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

Spatterdock

As the spatterdock (Nuphar luteum) plants grow and leaves emerge from the water in summer, they become some of the best spots for flipping on any lake. Pitch a bait at the base of each leaf—this is a very common place for bass to hang out, especially on a sunny summer day when cover is paramount.

Spatterdock

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Spatterdock emerges from underground rhizomes in spring. Leaves will start out resembling lettuce growing on the lake bottom but by late spring will begin to reach the water surface, and the plant's long, heart-shaped leaves will begin to float. In early spring, isolated patches of freshly sprouted spatterdock can be some of the only vegetation actively growing. Fish soft plastics, chatterbaits or a swim jig around these isolated vegetation clumps as shad and other baitfish congregate around the newly formed structure.

Summer—During summer, rapid growth occurs and leaves will begin to appear to rise above the water surface. By mid-summer, the plant will begin to show a yellow ball-shaped flower in which lie the plant's seeds. As the plants grow and leaves emerge from the water, they become some of the best spots for flipping on any lake. Pitch a bait at the base of each leaf, toward the large palm-like stems. This is a very common place for bass to hang out, especially on a sunny summer day when cover is paramount.

Fall—In fall, the plant will drop it’s seeds and begin to die back in response to colder weather. The leftover stalks and root systems of spatterdock make excellent woodlike structures over which to drop a jig or Texas rigged worm.

Winter—Spatterdock will overwinter as a rhizome and resprout in the spring either from the rhizome or from seed. The leafy portions of spatterdock will be non-existent in winter. However some of the root system and plant bases may stay around all winter. These spots make for great fishing with a swim jig or chatterbait.

Habitat Value

Fish—The submersed portions of spatterdock make for excellent invertebrate habitat while also providing refuge for baitfish and juvenile bass. The large almost tree-trunk like stems of spatterdock make excellent spots for predatory species like bass.

Waterfowl—The seeds produced by spatterdock are readily consumed by waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Spatterdock is easily identified by its long, notched leaves and seemingly “petal-less” yellow flower, which resembles a tennis ball. The large, spongy root system is also characteristic of spatterdock.

Where to Find It—You can find spatterdock in many near-shore areas where nutrients are readily available.

Max Depth—0 to 5 feet

Similar Species—Spatterdock can sometimes resemble other floating leaved plants, like water-lily; however water-lily has a distinct pie-shaped cut in the round leaf and often has a white or pink flower, whereas spatterdock has a much less pronounced notch and yellow flowers.

Drawbacks

Spatterdock can sometimes cause water-use issues—especially for boating and swimming. It sometimes requires management. Cost to manage: $$ of $$$$$.

Shoreline Plants

Spatterdock

As the spatterdock (Nuphar luteum) plants grow and leaves emerge from the water in summer, they become some of the best spots for flipping on any lake. Pitch a bait at the base of each leaf—this is a very common place for bass to hang out, especially on a sunny summer day when cover is paramount.

Spatterdock

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Spatterdock emerges from underground rhizomes in spring. Leaves will start out resembling lettuce growing on the lake bottom but by late spring will begin to reach the water surface, and the plant's long, heart-shaped leaves will begin to float. In early spring, isolated patches of freshly sprouted spatterdock can be some of the only vegetation actively growing. Fish soft plastics, chatterbaits or a swim jig around these isolated vegetation clumps as shad and other baitfish congregate around the newly formed structure.

Summer—During summer, rapid growth occurs and leaves will begin to appear to rise above the water surface. By mid-summer, the plant will begin to show a yellow ball-shaped flower in which lie the plant's seeds. As the plants grow and leaves emerge from the water, they become some of the best spots for flipping on any lake. Pitch a bait at the base of each leaf, toward the large palm-like stems. This is a very common place for bass to hang out, especially on a sunny summer day when cover is paramount.

Fall—In fall, the plant will drop it’s seeds and begin to die back in response to colder weather. The leftover stalks and root systems of spatterdock make excellent woodlike structures over which to drop a jig or Texas rigged worm.

