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: $$$$ out of $$$$$.