If you look at a propeller from behind, and visualize a circle that the blade tips would draw, you will see that the blade of a 3 blade prop covers about 50 -55% of the circle. (This is called diameter area ratio, or DAR). You can add thrust within this drive circle by increasing that percent (to say 60 – 65%) by adding a 4th blade. When you look at a four blade prop you will notice that more of this area is covered because of the extra blade. That means more push contact with the water. Think of it as going to wider tires on your car. More traction for your car and more traction for your boat. Just as wider tires on your car usually do not alone increase top speed and can actually reduce it, the same usually holds true for a four blade prop. One big advantage, however, is that the added thrust from a four blade prop can keep your boat on a better planing angle in mid-range and lower RPM’s, which as you can imagine translates to better fuel economy.
In specifying propellers, there are exceptions to just about everything. As a general rule, the above benefits of four blades are not as noticeable on boats under 24 feet.