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

Watershield, Dollar Bonnet, Snot Bonnet

As watershield (Brasenia schreberi) forms surface leaves, fishing the edge is recommended with stickbaits or texas rigged worms. An open understory often exists under the plants and holes in the canopy make it easy to get flipping baits down in the sweet spot.

Watershield, Dollar Bonnet, Snot Bonnet

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Plants will begin to grow from existing root system in late spring, sending up slime-covered leaves which will eventually make their way to the water’s surface. Newly emerging stems and leaves provide great fishing opportunities. Burn a swimbait over top and through new growth or work a swim jig up and down through newly formed vertical stems. Make sure baits are weedless, as stems are thick and unforgiving of exposed hooks.

Summer—Watershield will spread via stolons running along the bottom, sending up more and more gelatinous covered stems and leaves. Watershield will also begin to flower in summer and produce seed. As watershield forms surface leaves, fishing the edge is recommended with stickbaits or texas rigged worms. An open understory often exists under the plants and holes in the canopy make it easy to get flipping baits down in the sweet spot.

Fall—After creating large colonies during late summer and early fall, watershield will begin to die back to stolons during the late fall. Watershield makes for a great topwater bite in the fall. Fish a frog over and around the floating leaves of the plant.

Winter—Watershield will overwinter and sprout again from existing structures in the spring. Watershield will be gone by early winter, so targeting the plant during this time is not recommended.

Habitat Value

Fish—The floating leaves of this plant provide perfect refuge for invertebrates and amphibians, a favorite food for juvenile and adult bass. The open nature of the understory and vertical stems of the plant make excellent refuge cover for juvenile fish as well as ambush opportunity for adults.

Waterfowl—Watershield can provide habitat for invertebrates, which in turn are eaten by waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What it Looks Like—Watershield is easily identified by the “snot” covering its stems and leaves. Leaves are only a few inches in diameter and oval in shape.

Where to Find It—Watershield can be found growing nearshore in mucky bottom, often by itself or with other floating species like water lily or lotus.

Similar Species—Watershield can look similar to younger water lily plants, however watershield leaves have no notches whereas water lily often has a single, pie-slice notch in each leaf.

Drawbacks

Although native, watershield can become a nuisance causing some impacts to water use, especially around boat ramps and swim areas. Sometimes management is necessary in these areas to open up access. Cost to manage: $$$ out of $$$$$.

Shoreline Plants

Watershield, Dollar Bonnet, Snot Bonnet

As watershield (Brasenia schreberi) forms surface leaves, fishing the edge is recommended with stickbaits or texas rigged worms. An open understory often exists under the plants and holes in the canopy make it easy to get flipping baits down in the sweet spot.

Watershield, Dollar Bonnet, Snot Bonnet

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Plants will begin to grow from existing root system in late spring, sending up slime-covered leaves which will eventually make their way to the water’s surface. Newly emerging stems and leaves provide great fishing opportunities. Burn a swimbait over top and through new growth or work a swim jig up and down through newly formed vertical stems. Make sure baits are weedless, as stems are thick and unforgiving of exposed hooks.

Summer—Watershield will spread via stolons running along the bottom, sending up more and more gelatinous covered stems and leaves. Watershield will also begin to flower in summer and produce seed. As watershield forms surface leaves, fishing the edge is recommended with stickbaits or texas rigged worms. An open understory often exists under the plants and holes in the canopy make it easy to get flipping baits down in the sweet spot.

Fall—After creating large colonies during late summer and early fall, watershield will begin to die back to stolons during the late fall. Watershield makes for a great topwater bite in the fall. Fish a frog over and around the floating leaves of the plant.

Winter—Watershield will overwinter and sprout again from existing structures in the spring. Watershield will be gone by early winter, so targeting the plant during this time is not recommended.

Habitat Value

Fish—The floating leaves of this plant provide perfect refuge for invertebrates and amphibians, a favorite food for juvenile and adult bass. The open nature of the understory and vertical stems of the plant make excellent refuge cover for juvenile fish as well as ambush opportunity for adults.

Waterfowl—Watershield can provide habitat for invertebrates, which in turn are eaten by waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What it Looks Like—Watershield is easily identified by the “snot” covering its stems and leaves. Leaves are only a few inches in diameter and oval in shape.

Where to Find It—Watershield can be found growing nearshore in mucky bottom, often by itself or with other floating species like water lily or lotus.

Similar Species—Watershield can look similar to younger water lily plants, however watershield leaves have no notches whereas water lily often has a single, pie-slice notch in each leaf.

Drawbacks

Although native, watershield can become a nuisance causing some impacts to water use, especially around boat ramps and swim areas. Sometimes management is necessary in these areas to open up access. Cost to manage: $$$ out of $$$$$.

Submersed Plants

Watershield, Dollar Bonnet, Snot Bonnet

As watershield (Brasenia schreberi) forms surface leaves, fishing the edge is recommended with stickbaits or texas rigged worms. An open understory often exists under the plants and holes in the canopy make it easy to get flipping baits down in the sweet spot.

Watershield, Dollar Bonnet, Snot Bonnet

Seasonal Techniques

Spring—Plants will begin to grow from existing root system in late spring, sending up slime-covered leaves which will eventually make their way to the water’s surface. Newly emerging stems and leaves provide great fishing opportunities. Burn a swimbait over top and through new growth or work a swim jig up and down through newly formed vertical stems. Make sure baits are weedless, as stems are thick and unforgiving of exposed hooks.

Summer—Watershield will spread via stolons running along the bottom, sending up more and more gelatinous covered stems and leaves. Watershield will also begin to flower in summer and produce seed. As watershield forms surface leaves, fishing the edge is recommended with stickbaits or texas rigged worms. An open understory often exists under the plants and holes in the canopy make it easy to get flipping baits down in the sweet spot.

Fall—After creating large colonies during late summer and early fall, watershield will begin to die back to stolons during the late fall. Watershield makes for a great topwater bite in the fall. Fish a frog over and around the floating leaves of the plant.

Winter—Watershield will overwinter and sprout again from existing structures in the spring. Watershield will be gone by early winter, so targeting the plant during this time is not recommended.

Habitat Value

Fish—The floating leaves of this plant provide perfect refuge for invertebrates and amphibians, a favorite food for juvenile and adult bass. The open nature of the understory and vertical stems of the plant make excellent refuge cover for juvenile fish as well as ambush opportunity for adults.

Waterfowl—Watershield can provide habitat for invertebrates, which in turn are eaten by waterfowl.

Identifying Features

What it Looks Like—Watershield is easily identified by the “snot” covering its stems and leaves. Leaves are only a few inches in diameter and oval in shape.

Where to Find It—Watershield can be found growing nearshore in mucky bottom, often by itself or with other floating species like water lily or lotus.

Similar Species—Watershield can look similar to younger water lily plants, however watershield leaves have no notches whereas water lily often has a single, pie-slice notch in each leaf.

Drawbacks

Although native, watershield can become a nuisance causing some impacts to water use, especially around boat ramps and swim areas. Sometimes management is necessary in these areas to open up access. 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.