partners.
Said Bill, “I never thought I would be standing on top of a table…serving beer during work hours and insisting that everyone stop selling and buying. Never would’ve believed it could happened. Well, it has … partially because my son Casey insisted we do it.
“So what we are really here for is to thank our key conservation partners and distribute the $42,000 in equal amounts of $7,000 to our conservation-focused partners.
“As chairman of the ASA Government Committee for 30 years – I retired last year as chairman – it gave me a front row seat to all the good things the ASA staff did for the industry. ”He added, “its way more than just this ICAST show.”
“We partnered with the Coastal Conservation Association in California after asking what we can do to fix fishing … California sportfishing policies are a mess, I think everyone understands that. Pat Murray and CCA, has been getting it right for 40 years.
“Center for Sportfishing Policy”, Jeff Angers, President and Rebecca are here to pick up the check. Together, they and its members are the voice of the fishing community, like the tip of the spear, and they make a huge impact on the Federal Government. Not tax exempt… if you give them money you can’t deduct it. All the rest of the recipients are 501 (c) 3.
“Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation which continues to do plenty of good work on the research side.
“Hubbs Sea World Research Institute: Milt Shedd started Sea World in 1964. In 1963, he started the Hubbs Sea World Research Institute. Think about that; there is no other company in America 53 years old that celebrates giving back to the community for 54 years! Poor Sea World has done the right thing since before they existed.
“As well as the International Game Fish Association” … Fifteen years ago Shedd became the Chairman of Conservation Committee and Trustee. Then it was a great brand and great organization, but it really wasn’t making much of a conservation contribution. The entire focus was on world records.
“Now, that’s changed,” Shedd observed, “Today, the organization has made significant, meaningful contributions to resource. IGFA was the driving force behind the Billfish Conservation Act, making it illegal to bring billfish into the country to sell – a huge boost for the billfish population.
“A little bit about why AFTCO does what we do. Dad came to me and said, ‘Billy, your mom and I are going to take care of the ocean that belongs to everybody, but doesn’t belong to anybody.’
‘It looks like this company may work and if it does, we have to find ways to give money back to the ocean. Bill, you’re going to benefit in your lifetime in this as well. So you need to figure out how you can give back to the ocean or back to whatever you do in the fishing tackle world if you end up there.’
Shedd continued, “So it’s just part of our DNA. People say ‘thank you’ for doing some of this stuff … a thank you isn’t needed for doing what we know we should be doing. Although we say, ‘You are welcome,’ we certainly don’t deserve a thank you for doing what my father asked us to do.”
In 2016, more than $475,000 was contributed, which included a $240,000+ financial contribution as part of a license agreement with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, $150,000 to the Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute, and $110,000 collectively to the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), Center for Sportfish Policy (CSP), International Gamefish Association (IGFA), and other Sportfishing organizations and efforts.
These funds, along with time and leadership from AFTCO team members, helped to support tagging efforts, fish hatcheries, artificial reefs, marine research projects, angler access to the fishery, and helped ensure that sportfishing interests are heard by fishery managers and legislators.
Along with Milt’s passion and dedication for both angler rights and marine conservation, he understood what the marine world needs most is for people to better understand the ocean through science and education. To that end, he encouraged others by example to seek ways to support the resources that are the cornerstone of the sportfishing industry.