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

Muskgrass

Muskgrass (Chara sp.) can be finicky in growth cycles, seeing boom and bust years. When in a “boom” year, muskgrass will likely be one of the first species to begin growing. Try a rattle-trap, big swim bait, or Carolina rig through this brittle charophyte.

Muskgrass

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Muskgrass can be finicky in growth cycles, seeing boom and bust years. When in a “boom” year, muskgrass will likely be one of the first species to begin growing. Try a rattle-trap, big swim bait, or Carolina rig through this brittle charophyte.

Summer—Unlike other submersed aquatic plants, muskgrass may not top out during the summer months. While other submersed species may offer only punching, muskgrass can be easily fished with swimbaits and other weedless presentations.

Fall—Competition for space with invasives will often leave muskgrass confined to shallow depths and areas void of other species. Look for muskgrass patches among other species and fish them while other plants are still actively growing and hard to fish.

Winter—Muskgrass will often die completely back so no need in targeting this species during winter. 

Habitat Value

Fish—Muskgrass provides valuable habitat for invertebrates and other species on which predatory fish feed. This species also provides habitat for juvenile fish.

Waterfowl—Waterfowl extensively use muskgrass as a food source.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—When held in hand, the plant is said to have a rough or crunchy feel. As it gets its name, muskgrass is easily identified by its foul odor, often said to smell like garlic or onion. 

Max Depth—6 feet

Where to Find It—Muskgrass can be found in a wide variety of places. In areas where invasives like hydrilla and milfoil aren’t present, this plant dominates. Look in shallow, calm water areas.

Similar Species—Muskgrass can resemble coontail, however the foul odor of muskgrass is often a tell-tale giveaway.

Drawbacks

Muskgrass impacts water use in some areas. Cost to manage: $$ out of $$$$$.

Shoreline Plants

Muskgrass

Muskgrass (Chara sp.) can be finicky in growth cycles, seeing boom and bust years. When in a “boom” year, muskgrass will likely be one of the first species to begin growing. Try a rattle-trap, big swim bait, or Carolina rig through this brittle charophyte.

Muskgrass

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Muskgrass can be finicky in growth cycles, seeing boom and bust years. When in a “boom” year, muskgrass will likely be one of the first species to begin growing. Try a rattle-trap, big swim bait, or Carolina rig through this brittle charophyte.

Summer—Unlike other submersed aquatic plants, muskgrass may not top out during the summer months. While other submersed species may offer only punching, muskgrass can be easily fished with swimbaits and other weedless presentations.

Fall—Competition for space with invasives will often leave muskgrass confined to shallow depths and areas void of other species. Look for muskgrass patches among other species and fish them while other plants are still actively growing and hard to fish.

Winter—Muskgrass will often die completely back so no need in targeting this species during winter. 

Habitat Value

Fish—Muskgrass provides valuable habitat for invertebrates and other species on which predatory fish feed. This species also provides habitat for juvenile fish.

Waterfowl—Waterfowl extensively use muskgrass as a food source.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—When held in hand, the plant is said to have a rough or crunchy feel. As it gets its name, muskgrass is easily identified by its foul odor, often said to smell like garlic or onion. 

Max Depth—6 feet

Where to Find It—Muskgrass can be found in a wide variety of places. In areas where invasives like hydrilla and milfoil aren’t present, this plant dominates. Look in shallow, calm water areas.

Similar Species—Muskgrass can resemble coontail, however the foul odor of muskgrass is often a tell-tale giveaway.

Drawbacks

Muskgrass impacts water use in some areas. Cost to manage: $$ out of $$$$$.

Submersed Plants

Muskgrass

Muskgrass (Chara sp.) can be finicky in growth cycles, seeing boom and bust years. When in a “boom” year, muskgrass will likely be one of the first species to begin growing. Try a rattle-trap, big swim bait, or Carolina rig through this brittle charophyte.

Muskgrass

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Muskgrass can be finicky in growth cycles, seeing boom and bust years. When in a “boom” year, muskgrass will likely be one of the first species to begin growing. Try a rattle-trap, big swim bait, or Carolina rig through this brittle charophyte.

Summer—Unlike other submersed aquatic plants, muskgrass may not top out during the summer months. While other submersed species may offer only punching, muskgrass can be easily fished with swimbaits and other weedless presentations.

Fall—Competition for space with invasives will often leave muskgrass confined to shallow depths and areas void of other species. Look for muskgrass patches among other species and fish them while other plants are still actively growing and hard to fish.

Winter—Muskgrass will often die completely back so no need in targeting this species during winter. 

Habitat Value

Fish—Muskgrass provides valuable habitat for invertebrates and other species on which predatory fish feed. This species also provides habitat for juvenile fish.

Waterfowl—Waterfowl extensively use muskgrass as a food source.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—When held in hand, the plant is said to have a rough or crunchy feel. As it gets its name, muskgrass is easily identified by its foul odor, often said to smell like garlic or onion. 

Max Depth—6 feet

Where to Find It—Muskgrass can be found in a wide variety of places. In areas where invasives like hydrilla and milfoil aren’t present, this plant dominates. Look in shallow, calm water areas.

Similar Species—Muskgrass can resemble coontail, however the foul odor of muskgrass is often a tell-tale giveaway.

Drawbacks

Muskgrass impacts 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.