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

Floating Leaf Pondweeds (Variable leaf, American and Illinois)

In the fall, fish topped out pondweeds (Potamogeton sp.) like you would other floating plants. Work a big rat through floating leaves or work a creature bait in holes within the plants' understory to target big bass lurking there.

Floating Leaf Pondweeds (Variable leaf, American and Illinois)

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Of the same genus as the submersed pondweeds, these species will begin to emerge in late April/early May. Being some of the first grass to emerge, try finding pondweeds and fishing new, growing plants before other plants have even sprouted. Try a rattle-trap, big swim bait or Carolina rig. These plants grow in clumps, so fishing open areas between plants is a good bet.

Summer—Reaching the surface, these plants will begin to grow floating leaves and flower in late summer. Unlike the submersed pondweeds, floating leaf pondweeds will form large, floating leaves which can be effectively fished with topwater and punch baits.

Fall—Pondweeds will continue to grow through early fall until seed production is complete. Once flowering has ended, the plants will begin to brown and die back by late fall. Fish topped out pondweeds in the fall like you would other floating plants. Work a big rat through floating leaves or work a creature bait in holes within the plants' understory.

Winter—Floating leaf pondweeds will die completely back, leaving only seed behind.

Habitat Value

Fish—The canopy forming nature of pondweeds makes for perfect habitat for bass.

Waterfowl—Waterfowl readily consume pondweed seeds.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Leaves alternate with both submersed and floating varieties. Leaves are willow shaped.

Where to Find It—Floating leaf pondweeds can be found in a wide variety of places. In areas where invasive plants like hydrilla and milfoil aren’t present, this plant dominates. Look in shallow, calm water areas. Pondweeds often grow as patchy clumps among hydrilla and milfoil. Look for floating leaves.

Max Depth—6 feet

Similar Species—The leaves of floating leaf pondweeds are often larger than its submersed relatives.

Drawbacks

Floating leaf pondweeds can impact water use in some areas. Cost to manage: $$ out of $$$$$.

Shoreline Plants

Floating Leaf Pondweeds (Variable leaf, American and Illinois)

In the fall, fish topped out pondweeds (Potamogeton sp.) like you would other floating plants. Work a big rat through floating leaves or work a creature bait in holes within the plants' understory to target big bass lurking there.

Floating Leaf Pondweeds (Variable leaf, American and Illinois)

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Of the same genus as the submersed pondweeds, these species will begin to emerge in late April/early May. Being some of the first grass to emerge, try finding pondweeds and fishing new, growing plants before other plants have even sprouted. Try a rattle-trap, big swim bait or Carolina rig. These plants grow in clumps, so fishing open areas between plants is a good bet.

Summer—Reaching the surface, these plants will begin to grow floating leaves and flower in late summer. Unlike the submersed pondweeds, floating leaf pondweeds will form large, floating leaves which can be effectively fished with topwater and punch baits.

Fall—Pondweeds will continue to grow through early fall until seed production is complete. Once flowering has ended, the plants will begin to brown and die back by late fall. Fish topped out pondweeds in the fall like you would other floating plants. Work a big rat through floating leaves or work a creature bait in holes within the plants' understory.

Winter—Floating leaf pondweeds will die completely back, leaving only seed behind.

Habitat Value

Fish—The canopy forming nature of pondweeds makes for perfect habitat for bass.

Waterfowl—Waterfowl readily consume pondweed seeds.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Leaves alternate with both submersed and floating varieties. Leaves are willow shaped.

Where to Find It—Floating leaf pondweeds can be found in a wide variety of places. In areas where invasive plants like hydrilla and milfoil aren’t present, this plant dominates. Look in shallow, calm water areas. Pondweeds often grow as patchy clumps among hydrilla and milfoil. Look for floating leaves.

Max Depth—6 feet

Similar Species—The leaves of floating leaf pondweeds are often larger than its submersed relatives.

Drawbacks

Floating leaf pondweeds can impact water use in some areas. Cost to manage: $$ out of $$$$$.

Submersed Plants

Floating Leaf Pondweeds (Variable leaf, American and Illinois)

In the fall, fish topped out pondweeds (Potamogeton sp.) like you would other floating plants. Work a big rat through floating leaves or work a creature bait in holes within the plants' understory to target big bass lurking there.

Floating Leaf Pondweeds (Variable leaf, American and Illinois)

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Of the same genus as the submersed pondweeds, these species will begin to emerge in late April/early May. Being some of the first grass to emerge, try finding pondweeds and fishing new, growing plants before other plants have even sprouted. Try a rattle-trap, big swim bait or Carolina rig. These plants grow in clumps, so fishing open areas between plants is a good bet.

Summer—Reaching the surface, these plants will begin to grow floating leaves and flower in late summer. Unlike the submersed pondweeds, floating leaf pondweeds will form large, floating leaves which can be effectively fished with topwater and punch baits.

Fall—Pondweeds will continue to grow through early fall until seed production is complete. Once flowering has ended, the plants will begin to brown and die back by late fall. Fish topped out pondweeds in the fall like you would other floating plants. Work a big rat through floating leaves or work a creature bait in holes within the plants' understory.

Winter—Floating leaf pondweeds will die completely back, leaving only seed behind.

Habitat Value

Fish—The canopy forming nature of pondweeds makes for perfect habitat for bass.

Waterfowl—Waterfowl readily consume pondweed seeds.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Leaves alternate with both submersed and floating varieties. Leaves are willow shaped.

Where to Find It—Floating leaf pondweeds can be found in a wide variety of places. In areas where invasive plants like hydrilla and milfoil aren’t present, this plant dominates. Look in shallow, calm water areas. Pondweeds often grow as patchy clumps among hydrilla and milfoil. Look for floating leaves.

Max Depth—6 feet

Similar Species—The leaves of floating leaf pondweeds are often larger than its submersed relatives.

Drawbacks

Floating leaf pondweeds can impact water use in some areas. 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.