Innovation and Conservation at AFTCO

When we are preparing for a rough fishing or boating trip along the Southern California coast, it is reassuring to know we have sources on which we can depend as we wrestle with the forces of nature.

A prime example of a top-quality fishing gear and outdoor clothing enterprise is the American Fishing Tackle Company (AFTCO), a major supplier to chandleries and fishing shops in San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties.

Founded in 1958 by Milt Shedd, this third-generation family-owned business started with high-quality roller guides Shedd developed with a machine lathe in the basement of his home on Lido Island in Newport Beach in the late 1950s. Dismayed with the poor quality of the roller guides installed on fishing rods up to that time, Shedd wanted a guarantee of top performance in the tackle he used on his coastal fishing trips.

Shedd had already enjoyed considerable success with Axelson Tackle Company, which he founded to supply landing gear for aircraft manufacturers and tooling for the oil industry. With his new roller guide design, he embarked on expanding his line of fishing gear to satisfy the local demand for high-quality tackle.

Later renamed the Axelson Fishing Tackle Company, AFTCO started its retail operations by supplying family-owned chandleries with fishing tackle designed primarily by AFTCO engineers, who were also experienced anglers.

Today, having switched the name from “Axelson” to “American,” the company continues its tradition of designing and manufacturing much of the gear it makes available to local anglers and ocean adventurers. Its current line of fishing tackle includes bait nets, fly gaff hooks with fiberglass handles, a wide assortment of fighting belts and harnesses, plus a variety of bags, backpacks and carry-on luggage for the traveling angler.

AFTCO’s clothing line is intended for long periods of abuse in a harsh oceanic environment. UV-resistant gloves, hats, T-shirts, pants, shorts and jackets are designed to make ocean fishing and adventuring as ergonomic and comfortable as possible over long hours of exposure to sun and ocean spray.

While AFTCO continues to prosper as a unique, local supplier to Southern California anglers and outdoor sports enthusiasts, the company also boasts a record of being deeply committed to saltwater and freshwater conservation. The company and the Shedd family contribute a minimum of 10 percent, sometimes more, of its profits to “organizations and causes working to conserve our oceans, waterways and fish populations.”

The company also works with government agencies to protect the rights of anglers and members of the public seeking access to outdoor recreational resources. AFTCO Chairman Bill Shedd has donated over 15,000 hours of employee volunteer involvement in conservation and advocacy to promote the health and availability of public land and waterways for recreational purposes.

AFTCO works diligently to protect threatened saltwater and freshwater species. While offering funding to underwrite conservation activities, the company provides managerial expertise and employee labor to help maintain hatcheries and pass legislation designed to protect our nation’s waterways and contiguous areas.

A prime example of AFTCO’s advocacy has been the company’s dedication to eliminating gillnets, which large fishing ships have used for generations to gather tons of swordfish off the California coast. Though a presidential veto in 2020 held up legislation to end gillnets permanently in U.S waters, thanks to AFTCO and a number of advocacy groups, the California legislature had already voted in 2018 to terminate all drift gillnet permits off the state’s coast by Jan. 31, 2024.

AFTCO is a shining example of how a family-owned corporation can work diligently toward prosperity while balancing profits with the needs of the natural environment and the interests of boaters, anglers and the surrounding community as well.

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