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

Sago Pondweed

Sago pondweed (Potamogeton pectinatus) is some of the first grass to appear in spring. Fish it with a rattle-trap, big swim bait or Carolina rig that will float just above emerging plants.

Sago Pondweed

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Like most native annual plants, sago pondweed will begin to emerge in late April or early May. Being some of the first grass to emerge, you can find sago pondweed and fish new, growing plants before other plants have even sprouted. Try a rattle-trap, big swim bait or Carolina rig that will float just above emerging plants. These plants grow in clumps, so fishing open areas between plants is a good bet.

Summer—Like others, sago pondweed will increase growth and begin to top out during summer. Reaching the surface, the plant will begin to flower and continue to bloom through fall. The brittle nature of the plant makes punching easy.

Fall—Competition for space with invasive plants will leave sago pondweed confined to shallow depths and areas void of other species. Sago pondweed will begin dying back earlier so these mats will be some of the first to go, opening up space between other plants. Look for these brown spots and fish them while other plants are still actively growing and hard to fish.

Winter—Sago pondweed will die completely back, leaving only seed behind so there's no need to target this species during winter.

Habitat Value

Fish—The growth habit of sago pondweed lends it to being productive habitat for fish.

Waterfowl—Waterfowl extensively use and rely on sago pondweed as food and the whole plant can be consumed; parts are utilized by diving, dabbling, whistling ducks, many types of geese, swans and coots.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Like other pondweeds, leaves are alternating and submersed. Sago pondweed appears “bushy” where leaves come together, almost resembling a pom-pom.

Where to Find It—Sago pondweed can be found in a wide variety of places. In areas where invasive plants like hydrilla and milfoil aren’t present, this plant can do well. Look in shallow areas with good current flow.

Max Depth—6 feet

Similar Species: Slender pondweed, southern naiad.

Drawbacks

Sago pondweed can grow to nuisance levels. Cost to manage: $$ out of $$$$$.

Shoreline Plants

Sago Pondweed

Sago pondweed (Potamogeton pectinatus) is some of the first grass to appear in spring. Fish it with a rattle-trap, big swim bait or Carolina rig that will float just above emerging plants.

Sago Pondweed

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Like most native annual plants, sago pondweed will begin to emerge in late April or early May. Being some of the first grass to emerge, you can find sago pondweed and fish new, growing plants before other plants have even sprouted. Try a rattle-trap, big swim bait or Carolina rig that will float just above emerging plants. These plants grow in clumps, so fishing open areas between plants is a good bet.

Summer—Like others, sago pondweed will increase growth and begin to top out during summer. Reaching the surface, the plant will begin to flower and continue to bloom through fall. The brittle nature of the plant makes punching easy.

Fall—Competition for space with invasive plants will leave sago pondweed confined to shallow depths and areas void of other species. Sago pondweed will begin dying back earlier so these mats will be some of the first to go, opening up space between other plants. Look for these brown spots and fish them while other plants are still actively growing and hard to fish.

Winter—Sago pondweed will die completely back, leaving only seed behind so there's no need to target this species during winter.

Habitat Value

Fish—The growth habit of sago pondweed lends it to being productive habitat for fish.

Waterfowl—Waterfowl extensively use and rely on sago pondweed as food and the whole plant can be consumed; parts are utilized by diving, dabbling, whistling ducks, many types of geese, swans and coots.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Like other pondweeds, leaves are alternating and submersed. Sago pondweed appears “bushy” where leaves come together, almost resembling a pom-pom.

Where to Find It—Sago pondweed can be found in a wide variety of places. In areas where invasive plants like hydrilla and milfoil aren’t present, this plant can do well. Look in shallow areas with good current flow.

Max Depth—6 feet

Similar Species: Slender pondweed, southern naiad.

Drawbacks

Sago pondweed can grow to nuisance levels. Cost to manage: $$ out of $$$$$.

Submersed Plants

Sago Pondweed

Sago pondweed (Potamogeton pectinatus) is some of the first grass to appear in spring. Fish it with a rattle-trap, big swim bait or Carolina rig that will float just above emerging plants.

Sago Pondweed

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Like most native annual plants, sago pondweed will begin to emerge in late April or early May. Being some of the first grass to emerge, you can find sago pondweed and fish new, growing plants before other plants have even sprouted. Try a rattle-trap, big swim bait or Carolina rig that will float just above emerging plants. These plants grow in clumps, so fishing open areas between plants is a good bet.

Summer—Like others, sago pondweed will increase growth and begin to top out during summer. Reaching the surface, the plant will begin to flower and continue to bloom through fall. The brittle nature of the plant makes punching easy.

Fall—Competition for space with invasive plants will leave sago pondweed confined to shallow depths and areas void of other species. Sago pondweed will begin dying back earlier so these mats will be some of the first to go, opening up space between other plants. Look for these brown spots and fish them while other plants are still actively growing and hard to fish.

Winter—Sago pondweed will die completely back, leaving only seed behind so there's no need to target this species during winter.

Habitat Value

Fish—The growth habit of sago pondweed lends it to being productive habitat for fish.

Waterfowl—Waterfowl extensively use and rely on sago pondweed as food and the whole plant can be consumed; parts are utilized by diving, dabbling, whistling ducks, many types of geese, swans and coots.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Like other pondweeds, leaves are alternating and submersed. Sago pondweed appears “bushy” where leaves come together, almost resembling a pom-pom.

Where to Find It—Sago pondweed can be found in a wide variety of places. In areas where invasive plants like hydrilla and milfoil aren’t present, this plant can do well. Look in shallow areas with good current flow.

Max Depth—6 feet

Similar Species: Slender pondweed, southern naiad.

Drawbacks

Sago pondweed can grow to nuisance levels. 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.