1952: 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 Southern California was to troll dead flying fish on the surface. For Milt Shedd, one of the real thrills in fishing was figuring 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 the January 2000 issue of Sport Fishing Magazine, "With 200 boats in the So Cal fleet, Milt and his two friends caught 5 of the 8 fish caught that day." It did not take long for others to follow Milt's lead and sight casting for marlin quickly became common practice in Southern California.


1958: J.C. Axelson founds the Axelson Fishing Tackle Company (AFTCO).

Axelson Mfg. Co. was a large company with over 1,000 employees that manufactured several 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. After selling his business, he purchased a waterfront home on Lido Island in Newport Beach, California. To indulge his passion for inventing and manufacturing, he built a full-fledged machine shop in the basement, and this is where the AFTCO roller guides were created.


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

Hubbs has become a major marine research center. In the beginning however, it was Milt and Peggie behind the scenes. Hubbs was created 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. But this was 1963 – a full year before SeaWorld opened and long before concepts like cause marketing, going green, or even simply giving back. 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.


1964: Milt Shedd co-founds SeaWorld and begins his position as Chairman of the Board.

The idea for SeaWorld is one that switched from a 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, California. George had restaurant management experience and Milt was an investment banker with experience helping others raise money. Both wanted to own their own business, so they went in together. Their idea was to build a restaurant below sea level so that customers could look out into the harbor and see marine life while they dined. The problem was that the water was often too dirty for people to see anything, and even if it was clear, there might not be much life swimming by. They figured they could find a way to build a partition out of sight so customers would 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: 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.

Milt assumes role as board chairman, and Peggie becomes head of accounting.


1974: Bill Shedd joins AFTCO as Sales Manager.

AFTCO introduces aluminum rod butts.

In June of 1974, Bill Shedd drove from Boston to the Florida Keys, visiting east coast customers to learn about their needs. He saw that the supply of aluminum rod butts was inconsistent, and customers often complained about the heavy weight of the butts that were machined from solid bar stock and then drilled. Shedd figured if AFTCO could make them better and provide a consistent supply, they could create a good business. When he 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 to find a proper manufacturing solution. Milt suggested that they talk to his friend Jim Easton from the Easton Aluminum Company. 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 2022, AFTCO butts and Unibutts are still made from JD Easton swaged parts.