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

American Lotus

Submersed stems of this native species (Nelumbo lutea) provide excellent habitat and cover for both invertebrates and the juvenile fish that eat them. The large canopy formed by American lotus is the perfect ambush opportunity for larger fish.

American Lotus

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—American lotus sprouts from seed or existing rhizomes (underground roots), and the leaf stem will begin to grow toward the surface where a leaf will begin growth from the end of the stem. As newly sprouted leaf stems emerge from the rhizome, fishing a jig or craw in and around these stems is recommended.

Summer—The plant will continue to rapidly grow, forming new plants along the rhizome all summer long. Large colonies of the plant will form along the shoreline with some leaves floating and others standing high above the water resembling a tuba. The formation of large leaves is the perfect opportunity to dissect large holes between leaves. An open understory can hold monster bass awaiting a meal.

Fall—Lotus will produce seed in large seed pods growing above the water’s surface. The green pods will begin to turn brown and face down where the seeds will be released. The large floating leaves will begin to die and wither in late fall. As many leaves stand erect in the fall, flipping the stem bases of these massive plants becomes a great opportunity. A frog can also be worked over the large leaves and into large holes between the plants.

Winter—American lotus will overwinter using its extensive rhizome network. American lotus will be less present in winter and targeting this specific plant should be avoided.

Habitat Value

Fish—Submersed stems of the plant provide excellent habitat and cover for both invertebrates and the juvenile fish that eat them. The large canopy formed by American lotus is the perfect ambush opportunity for larger fish.

Waterfowl—The large, acorn sized seeds of lotus are readily used by some waterfowl, and invertebrates using this species for habitat are also readily consumed by waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—The extremely large, floating leaves of American lotus make it easily distinguishable from other floating leaf species. A large white flower and large seed pods also standout with this species.

Where to Find It—Grows in nearshore areas with substantial sediment and nutrients for growth.

Max Depth—0 to 5 feet

Similar Species—The flowers of fragrant water lily can resemble that of American lotus; however the large floating leaves of American lotus make it easily distinguishable from other species.

Drawbacks

American Lotus can sometimes cause water use issues, impeding boat use and swimming activities. Cost to manage: $$ out of $$$$$.

Shoreline Plants

American Lotus

Submersed stems of this native species (Nelumbo lutea) provide excellent habitat and cover for both invertebrates and the juvenile fish that eat them. The large canopy formed by American lotus is the perfect ambush opportunity for larger fish.

American Lotus

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—American lotus sprouts from seed or existing rhizomes (underground roots), and the leaf stem will begin to grow toward the surface where a leaf will begin growth from the end of the stem. As newly sprouted leaf stems emerge from the rhizome, fishing a jig or craw in and around these stems is recommended.

Summer—The plant will continue to rapidly grow, forming new plants along the rhizome all summer long. Large colonies of the plant will form along the shoreline with some leaves floating and others standing high above the water resembling a tuba. The formation of large leaves is the perfect opportunity to dissect large holes between leaves. An open understory can hold monster bass awaiting a meal.

Fall—Lotus will produce seed in large seed pods growing above the water’s surface. The green pods will begin to turn brown and face down where the seeds will be released. The large floating leaves will begin to die and wither in late fall. As many leaves stand erect in the fall, flipping the stem bases of these massive plants becomes a great opportunity. A frog can also be worked over the large leaves and into large holes between the plants.

Winter—American lotus will overwinter using its extensive rhizome network. American lotus will be less present in winter and targeting this specific plant should be avoided.

Habitat Value

Fish—Submersed stems of the plant provide excellent habitat and cover for both invertebrates and the juvenile fish that eat them. The large canopy formed by American lotus is the perfect ambush opportunity for larger fish.

Waterfowl—The large, acorn sized seeds of lotus are readily used by some waterfowl, and invertebrates using this species for habitat are also readily consumed by waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—The extremely large, floating leaves of American lotus make it easily distinguishable from other floating leaf species. A large white flower and large seed pods also standout with this species.

Where to Find It—Grows in nearshore areas with substantial sediment and nutrients for growth.

Max Depth—0 to 5 feet

Similar Species—The flowers of fragrant water lily can resemble that of American lotus; however the large floating leaves of American lotus make it easily distinguishable from other species.

Drawbacks

American Lotus can sometimes cause water use issues, impeding boat use and swimming activities. Cost to manage: $$ out of $$$$$.

Submersed Plants

American Lotus

Submersed stems of this native species (Nelumbo lutea) provide excellent habitat and cover for both invertebrates and the juvenile fish that eat them. The large canopy formed by American lotus is the perfect ambush opportunity for larger fish.

American Lotus

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—American lotus sprouts from seed or existing rhizomes (underground roots), and the leaf stem will begin to grow toward the surface where a leaf will begin growth from the end of the stem. As newly sprouted leaf stems emerge from the rhizome, fishing a jig or craw in and around these stems is recommended.

Summer—The plant will continue to rapidly grow, forming new plants along the rhizome all summer long. Large colonies of the plant will form along the shoreline with some leaves floating and others standing high above the water resembling a tuba. The formation of large leaves is the perfect opportunity to dissect large holes between leaves. An open understory can hold monster bass awaiting a meal.

Fall—Lotus will produce seed in large seed pods growing above the water’s surface. The green pods will begin to turn brown and face down where the seeds will be released. The large floating leaves will begin to die and wither in late fall. As many leaves stand erect in the fall, flipping the stem bases of these massive plants becomes a great opportunity. A frog can also be worked over the large leaves and into large holes between the plants.

Winter—American lotus will overwinter using its extensive rhizome network. American lotus will be less present in winter and targeting this specific plant should be avoided.

Habitat Value

Fish—Submersed stems of the plant provide excellent habitat and cover for both invertebrates and the juvenile fish that eat them. The large canopy formed by American lotus is the perfect ambush opportunity for larger fish.

Waterfowl—The large, acorn sized seeds of lotus are readily used by some waterfowl, and invertebrates using this species for habitat are also readily consumed by waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—The extremely large, floating leaves of American lotus make it easily distinguishable from other floating leaf species. A large white flower and large seed pods also standout with this species.

Where to Find It—Grows in nearshore areas with substantial sediment and nutrients for growth.

Max Depth—0 to 5 feet

Similar Species—The flowers of fragrant water lily can resemble that of American lotus; however the large floating leaves of American lotus make it easily distinguishable from other species.

Drawbacks

American Lotus can sometimes cause water use issues, impeding boat use and swimming activities. 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.