Angler's Aquatic Plant ID

Want to be a better fisherman? Learn smart, season-based strategies for fishing the “weeds.”

Across the country, they go by different names. Valley anglers often refer to them collectively as “weeds,” “grass,” or “moss.” Whatever you call them, aquatic plants are an integral part of the Tennessee River’s ecosystem, whether providing nutrients for the species at the bottom of the food chain, or cover and ambush areas for largemouth bass.

While many aquatic plants look the same, understanding the differences can make you a better bass fisherman. Whether you prefer to punch a jig, burn a lipless crankbait or fish a frog, this guide to aquatic plants in the Tennessee Valley can help you be the best angler you can be.

Developed by fishermen for fishermen, this guide gives you all the information you need to understand when these plants are most productive, where they grow and—most importantly—how to fish them. Whether you are a seasoned tournament angler, weekend warrior or new to fishing altogether, we invite you to learn more about aquatic plants and improve your catch.

Floating and Floating Leaf Plants

Alligatorweed

As alligatorweed (Alternanthera philoxeroides) emerges from both shoreline and near-shore areas in spring, vertical stems provide optimal opportunity for fishing a swimbait or swimjig.

Alligatorweed

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—As alligatorweed emerges from both shoreline and near-shore areas, vertical stems provide optimal opportunity for a swimbait or swimjig.

Summer—Once alligatorweed reaches the surface, it will begin to rapidly spread out across the water's surface, forming interwoven, impenetrable mats. As stems fall horizontally, new roots can form where leaves previously existed, and quickly root in the sediment. A small white flower will begin to appear at the peak of summer. Once growth increases and mat formation begins, fishing alligatorweed can become quite difficult. Fishing edges is most effective with a jig or senko.

Fall—Alligatorweed will reach peak growth and fishing will remain difficult. Run weedless topwater across and over holes in alligatorweed (heavy braid recommended) or fish edges.

Winter—Dead stems of alligatorweed may be present through mid-winter. Fish these by hopping a jig through and across leftover plant matter.

Habitat Value

Fish—The submersed portions of alligatorweed can provide some habitat for invertebrates, which subsequently become prey for small fish (those fish then become prey for bass). Alligatorweed is notorious for crowding out and shading out beneficial native species.

Waterfowl—There is no known benefit of aligatorweed to waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—A large, hollow stem and oppositely oriented leaves are characteristic of alligatorweed. A white flower like that of terrestrial clover is also often visible.

Where to Find It—Alligatorweed is highly adaptable and can be found growing on nearly any shoreline out into 5 or 6 feet of water.

Similar Species—Alligatorweed looks very similar to water primrose; however water primrose has alternating leaves, a solid stem and a yellow flower.

Drawbacks

Because of its aggressive nature, invasive alligatorweed very often causes conflict with water uses including making shoreline access impossible. This species is very commonly managed in a reservoir setting. Cost to manage: $$$$ out of $$$$$.

Shoreline Plants

Alligatorweed

As alligatorweed (Alternanthera philoxeroides) emerges from both shoreline and near-shore areas in spring, vertical stems provide optimal opportunity for fishing a swimbait or swimjig.

Alligatorweed

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—As alligatorweed emerges from both shoreline and near-shore areas, vertical stems provide optimal opportunity for a swimbait or swimjig.

Summer—Once alligatorweed reaches the surface, it will begin to rapidly spread out across the water's surface, forming interwoven, impenetrable mats. As stems fall horizontally, new roots can form where leaves previously existed, and quickly root in the sediment. A small white flower will begin to appear at the peak of summer. Once growth increases and mat formation begins, fishing alligatorweed can become quite difficult. Fishing edges is most effective with a jig or senko.

Fall—Alligatorweed will reach peak growth and fishing will remain difficult. Run weedless topwater across and over holes in alligatorweed (heavy braid recommended) or fish edges.

Winter—Dead stems of alligatorweed may be present through mid-winter. Fish these by hopping a jig through and across leftover plant matter.

Habitat Value

Fish—The submersed portions of alligatorweed can provide some habitat for invertebrates, which subsequently become prey for small fish (those fish then become prey for bass). Alligatorweed is notorious for crowding out and shading out beneficial native species.

