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: $$ out of $$$$$.