Winter—Spatterdock will overwinter as a rhizome and resprout in the spring either from the rhizome or from seed. The leafy portions of spatterdock will be non-existent in winter. However some of the root system and plant bases may stay around all winter. These spots make for great fishing with a swim jig or chatterbait.

Habitat Value

Fish—The submersed portions of spatterdock make for excellent invertebrate habitat while also providing refuge for baitfish and juvenile bass. The large almost tree-trunk like stems of spatterdock make excellent spots for predatory species like bass.

Waterfowl—The seeds produced by spatterdock are readily consumed by waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Spatterdock is easily identified by its long, notched leaves and seemingly “petal-less” yellow flower, which resembles a tennis ball. The large, spongy root system is also characteristic of spatterdock.

Where to Find It—You can find spatterdock in many near-shore areas where nutrients are readily available.

Max Depth—0 to 5 feet

Similar Species—Spatterdock can sometimes resemble other floating leaved plants, like water-lily; however water-lily has a distinct pie-shaped cut in the round leaf and often has a white or pink flower, whereas spatterdock has a much less pronounced notch and yellow flowers.

Drawbacks

Spatterdock can sometimes cause water-use issues—especially for boating and swimming. It sometimes requires management. Cost to manage: $$ of $$$$$.

Submersed Plants

Spatterdock

As the spatterdock (Nuphar luteum) plants grow and leaves emerge from the water in summer, they become some of the best spots for flipping on any lake. Pitch a bait at the base of each leaf—this is a very common place for bass to hang out, especially on a sunny summer day when cover is paramount.

Spatterdock

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Spatterdock emerges from underground rhizomes in spring. Leaves will start out resembling lettuce growing on the lake bottom but by late spring will begin to reach the water surface, and the plant's long, heart-shaped leaves will begin to float. In early spring, isolated patches of freshly sprouted spatterdock can be some of the only vegetation actively growing. Fish soft plastics, chatterbaits or a swim jig around these isolated vegetation clumps as shad and other baitfish congregate around the newly formed structure.

Summer—During summer, rapid growth occurs and leaves will begin to appear to rise above the water surface. By mid-summer, the plant will begin to show a yellow ball-shaped flower in which lie the plant's seeds. As the plants grow and leaves emerge from the water, they become some of the best spots for flipping on any lake. Pitch a bait at the base of each leaf, toward the large palm-like stems. This is a very common place for bass to hang out, especially on a sunny summer day when cover is paramount.

Fall—In fall, the plant will drop it’s seeds and begin to die back in response to colder weather. The leftover stalks and root systems of spatterdock make excellent woodlike structures over which to drop a jig or Texas rigged worm.

Winter—Spatterdock will overwinter as a rhizome and resprout in the spring either from the rhizome or from seed. The leafy portions of spatterdock will be non-existent in winter. However some of the root system and plant bases may stay around all winter. These spots make for great fishing with a swim jig or chatterbait.

Habitat Value

Fish—The submersed portions of spatterdock make for excellent invertebrate habitat while also providing refuge for baitfish and juvenile bass. The large almost tree-trunk like stems of spatterdock make excellent spots for predatory species like bass.

Waterfowl—The seeds produced by spatterdock are readily consumed by waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—Spatterdock is easily identified by its long, notched leaves and seemingly “petal-less” yellow flower, which resembles a tennis ball. The large, spongy root system is also characteristic of spatterdock.

Where to Find It—You can find spatterdock in many near-shore areas where nutrients are readily available.

Max Depth—0 to 5 feet

Similar Species—Spatterdock can sometimes resemble other floating leaved plants, like water-lily; however water-lily has a distinct pie-shaped cut in the round leaf and often has a white or pink flower, whereas spatterdock has a much less pronounced notch and yellow flowers.

Drawbacks

Spatterdock can sometimes cause water-use issues—especially for boating and swimming. It sometimes requires management. Cost to manage: $$ of $$$$$.

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.