Depending on what type of fish you are trying to catch, there are several choices when it comes to live bait. Shrimp are considered an all-purpose bait. They will attract meat eaters as well as crustacean-eating fish. The live ones can be pricey, so you also have the option to go with the cheaper frozen ones. Clams are heavy to tote around, but you can usually get three to four baits off one clam. If you're trying to catch bigger and more aggressive meat eaters, use live fish bait such as finger mullet. Many people will also use a smaller fish they've caught as bait. Sand fleas have been used with great success for years. You'll have to dig them out of the sandy shoreline, but the great thing about them is they're free.
Many anglers use cut bait to attract fish to their hook. You can either purchase frozen cut bait from a bait store or make your own. If you catch a smaller or unwanted fish, you can cut it up into sections to use. This type of bait will usually attract more aggressive and bigger meat-eating fish. The good thing about using cut bait is you'll get quite a few baits from one fish.
Artificial bait is a good alternative when live bait isn't available. You can also use it along with your live bait to give the fish several options to choose from. Metal spoons are relatively inexpensive. When cast into a school of feeding fish, they generally will get results. You should choose a surface running lure when using artificial bait in the surf. A deep water running lure will more than likely get caught in the sandy bottom of the ocean and won't get many results.
Frozen bait is available in a variety of forms, and you'll be able to find them at your local bait store. Everything from shrimp, squid and fish are frozen and ready to be used. These baits are usually cheaper than their live counterparts and generally will achieve the same results. The only drawback with frozen bait is sometimes it doesn't stay on your hook in the rough surf as long as the live bait.