... soft plastic lures from the beach? If so, how exactly do you rig it up?
Over the years, I have migrated toward using artificials in saltwater to roughly 50/50 percent of the time, and have noticed a definite improvement in the quality of fish I have been catching in the surf. I rarely use dead shrimp anymore, and then only if I am specifically targeting whiting for a fish fry. Even then, I would rather use Fish Bites, as they stay on the hook for multiple casts. Live shrimp may be an improvement, but you may still be tormented by trash fish.
I have had the most success so far with artificials in the surf using silver spoons, twitch bait plugs like the X-Rap and Mirrolures, topwater lures and shrimptail jigs for trout. I normally use 14 lb mono with a heavier flourocarbon leader on both spinning and casting reels with 6.5' or 7' rods when wading or jetty fishing. If using soft plastics, I use the lightest jighead I can, going heavier as necessary based upon how rough the surf is. This combination has served well for not just trout, but also for when you hook a Jack Crevalle or Skipjack, you have a better chance of landing them without break off. I also use a Berkley Gulp shrimp under a popping cork. I hook the Gulp shrimp with just a treble hook or use a light jig head in rougher conditions.
However, if I am having no luck with artificials, or if I am just not feeling like doing all the extra casting and retrieving, I will take a small spinning rig using a tiny hook and a tiny piece of Fish Bites, and near the shoreline, catch small pinfish or whiting, or cast net up some finger mullet for live bait. In the surf, I prefer live bait about 4" in length. You may not catch as many fish, but when you do, they will almost always be quality fish. Two weeks ago, I put a 4" pinfish on a fishfinder rig with 2/0 circle hook and caught a big 8.5 lb trout in the Mustang Island surf. You can bet that made my day.
I might still find the need to use shrimp occasionally, but I prefer artificials or live bait that I can catch myself. I am also cheap, so I like the long term savings I get using soft plastics and spoons over expensive live shrimp.