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: $$$$ out of $$$$$.