Waterfowl—There is no known benefit of aligatorweed to waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—A large, hollow stem and oppositely oriented leaves are characteristic of alligatorweed. A white flower like that of terrestrial clover is also often visible.

Where to Find It—Alligatorweed is highly adaptable and can be found growing on nearly any shoreline out into 5 or 6 feet of water.

Similar Species—Alligatorweed looks very similar to water primrose; however water primrose has alternating leaves, a solid stem and a yellow flower.

Drawbacks

Because of its aggressive nature, invasive alligatorweed very often causes conflict with water uses including making shoreline access impossible. This species is very commonly managed in a reservoir setting. Cost to manage: $$$$ out of $$$$$.

Submersed Plants

Alligatorweed

As alligatorweed (Alternanthera philoxeroides) emerges from both shoreline and near-shore areas in spring, vertical stems provide optimal opportunity for fishing a swimbait or swimjig.

Alligatorweed

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—As alligatorweed emerges from both shoreline and near-shore areas, vertical stems provide optimal opportunity for a swimbait or swimjig.

Summer—Once alligatorweed reaches the surface, it will begin to rapidly spread out across the water's surface, forming interwoven, impenetrable mats. As stems fall horizontally, new roots can form where leaves previously existed, and quickly root in the sediment. A small white flower will begin to appear at the peak of summer. Once growth increases and mat formation begins, fishing alligatorweed can become quite difficult. Fishing edges is most effective with a jig or senko.

Fall—Alligatorweed will reach peak growth and fishing will remain difficult. Run weedless topwater across and over holes in alligatorweed (heavy braid recommended) or fish edges.

Winter—Dead stems of alligatorweed may be present through mid-winter. Fish these by hopping a jig through and across leftover plant matter.

Habitat Value

Fish—The submersed portions of alligatorweed can provide some habitat for invertebrates, which subsequently become prey for small fish (those fish then become prey for bass). Alligatorweed is notorious for crowding out and shading out beneficial native species.

Waterfowl—There is no known benefit of aligatorweed to waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—A large, hollow stem and oppositely oriented leaves are characteristic of alligatorweed. A white flower like that of terrestrial clover is also often visible.

Where to Find It—Alligatorweed is highly adaptable and can be found growing on nearly any shoreline out into 5 or 6 feet of water.

Similar Species—Alligatorweed looks very similar to water primrose; however water primrose has alternating leaves, a solid stem and a yellow flower.

Drawbacks

Because of its aggressive nature, invasive alligatorweed very often causes conflict with water uses including making shoreline access impossible. This species is very commonly managed in a reservoir setting. Cost to manage: $$$$ out of $$$$$.

Managing Aquatic Plants

Invasive plant species like hydrilla and milfoil can make for great edge fishing, but when found smack dab in front of your favorite boat ramp can keep you and others from even being able to enjoy the reservoir at all! A “drawbacks” section within each plant species page highlights the need to manage these plants in certain situations, and provides a relative cost scale from low ($) to high ($$$$$).

You may encounter TVA or its contractors managing aquatic plants in small, developed public access areas (such as boat ramps) at its reservoirs. TVA manages aquatic plants on an as-needed basis to improve public access to its reservoirs. Learn more about how TVA manages aquatic plants.

Aquatic Weeds Treatment Schedule

Learn when TVA contractors will be in your area using harvesters or EPA-approved herbicides to control the overgrowth of invasive aquatic plants. View the most recent schedule.

Valley Lakes Worth Billions

A new study by TVA and the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture has found that the economic impact to the region of TVA's reservoir system is nearly $12 billion each year, and that it contributes 130,000 jobs. Managing aquatic weeds is one way to make sure recreation proceeds unhindered. Read more about this groundbreaking study.

Further Reading

For more information on aquatic plants on Guntersville—or in general—read three stories by Bassmaster columnist and program manager of TVA Aquatic Plant Management Brett Hartis: “Bass and Grass on Guntersville,” “ Secrets of Fall Bass in the Grass” and “Where Has All the Grass Gone?”.

Contact Us

We're always looking for more information about aquatic plants on TVA reservoirs. Let us know where and what you see, and send us your photos. Email us.