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

Giant Cutgrass

Actively growing giant cutgrass (Zizaniopsis miliacea) can provide refuge for baitfish and invertebrates. Fish a shallow crankbait or swimbait nearby to catch schooling fish that are targeting such baitfish.

Giant Cutgrass

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Giant cutgrass sprouts from an existing underground root system (rhizome) each spring. Newly emerging sprouts and older, dead leaves of giant cutgrass provide refuge for some bait species. Fish a fluke or lizard in late spring as fish spawn close to cutgrass.

Summer—Giant cutgrass will rapidly grow and spread via its rhizome and above-ground root system (stolons) in summer, growing as tall as 10 to 12 feet tall. Giant cutgrass will begin to produce a large seed head in late summer. Actively growing cutgrass can provide refuge for baitfish and invertebrates. Fish a shallow crankbait or swimbait nearby to catch schooling fish that are targeting such baitfish.

Fall—The large seed head of giant cutgrass will release seed into the water during fall and leaves will begin to die off and decay. As cutgrass begins to die off in late fall, openings can form in once-dense stands. Try topwater baits parallel to cutgrass stands.

Winter—Giant cutgrass will survive as a rhizome throughout most of the winter, resprouting in the spring. The dead leaves of cutgrass will often remain throughout the winter, providing an opportunity to fish near the shoreline, slow rolling a spinner bait or a Texas rig.

Habitat Value

Fish—Shoreline habitat for invertebrates can be created by giant cutgrass, thus attracting baitfish and other species that bass readily feed on.

Waterfowl—The seeds of cutgrass are readily consumed by waterfowl and other shoreline birds. Shorebirds and waterfowl also use cutgrass for nesting.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Easily identified by large, blue-green leaves with extremely sharp edges.

Where to Find It—Giant cutgrass can be found most often in the back of coves and wetland areas around a reservoir.

Similar Species—Cutgrass can resemble cattail, however cattail arises from a single stalk.

Drawbacks

Giant cutgrass can cause water use issues and is very often managed in a reservoir system. Cost to manage: $$$$ out of $$$$$. 

Shoreline Plants

Giant Cutgrass

Actively growing giant cutgrass (Zizaniopsis miliacea) can provide refuge for baitfish and invertebrates. Fish a shallow crankbait or swimbait nearby to catch schooling fish that are targeting such baitfish.

Giant Cutgrass

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Giant cutgrass sprouts from an existing underground root system (rhizome) each spring. Newly emerging sprouts and older, dead leaves of giant cutgrass provide refuge for some bait species. Fish a fluke or lizard in late spring as fish spawn close to cutgrass.

Summer—Giant cutgrass will rapidly grow and spread via its rhizome and above-ground root system (stolons) in summer, growing as tall as 10 to 12 feet tall. Giant cutgrass will begin to produce a large seed head in late summer. Actively growing cutgrass can provide refuge for baitfish and invertebrates. Fish a shallow crankbait or swimbait nearby to catch schooling fish that are targeting such baitfish.

Fall—The large seed head of giant cutgrass will release seed into the water during fall and leaves will begin to die off and decay. As cutgrass begins to die off in late fall, openings can form in once-dense stands. Try topwater baits parallel to cutgrass stands.

Winter—Giant cutgrass will survive as a rhizome throughout most of the winter, resprouting in the spring. The dead leaves of cutgrass will often remain throughout the winter, providing an opportunity to fish near the shoreline, slow rolling a spinner bait or a Texas rig.

Habitat Value

Fish—Shoreline habitat for invertebrates can be created by giant cutgrass, thus attracting baitfish and other species that bass readily feed on.

Waterfowl—The seeds of cutgrass are readily consumed by waterfowl and other shoreline birds. Shorebirds and waterfowl also use cutgrass for nesting.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Easily identified by large, blue-green leaves with extremely sharp edges.

Where to Find It—Giant cutgrass can be found most often in the back of coves and wetland areas around a reservoir.

Similar Species—Cutgrass can resemble cattail, however cattail arises from a single stalk.

Drawbacks

Giant cutgrass can cause water use issues and is very often managed in a reservoir system. Cost to manage: $$$$ out of $$$$$. 

Submersed Plants

Giant Cutgrass

Actively growing giant cutgrass (Zizaniopsis miliacea) can provide refuge for baitfish and invertebrates. Fish a shallow crankbait or swimbait nearby to catch schooling fish that are targeting such baitfish.

Giant Cutgrass

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Giant cutgrass sprouts from an existing underground root system (rhizome) each spring. Newly emerging sprouts and older, dead leaves of giant cutgrass provide refuge for some bait species. Fish a fluke or lizard in late spring as fish spawn close to cutgrass.

Summer—Giant cutgrass will rapidly grow and spread via its rhizome and above-ground root system (stolons) in summer, growing as tall as 10 to 12 feet tall. Giant cutgrass will begin to produce a large seed head in late summer. Actively growing cutgrass can provide refuge for baitfish and invertebrates. Fish a shallow crankbait or swimbait nearby to catch schooling fish that are targeting such baitfish.

Fall—The large seed head of giant cutgrass will release seed into the water during fall and leaves will begin to die off and decay. As cutgrass begins to die off in late fall, openings can form in once-dense stands. Try topwater baits parallel to cutgrass stands.

Winter—Giant cutgrass will survive as a rhizome throughout most of the winter, resprouting in the spring. The dead leaves of cutgrass will often remain throughout the winter, providing an opportunity to fish near the shoreline, slow rolling a spinner bait or a Texas rig.

Habitat Value

Fish—Shoreline habitat for invertebrates can be created by giant cutgrass, thus attracting baitfish and other species that bass readily feed on.

Waterfowl—The seeds of cutgrass are readily consumed by waterfowl and other shoreline birds. Shorebirds and waterfowl also use cutgrass for nesting.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Easily identified by large, blue-green leaves with extremely sharp edges.

Where to Find It—Giant cutgrass can be found most often in the back of coves and wetland areas around a reservoir.

Similar Species—Cutgrass can resemble cattail, however cattail arises from a single stalk.

Drawbacks

Giant cutgrass can cause water use issues and is very often managed in a reservoir system. 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.