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

Water Primrose

Water primrose (Ludwigia sp.) is an invasive species. Once growth increases and mat formation begins, fishing this plant can become quite difficult. Fishing edges is most effective with a jig or senko.

Water Primrose

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Water primrose emerges from underground root structures (rhizomes) in early spring and begins rapid growth to the surface. As water primrose emerges from both shoreline and near-shore areas, vertical stems provide optimal opportunity for a swimbait or swimjig.

Summer—Once water primrose reaches the surface, it will begin to rapidly spread out across the water's surface, forming interwoven, impenetrable mats. As stems fall horizontally, new roots can form where leaves previously existed and quickly root in the sediment. A yellow flower will begin to appear at the peak of summer. Once growth increases and mat formation begins, fishing water primrose can become quite difficult. Fishing edges is most effective with a jig or senko.

Fall—Water primrose will reach peak growth in the fall, and fishing will remain difficult. Run weedless topwater across and over holes in water primrose (heavy braid recommended), or fish edges.

Winter—Water primrose will survive mostly as a rhizome until the following spring. Dead stems of water primrose may be present through mid-winter. Fish these by hopping a jig through and across leftover plant matter.

Habitat Value

Fish—The submersed portions of water primrose can provide some habitat for invertebrates, which subsequently become prey for small fish and those fish become prey for bass. However, water primrose is notorious for crowding out and shading out beneficial native species.

Waterfowl—There is no known benefit of water primrose to waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—A large stem with alternating leaves are characteristic of water primrose. Leaves at the end of stems will often be arranged like a rosette. A yellow flower is often visible.

Where to Find It—Water primrose is highly adaptable and can be found growing on nearly any shoreline out into 5 or 6 feet of water.

Max Depth—0 to 5 feet

Similar Species—Water primrose looks very similar to alligatorweed, however alligatorweed has opposing leaves, a hollow stem and small white flower.

Drawbacks

Because of its aggressive nature, water primrose very often causes conflicts with other water uses, including making shoreline access impossible. This species is very commonly managed in a reservoir setting. Cost to manage: $$$$ out of $$$$$

Shoreline Plants

Water Primrose

Water primrose (Ludwigia sp.) is an invasive species. Once growth increases and mat formation begins, fishing this plant can become quite difficult. Fishing edges is most effective with a jig or senko.

Water Primrose

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Water primrose emerges from underground root structures (rhizomes) in early spring and begins rapid growth to the surface. As water primrose emerges from both shoreline and near-shore areas, vertical stems provide optimal opportunity for a swimbait or swimjig.

Summer—Once water primrose reaches the surface, it will begin to rapidly spread out across the water's surface, forming interwoven, impenetrable mats. As stems fall horizontally, new roots can form where leaves previously existed and quickly root in the sediment. A yellow flower will begin to appear at the peak of summer. Once growth increases and mat formation begins, fishing water primrose can become quite difficult. Fishing edges is most effective with a jig or senko.

Fall—Water primrose will reach peak growth in the fall, and fishing will remain difficult. Run weedless topwater across and over holes in water primrose (heavy braid recommended), or fish edges.

Winter—Water primrose will survive mostly as a rhizome until the following spring. Dead stems of water primrose may be present through mid-winter. Fish these by hopping a jig through and across leftover plant matter.

Habitat Value

Fish—The submersed portions of water primrose can provide some habitat for invertebrates, which subsequently become prey for small fish and those fish become prey for bass. However, water primrose is notorious for crowding out and shading out beneficial native species.

Waterfowl—There is no known benefit of water primrose to waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—A large stem with alternating leaves are characteristic of water primrose. Leaves at the end of stems will often be arranged like a rosette. A yellow flower is often visible.

Where to Find It—Water primrose is highly adaptable and can be found growing on nearly any shoreline out into 5 or 6 feet of water.

Max Depth—0 to 5 feet

Similar Species—Water primrose looks very similar to alligatorweed, however alligatorweed has opposing leaves, a hollow stem and small white flower.

Drawbacks

Because of its aggressive nature, water primrose very often causes conflicts with other water uses, including making shoreline access impossible. This species is very commonly managed in a reservoir setting. Cost to manage: $$$$ out of $$$$$

Submersed Plants

Water Primrose

Water primrose (Ludwigia sp.) is an invasive species. Once growth increases and mat formation begins, fishing this plant can become quite difficult. Fishing edges is most effective with a jig or senko.

Water Primrose

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Water primrose emerges from underground root structures (rhizomes) in early spring and begins rapid growth to the surface. As water primrose emerges from both shoreline and near-shore areas, vertical stems provide optimal opportunity for a swimbait or swimjig.

Summer—Once water primrose reaches the surface, it will begin to rapidly spread out across the water's surface, forming interwoven, impenetrable mats. As stems fall horizontally, new roots can form where leaves previously existed and quickly root in the sediment. A yellow flower will begin to appear at the peak of summer. Once growth increases and mat formation begins, fishing water primrose can become quite difficult. Fishing edges is most effective with a jig or senko.

Fall—Water primrose will reach peak growth in the fall, and fishing will remain difficult. Run weedless topwater across and over holes in water primrose (heavy braid recommended), or fish edges.

Winter—Water primrose will survive mostly as a rhizome until the following spring. Dead stems of water primrose may be present through mid-winter. Fish these by hopping a jig through and across leftover plant matter.

Habitat Value

Fish—The submersed portions of water primrose can provide some habitat for invertebrates, which subsequently become prey for small fish and those fish become prey for bass. However, water primrose is notorious for crowding out and shading out beneficial native species.

Waterfowl—There is no known benefit of water primrose to waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What It Looks Like—A large stem with alternating leaves are characteristic of water primrose. Leaves at the end of stems will often be arranged like a rosette. A yellow flower is often visible.

Where to Find It—Water primrose is highly adaptable and can be found growing on nearly any shoreline out into 5 or 6 feet of water.

Max Depth—0 to 5 feet

Similar Species—Water primrose looks very similar to alligatorweed, however alligatorweed has opposing leaves, a hollow stem and small white flower.

Drawbacks

Because of its aggressive nature, water primrose very often causes conflicts with other water uses, including making shoreline access impossible. This species is very commonly managed in a reservoir setting. 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.